Apr 11, 2015

Film declamation(3 early Russian films) trailer

Dec 2, 2013

Talk before screening of "Solaris" (February 19, 2012)part 3

 In his life, there were cases in which, some projects had not been approved for a long time, but only when they were approved, he became ready for them at last. The case of "Stalker" was even worse. I mean, he's retaken it all, because he didn't like. The reason for retake was neither a disturbance of authorities, nor the studio's mistake in developing film, it was his will to retake because he did not like. It cannot be allowed in the conditions of today's film production.
 In his life, such luxury, or rather a quirk of fate, there were many lucky cases for him when he could not do as he wanted.
 So I think, his life is surely that of a genius, but of a very special genius. His creative period lasted only 25 years. Counting from "Ivan's childhood", it was only 25 years. And he made seven films, seven feature-length films. It's a special life, and that very special life coincided with a very special period,  by chance. That special period is the golden age of the Soviet cinema, of its film industry.

 As I said earlier, more than 10 million audience saw "Solaris". Among films of Tarkovsky more than 10 million audience had only " Ivan's childhood" and "Solaris". It's understandable that " Ivan's childhood" had so much an audience, because it was released less than 20 years after the war, it dealt with very popular theme at that time, it had an easy-to-understand story and of course, it won Grand Prix at Venice.
 Though, in the case of "Solaris", it was seen by 10 million people  because it was a Sci-Fi film, namely, because it was a genre film. Tarkovsky actually did not like Sci-Fi. That was testified by Misharin who wrote with him the scenario for "Mirror" - he was a drama writer originally -  he testified that. Tarkovsky had rather disgust at Sci-Fi. Then why did he get inclined to make "Solaris? based on Stanislaw Lem's novel?
 The reason is written in my book though it's a presumption, I think it fairly reliable one. That concerns the number of the audience I mentioned earlier, and the fact that the number of its prints was much greater than that of "Andrei Rublyov".
 Well, State Cinema Committee, the Soviet censorship institution, not only engaged in censorship, but also calculated the numbers of film copies so that Soviet film industry would normally, i.e. effectively function. It decided all; in which theaters this or that film should be released, or in first-class theater, or second-rate theater, etc. After Philip Ermash came to its top, that sort of thing was also considered. In fact, "Solaris" could obtain such a large audience because it's a genre film. In other words, because I was a Sci-Fi film. That's because it was made in a spectacular genre, commonly regarded as entertaining. Did Tarkovsky calculate it? He did calculate it, in my opinion.
 The evidence can be found in his diary. It is described in detail in this book. In fact, in the same year when "Ivan's childhood" was released, another film made not in Mosfilm, but in Lenfilm - second biggest studio of Soviet, located now in St.Petersburg, - recorded the top of the box office, of the attendance in Soviet history. Over the next few years, that work kept its position at the top. I'll explain what kind of film it was. It was based on a novel of Alexander Belyayev, the founder or a pioneer of Sci-Fi in the Soviet Union, That novel of A. Belyaev was titled "Amphibian man", a Sci- Fi with a touch of fantasy. Because Belyaev died in 1940s, if his novel was adapted to film, at that time the film would become only a fantasy.  I saw "Amphibian man"a little, it's that kind of film, but there is an interesting fact.
 When he was just trying to make "Solaris", it was around 1970, Tarkovsky wrote in his diary that he wanted to make a film adaptation of "a story of a man who flies in the sky" by A. Belyaev. "A story of a man who flies in the sky" is "Ariel". And he worte a scenario based on it. He even had Vadim Yusov, the director of photography of  "Solaris", read that scenario, so he seriously intended to make it. There is another interesting detail, that we can find also in his diary.
 With Friedrich Gorenshtein he wrote one scenario for the experimental film studio to earn money. He wrote that in his diary. What was that experimental film studio? It's one of the creative units in Mosfilm, there were several, as I said. They are named: the first creative unit, the second, the third, the experimental creative unit and so forth. It had such a variety. Names of the creative units differed by the studios, Some has only the first, the second etc., In general, there were several in a large studios, and each unit had its own specialized genre. In other words, it was also a part of the film policy of the Soviet Union that I've mentioned, and one of the strategies to meet the audience's needs by diversified genres.
 And Tarkovsky to some extent was drawn into that strategy, or rather, tried to gain more career as a director by using it. Otherwise there was no income. It was not so easy that one's state of belonging to the studio meant a constant salary in the Soviet Union. A director might become so poor to have debt without working for long. It can be seen from his diary. He did part-time jobs, too. He helped writing a screenplay for a studio in Central Asia, wrote with Alexander Gordon, his former classmate of film school, the scenario which Gordon must have directed, and he played a role in that film. Then with Arkady Strugatsky, who wrote the scenario for "Stalker", wrote a scenario not for a Sci-Fi, but for a detective, crime drama, like a quick-and-dirty work, and got the reward for that. The title is "Attention, snake!" Well, it is a normal film. I mean it's mediocre, the level is that of TV drama.

