The Museum of Moving Image is proud to have the North American premiere of Solnetseva’s Ukrainian Trilogy.
Soviet cinema has always been dogged by the need for social realism. The move away from abstract cinematic language–one’s championed by the likes of Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Kuleshov, Vertov and more–was a pronounced moment in Russia’s cinematic history. The artistic shift was one that was mandated by the despotic Joseph Stalin, who preferred a more simplistic and straight-forward sociopolitical message. To Stalin, there was no room for abstraction, introspection, or rumination in cinema. Instead, film was to be used to perpetuate the communist propaganda machine. And while some may argue that Russian cinema was irreversibly damaged by the politically driven filmic mutation, there was indeed a new generation of filmmakers that flourished under this oppressive dogma, like the severely under-appreciated Yuliya Solntseva.
While her contemporary’s may have paid her the respect she so obviously deserved (Solntseva was the first female director to win the Best Director prize at Cannes–a feat only matched by Sofia Coppola this past year with her enchanting The Beguiled), Solntseva’s name was largely swept under the rug thanks to the overshadowing presence of her husband, Alexander Dovzhenko. The Russian Master survived much of the artistic pogroms due to his ability to adapt to the Stalin regime. Soon, him and his wife began working to tirelessly to showcase the USSR’s revolutionary cause, creating, in essence, propaganda films. Initially after her husband’s death, Solntseva continued the legacy that she and her husband had created. But soon after, Solntseva began expanding on the notions that she and Dovzhenko focused on by creating wonderfully humanist pieces that showcase our perpetual struggle for meaning in death through dream-like imagination.
While their original works were masterpieces in their own right, it is Solntseva who transformed the boundaries of cinema, having pronounced moments of poeticism and fluid narrative detail that elevate her work and demonstrated the ability of a visionary filmmaker. To celebrate her timeless work, the Museum of Moving Image (MoMI) is hosting an epic trilogy of her films from August 26 to 27, including The Story of the Flaming Years, which won Best Director at Cannes in 1961. Billed alongside her classic film is the introspective Poem of an Inland Sea (1958) and the idyllic The Enchanted Desna (1964), the latter of which will be joined by luminary film scholar and critic Jonathan Rosenbaum for Saturday’s screening. Presented in stunning 35- and 70mm film, the films will be a treat for any and all cinephiles who are looking to experience a revolutionary moment in post-Stalin USSR cinematic history. Check out screening info and more below.
Poem of an Inland Sea (Поэма о море):
Saturday, August 26, 2:00 P.M.
Sunday, August 27, 2:00 P.M.
Dir. Yuliya Solntseva. 1958, 95 mins. 35mm print courtesy of Gosfilmofond. In Russian with English subtitles. With Boris Livanov, Boris Andreyev, Evgeniy Bondarenko.
The Story of the Flaming Years (Повесть пламенных лет):
Saturday, August 26, 4:30 P.M.
Sunday, August 27, 4:30 P.M.
Dir. Yuliya Solntseva. 1961, 91 mins. 70mm print courtesy of Gosfilmofond. In Russian with English subtitles. With Boris Andreyev, Sergey Petrov, Antonina Bogdanova.
The Enchanted Desna (Зачарованная Десна):
Saturday, August 26, 7:00 P.M.
Sunday, August 27, 7:00 P.M.
Dir. Yuliya Solntseva. 1964, 81 mins. 70mm print courtesy of Gosfilmofond. In Russian with English subtitles. With Boris Andreyev, Evgeniy Bondarenko, Vladimir Goncharov, Evgeniy Samyolov, Zinaida Kirienko.
For more information regarding the screenings and the series, check out MoMI’s website.