Archive for January 5, 2020

The Sunday Intertitle: Why a duck?

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on January 5, 2020 by dcairns

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Maybe I’m finally going to get into Boris Barnet? I had a strange, discomfiting experience seeing BY THE BLUEST OF SEAS at Anthology Film Archives in New York, with a stoned, paranoid homophobe dispensing random epithets from the seat behind me, which didn’t help the film’s gentle comedy. Maybe it also influenced my feeling that Stalinist Russia was an unsuitable environment for gentle comedy: the cast seemed anxious, almost hysterical, perhaps fearing purgation should they fail to amuse.

(Richard Lester later told me — and I suspect this may be a myth but HE believed it — that Stalin’s screening room had a bare cement floor because directors previewing their films would soil themselves in terror awaiting Uncle Joe’s response.)

At any rate, THE HOUSE ON TRUBNAYA STREET (DOM NA TRUBNOY) depends more on playful storytelling and visuals than on its actors, who still seem faintly desperate to please but are kept at bay by silence and trick shots. If Barnet is feeling the pressure, he’s translating it into cinematic invention delivered with a showman’s flair. This might make a more winning introduction to Soviet cinema for students than POTEMKIN (though MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA is surefire).

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Jerry Lewis dollhouse shot!

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