 Talking too much may give a bad impression to the film you see now, so I'll quit now. Tarkovsky was also a man of flesh and blood. Just like me, Tarkovsky was also a man of flesh and blood. Soviet Union was no heaven for the filmmakers, these facts can be checked more and more  by further research. But the fact that film industry was in the Golden Age was lucky for him . In other words, as I said, there was a demand for his films.
 If in other countries only thousands, tens of thousands of people would see such films. but hundreds of thousands people rushed. Or millions of people. Thus when the entire film industry or entire film culture is thriving,- it's not the matter matter of capitalism or socialism - for making films of such authors like him, considerable budgets will be available. In any country, in Japan for example, this was true. For example, Akira Kurosawa's taken the "Throne of Blood" is 1957, when the Japanese film industry was at the zenith. In other era, no one will allow Kurosawa-san, make such a film. That's because Ran" was a co-production with France. "Kagemusha" was realized only after G. Lucas and F.F.Coppola had persuaded 20th Century Fox to become a co-producer on the condition that the Fox would be given world distribution rights.
 Although it's the same things in any country, when the film culture and film industry is in decline, it's impossible to make author's films with huge budgets. So old films looks better compared to films today, it's natural, but to expect it from today's filmmakers is wrong, there is no choice but to expect it from the film industry of U. S . Or from France, at best. Namely, the countries that support Film Art and film culture. That is why. About how France had supported film culture and film industry about its system, I wrote not in this, but in another, my next book "Cinema: Rebirth or collapse"(Japanese), with latest data included.

Dec 1, 2013

Talk before screening of "Solaris" (February 19, 2012)part 2

 There were such cases, so the system in fact,paradoxically, was functioning effectively. There was a tension for film culture, The system of effective function was created. independent of authorities' intention.
 In this situation, Tarkovsky experienced personally variety of conversions in life and in thought, but very important was the fact that "Rublyov" was not released for so long time. It can be said that there was no choice. Because the first scenario was too long.
  The first - I mean the first version of the film entitled "The Passion of Andrei", but it was... say, it is incredible though, that is a poor piece. Material is the same. Material that was edited is that same material shot at the time of shooting, but compared with "Andrei Rublyov" it is too much to ssay "great difference", but still... he didn't cut where it should be, editing was different and so on. The use of music and of voice-over- narration is different, and in comparison, - you can now compare them, because "Criterion", a DVD label in the United States has released the first version - but I previously watched it in Moscow. I wondered, "Why "Andrei Rublyov", which impressed me to such an extent has such a poor impression", and even the first watching it made me think "this is needless" on quite many scenes.
  That is why, the longer first version, actually might be not acceptable for the director himself. I do not know for sure, but concerning "Andrei Rublyov", he neverl complained to Soviet authorities. When he was teaching in the 2 year higher course for screenwriters and directors, he said to students that there had been a scene in "Andrei Rublyov" that he couldn't shoot because of the authorities and so forth, but even having complained so, in the West he have never said as if "Andrei Rublyov" was incomplete work. In fact , what I.Bergman regarded a work of genius, the best film he had seen so far, the film he praised so much, wasn't "Passion of Andrei", but "Andrei Rublyov ", in other words, the re-edited version.

