Image via DVD Beaver

An idiot’s thoughts on MIRROR, if you will, or at any rate a rank beginner’s impressions of a great film (one which bears comparison with the recent TREE OF LIFE, in the sense of its being a kind of four-dimensional slow-motion swan dive through the filmmaker’s life) — rather than take the Dan Kois New York Times view that some films are just too much hard work to be bothered with, I’ve plunged in and attempted to formulate some kind of coherent response to Andrei Tarkovsky’s autobiographical meditation — results over at Electric Sheep magazine.

I’ve been really tardy about coming to Tark, and the journey isn’t complete, but a new beginning has been made. And the whole thing was started because I wanted to fashion an alternative myth, as Oliver Stone might put it, to counter Kois, so irksome did I find his celebration of lazy insularity. Those already familiar with Mr. Arsenevich’s oeuvre, which is probably most of you, may find my thoughts redundant. But anybody who’s been hesitating on the outskirts of some work of daunting reputation may get something out of it.

The timing of this means that the second of my pieces on blind-people-in-peril movies is postponed until next week…

Buy it: Mirror [DVD]

18 Responses to “Half-silvered”

  1. Kois is a cultural criminal intent on bringing about the end of all serious thought and all meaningful art.

  2. I can’t imagine the mindset that would lead him to write such a piece.

    It’s perhaps a little like David Mamet’s damascene conversion to conservatism: a case of somebody who’d always had Republican/philistine inclinations but wanted to hang out with the kind of people who happened to like liberal causes/art films, and something eventually snapped.

  3. You know when I started getting into serious film, I kind of enjoyed seeing movies with little recommendation so I tended to look for relatively rarer pleasures. So Parajanov instead of Tarkovsky, and Visconti, Antonioni, Rossellini instead of Fellini. I love Fellini greatly but I discovered him a little later than the others soince everyone kept going on about “La Dolce Vita”(a great film). It took me a while to get into Bergman too, because of his outsize reputation(now I love him) so initially I looked at Dreyer, the paucity of his output against Bergman’s vastness helped.

    Coming to Tarkovsky, MIRROR is the only film I’ve seen of his. I was mesmerized when I watched it. It’s images have this hand-painted aspect to it and the film is really sense-oriented. So Mr. C you are not alone in getting to know Tark.

    Regarding that piece, all I can say is that people don’t have a yen to be “converted”. What that means is that it often happens that people have set opinions but when confronted with the sheer beauty of expression of a belief or lifestyle opposite to theirs, they start to think deeply and change a little. It can be disturbing to some but liberating to others. At least it was for me. Art’s supposed to do that. It doesn’t matter if people complain at first. I didn’t like Antonioni starting out, but he got me in the end. Same with Godard and many other film-makers and writers.

  4. I’m not a huge Tarkovsky fan, but of all his films The Mirror is the one I’ve enjoyed the most.

    I really need to take a look at Notalgia and Stalker again.

  5. I’m drawn to Ivan’s Childhood because that seems like it will be easiest to digest, but I’m also drawn to Nostalgia because the moments I’ve seen in documentaries are so damned bizarre. I’m just fascinated (but fearful) to see what the experience is like.

  6. I quite like Andrei Rublev. Haven’t seen it in years. The Sacrifice is my favourite. I met Erland Josephson’s son in Stockholm a long time ago. A very nice guy.

  7. Again, the bits I’ve seen of AR look amazing. I need to grab the next opportunity to see one on the big screen.

  8. Have never been able to sit through much of Tarkovsky, because of having a vague but persistent feeling of his films very traditionalist ideas about culture and kind of paternalism hand in hand with it. Could be wrong,,,
    Have the same feeling about Sokurov.

  9. Chris Marker, great Marxist film-maker made a case for the anti-communist Tarkovsy as being a radical exponent of traditional Russia, especially its innate sensualism which he says is opposed by conservative Catholicism and Soviet Marxism.

    Sokurov is really hard to get into since he moves between styles. The same guy who made MOTHER AND SON made THE SUN and also RUSSIAN ARK. Whereas Tarkovsky is consistent.

  10. I’m not sure I can see that in Mirror. In some ways it seems very self-critical and critical of patriarchy.

    Don’t know Sokurov’s work enough to comment.

  11. A.S. thanks for the interesting quote from Marker.

  12. judydean Says:

    Seeing Andrei Rublev on the big screen somewhere in London in the early 80s remains one of my most memorable and moving cinema experiences. The most extraordinary thing about it is that it feels, not like a historical drama, but like a documentary filmed in medieval Russia. And the ending is sublime.

  13. I can see how Tarkovsky’s approach would contribute to that feeling: long takes can have a direct, unmediated feel, and he includes so many hard-to-fake effects that it becomes hard to see it as the work of detailed planning it is — you begin to believe it’s life unfolding. I don’t get this from many, or any, other long take masters.

  14. Here is an extremely rare pic of Chris Marker taken on the set of The Sacrifice. When photo requests are sent to him Marker answers them with a picture of a cat.

  15. How eccentric.

    Well, he does have a vaguely feline look about him…

  16. Sokurov loves and honors both his father and mother. Any paternalist “streak” is offset – easy to see how someone might arrive at that conclusion, with his “dictators” series – by films such as ALEXANDRA, MOTHER AND SON, his Madame Bovary.

    More importantly, Sokurov creates magnificent abstractions in landscapes and haunted interiors….. not too different from Ruiz.

  17. My viewing of Russian cinema generally has been patchy — I’m only so-so on Eisenstein, for instance. And my Sokurov viewing has been restricted to Russian Ark, though I obtained a couple rarities in dodgy copies one time. Now I think they’re all out on DVD so there’s no excuse.

  18. Two words for you, David: Boris Barnet.

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