 In such a way, that kind of strange, mischief of fate in the creation of Tarkovsky constantly existed, also after that. But "Solaris" is a works where its assignment was small. It was made comparatively smoothly. That was partly because the screenplay passed smoothly, but why did it pass smoothly? That smoothly accepted plan Romanov didn't want to accept as a film, so he was considerably disliked film art. Instead of him, Ermash with a talent of producer came to the top of the censorship organ. It was lucky for him, namelyy, for his career after that. "Solaris" was made when he reached a turning point in his life.
  That is, he broke with Irma Raush, who was his first wife, and married a new wife, the second wife, Larisa Pavlovna. It was just during the production period of this film. How did such a thing happen? While shooting "Andrei Rublyov", Larisa Pavlovna, formerly called Kirzina, she was an assistant director. She had a favor to Andre, to Tarkovsky from that time, and made such a situation which is likely to cause a scandal. There is something fantastic in Irma, who was herself a director of children's film, I think she was optimistic person with good nature, judging from what she wrote. At first she didn't notice that such a situation was made there. Tarkovsky was once hospitalized due to nourvous breakdown as a result of overwork and of "Andrei Rublyov"'s not being released so long. Then Irma, as she was also an actress, rushed from the location of film shooting to Moscow, to the hospital. And she was said that visiting hours were over. She begged for meeting him, saying that she was his wife, but was said at the reception of the hospital, "Everybody comes to see him, insisting to be his wife". It seems that she didn't notice again that time, It was probably Larisa Pavlovna who visited him. There was such an incident. I don't know when and in what way Larisa got interrelated with Tarkovsky. But, in 1970 when the production of "Solaris" had started, Larisa was already pregnant with his child. In the year of divorce, when he officially got a divorce from Irma, the child -his second child was born. It's Andrusha, his second son, to whom "Sacrifice" was devoted.

 There is a considerable gap between his personal life and his thought reflected on his creation and his art. A gap or rather twist of fate, which is also a part of his fate, anyway he tried to rummage and to read Dostoevsky's writings, philosophers' works written about Dostoevsky in the 19th century Russia. That was when he was making "Solaris", It was so because after "Rublyov" he wanted to make "Adolescent" based on Dostoevsky. And he told about it to Nikolai Burlyaev, the actor who played a bell making boy called Boriska in "Andrei Rublyov", asking him to play in "Adolescent" he'll make. Though he said so, after all, he began to think that it would be more interesting to make a film about Dostoevsky, and he wanted to read everything written about Dostoevsky. And, he wanted to read rather unofficial at that time books on Dostoevsky, for example, of Nikolai Berdyaev. N.Berdyaev was a religious philosopher who wrote his works in the first half of 20th century. Along with Berdyaev, he wanted to read Konstantin Leontiev, Vladimir Soloviev, etc. books of such religious philosophers. And among them Nikolai Berdyaev continued to influence on him until the last moment. Among Berdyaev's books "The meaning of History" and others has been translated in Japan, but the most important - which had an influence on him - book has not yet translated. As far as I researched there's no Japanese translation of it. The book is titled "Meaning of Creation". This book, in my view, is very likely the source of the text written at the end of "Sculpting in Time" - I mean the Japanese version, the one translated into Japanese was retouched after English version, i.e.the final one - the text at the end of it, written like epigraph, seems to me having borrowed whole idea from Berdyaev's "Meaning of Creation". Summing up that idea, well... the power of human to create, the power to create work of art, is the evidence that human is the likeness of God. That's the thought. This thought was told by "Writer" in in "Stalker". "For what human was born?" "For creation, of works of art", he says to "Professor" of physics. Then he replies with despise, "There are still starving people on Earth" and the scene turns into a conflict.
  In fact from this point of 1970 Tarkovsky began to have such an idea. Having such a thought, he had already, at that point, written with Misharin the scenario for "Mirror". And the scenario was quite different from the film "Mirror". There also were, well , as I said earlier, as in the case of "Rublyov", many parts that would be better to be changed, the screenplay in its original version could not be made into a film.

(to be continued)

Nov 29, 2013

Talk before screening of "Solaris" (February 19, 2012) part 1

(At Fukaya Cinema, Feburary19, 2012, Saitama pref, Japan )

 Good Evening, ladies and gentlemen, I'm Nishi. As just having been introduced, I have engaged in study of Russia cinema, mainly of contemporary Russian cinema . If you ask what I mean by "contemporary", I would say it's the time after so-called studio system has collapsed. That's my view. It is since the 1950s. It is from around the late 1950s. However I say so, studio system of the Soviet Union did not disintegrate after that time. On the contrary, just around the 1950s when Tarkovsky entered Film school, created diploma film, then began to be recognized internationally, from late 1950s to the early 1960s, it was the first period of Soviet film industry's rebirth and subsequent its golden age. Though in the first half of 1960s when Tarkovsky had just gained international fame, then he met his co-creators  - Alexander Misharin with whom he lately wrote the screenplay for "Mirror" and was eight years younger than him, or wrote with Andrei Koncharovsky who was even younger than him, the scenario for "Andrei Rublyov". That period of "thaw" came to its end after the first half of 1960s. The General Secretary, N. Khrushchev, who had criticised Stalin was dismissed, and the Soviet Union again entered the cold era. That was the beginning of so-called "era of stagnation".

 And, from the end of the 1960s through the 1970s, the time is called the "era of stagnation". But, in fact, this "era of stagnation" was a golden age for the Soviet film industry. It is paradoxical, but at the beginning of the 1960s a system was made, That system of the film industry worked pretty well. In 1972, when the "era of stagnation" has just begun, the top of censorship institution State Cinema Committee(Goskino) Alexei Romanov was dismissed, and he was replaced by a man who was a little more sensitive to cinema than Romanov, the man named Philip Ermash. In fact, Ermash was in a strange position,as he had a talent of a producer and at the same time was the top of the censorship organ.
 Tarkovsky was a difficult person, who often did not know what he finally wanted to do himself. On the other hand, because his international fame had already been established, so-called artistic authority of his among creative intellectuals was quite high. Bureaucrats of the Soviet Union that time was afraid of such people. In other words, in Russia from the 19th century- since the time of Pushkin, - there had been officials or tyrants who were afraid of  creative intellectuals and people like them. There is such a tradition in Russia. Actually Pushkin and Tolstoy had a considerable authority among people, especially among emerging bourgeois, or people with a certain degree of education. Dostoevsky also had an authority. Their behavior might have led to such things as revolution or rebellion.
 There was always such fear. So, such filmmakers as Tarkovsky,who had a fame as well as people's expectation for the next works were feared . So Ermash once warned abou that situation to the center of the Party. And, how Tarkovsky's own personal thought and his personal life had changed then is also a very interesting theme. In the Era of "thaw", as i already mentioned, he found collaborators and wrote together with Konchalovsky the scenario for "Andrei Rublyov" etc., he felt himself quite bright, well, - or rather bright. Having a fame, there was also a variety of ideas, and because the time was relatively liberal, there was hope in the days of "Thaw".
 However, after the writing of scenario for "Andrei Rublyov", criticism to him became much stronger. But, it also because of the fact that there was a problem with the scenario which he wrote with Koncharovsky. The problem was that it was too long. From a standard of that time the film would be of 4 hours, or 5 hours, may be longer. It was not "War and Peace", so it couldn't be so long.

 I must explain a little about the system of the state-owned film production in the Soviet Union that time. Actually by the end of the 1950s because of too strict censorship film audience  had become lesser, so the film industry was adversely affected. And audience had gotten used to foreign films. In fact, foreign films also were shown to some extent, they were shown also as a trophy brought from War, they earned money, but domestic films didn't earn. In order to improve this situation, they must have made what would meet the needs of the audience to some extent. That is why, aside from freedom of expression, diversifying genres was needed, in order to do that, they had to give film studios a certain degree of autonomy, it means that they had to give studios discretion to the repertoire,
 Then, the process of censorship also had to be simplified. For that reason, a new system was made in the early 1960s. Well, rather to say that a new system was completed at that time. Then, the top of the censorship organ, Alexei Romanov whom I've mentioned, he was the first top of censorship agency called State Cinema Committee. In fact, this censorship organ - Goskino- was made in the era of "Thaw", in 1963. And just at that time  most of main organizations, the system which continued to exist until the Perestroika period were made. at that time. For example, besides State Cinema Committee, they made such organization, as All- Soviet filmmakers' Union, an organization for professionals. It is a guild, in short. Filmmakers, namely film directors, scenario writers, and directors of photography, such people belonged to it. A large professional organization, was created.
 Then All-Soviet filmmakers Union came to edit a magazine called "Film Art" in cooperation with Goskino. The "Film Art" magazine had existed from 1930s, but with a co-editors of Filmmakers' Union, as a results, the discourse developed there became a little more professional. In other words, not very political topics had become much on Film Art - exactly on "Film Art". Level of discourse on cinema became even higher in that. Then a magazine for fans came to be a periodical. It is "Soviet screen". "Sovetskii Ekran"magazine came to be published on a regular basis. This went to meet the needs of movie fans in general. A thing like so-called "Star system" was formed through the magazine.  In short, since the beginning of the 1960s film industry became "commercial". It continued until the time when Perestroika began in mid-1980s followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union.

 Though it rattled quite on the way, it continued to function until 1986 or 1987. So until that time the film industry was in a golden age. And if telling about the extent of that golden age, for example, putting aside films of Tarkovsky, the huge hit, big hits really was seen by tens of millions of people. Population of the Soviet Union of those days  was 200 million 50 million, I think it was so, on average, in one year, for example, in Russian Republic alone how many times people went to movie theaters? There were some people who didn't see at all, but roughly on average, 20 times when they went most often. Ten or more, for example, 12 times,  even in the middle of 1980's. They went to the cinema so often. So demand for movies was really huge. Number of produced films in fact was not so much. It was around 150 per year in the Soviet Union as a whole. Though the number of audience and that of cinema were really huge, so the works of... well, those who made so-called "difficult films" like Tarkovsky, also had a certain degree of demand. So, It is, for example, "Color of Pomegranate" by Paradjanov was released with more than 100 prints, more than 1 million saw it in Soviet Union, such a story is unbelievable from the standards today in Japan. "Solaris", which you see now, in fact, had more than 10 million audience. More than 10 million among the population of 250 million, it means one person of 20 people saw it.

 There was such an attendance of audience. Though Tarkovsky became afraid of, -after the mid of 1970s- the risk of being "shelved", in short, the risk of his films' not being released, still even "Mirror" was screened with 70 or more prints. It means, the film can be screened in more than 70 theaters at the same time in the whole country. Such a situation can never happen to Japanese "art house" films today. There is Ioseliani, Otar Ioseliani from Georgia. This person is also an art house filmmaker who had come to make movie in France, his work was seen 2 million people. There was so many audience.
 That means the level of film culture of the Soviet Union in the 1970s was extremely high.
Or rather, its layer was thick. So the passion for cinema and its understanding of already mentioned creative intellectuals was significantly high. Moreover, since the level of  "Film Art" magazine was also high, there were many spectators very sincere to cinema. Further there was an interesting phenomenon. The films with small number of prints, the works unadvertised in the city, were favorite objects to watch for creative intellectuals. Because they thought: they were treated so because they must have been suppressed. Films of Tarkovsky, Ioseliani, Paradjanov, they had watched before. For example, there was "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors". Then came "Color of pomegranate". In the case of Tarkovsky, "Andrei Rublyov" hadn't been released for a long time, after that "Solaris" appeared. So the degree of expectation was very high among creative intellectuals.

 (to be continued)

Jul 12, 2013

Crash of Systems/Столкновение Систем

Now I'm making a "montage film" on rather difficult theme.
How can we get out of outdated thinking, which may be said as curse of Systems.
Below is a trailer of the work. I hope it will be on the net no later than the end of August.