IN SPRING — Mikhail Kaufman’s Ukrainian city symphony — is sort of like brother Dziga Vertov’s MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA (the third brother, Boris Kaufman, went to Hollywood and shot films for Kazan). It’s my Hippfest highlight this year thus far, though THE MAN WHO LAUGHS on a big screen with Meg Morley and Frank Bockius accompanying was epic and Run-Tin-Tin’s WHERE THE NORTH BEGINS was heaps of fun. This year’s dog theme was evidenced by Rinty in a blizzard, Zimba the dog as Homo the wolf, and scores of Ukrainian hounds — dogs on boats, dogs on balconies. I expect those dogs are quite old now, some of them.

Kaufman’s film is more people-centric than his brothers. The shots are consistently inventive and poetic, as are the connections linking them. The only disadvantage it has over MWAMC is that Vertov divides his film into chapters and tells you how many there will be, which helps when your film has no plot or characters. The audience can chart its progress and knows roughly how far in it is at any given time. But IN SPRING is so frenetic (but with beautiful modulations of pace) and is under an hour, so boredom is never an option.

Action is grouped by theme — snow, flooding, flowers in bloom — and sub-theme — dogs in the snow, babies. The sporting action might well have influenced Rienfenstahl’s OLYMPIAD, and it’s madder and better. The live score by Roksana Smirnova (piano)
& Misha Kalinin (guitar) swept things along, perfectly complimenting the rhythmic montage and spirit of optimism.

IN SPRING stars Kiev.


43 Responses to “Sprung”

  1. Tony Williams Says:

    Thank you again, David, for these postings. I sympathize with the awful travel conditions now in the U.K but your references do help me to track down these films elsewhere. A dearth of real cinema exists today and the past has many treasures for us to discover still.

  2. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    Vertov > Eisenstein


    Joe E Brown > Eisenstein

  3. As a teachijng tool, Eisenstein is useful, maybe more so than Vertov. Vertov is MUCH more fun, to me, anyway, and students seem to feel the same way.

  4. Tony Williams Says:

    Definitely so, David, and it is so gratifying to see shadowplay championing key works from the past that are being ignored both in higher education and “flavor of the month” journals. Students don’t want “something popular”, especially if it is trash. They see through such efforts.

  5. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    Eisenstein conceives film itself as a lesson in dialectics, and dialectics have always been better suited to propaganda than the creation of experience. The eye sees more than “thesis-antithesis-synthesis in every blink. I kind of object to “fun” in this context (and, yes, Vertov is fun), since it implies that Vertov is less meaningful than he is titillating — another false dualism refused by experience, in my opinion.

  6. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    I like some of the pre-revolution filmmakers. Yevgeni Bauer — another Poe guy!

  7. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    Cinema history tends to lean into its own version of painting’s French Academy. Well, ALL. histories proceed from the assumption of landmarks, I guess. Eisenstein lends himself to that. Precisely why Raymond Durgnat is so essential (and so neglected by Film Crit). He opposed Auteurism but more healthily than Kael did, since he never proposed that we replace Auteurism’s cult of personality with the cult of the critic’s oh-so-radical personality. But you may disagree, DC.

  8. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    Kael despised Brakhage. Speaking of someone who eschewed dialectical logic in favor of unnamable complexity.

  9. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    DC, When you recover from your trip, please check your inbox for a note marked “OBLIGATORY READING”.

  10. Tony Williams Says:

    And, of course, a critic based on Kael is going to be the subject of Tarantino last film! Many of us celebrate the fact that it is supposedly his last film. But I don’t suppose somebody who embodies the title of a Jerry Lewis film – THE BIG MOUTH – will remains silent for long.

  11. driccuito@yahoo.com Says:

    The film has nothing to do with Kael. Ring off, dumbbell. This is a private line. Seriously, DC, I got news.

  12. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    I think it’s a book chapter. Also, someone should really send DE spondoolix. We could do a croed funding thing for him.

  13. Daniel Riccuito Says:


  14. Tony Williams Says:

    As the actress said to the bishop, “I thought that would get a rise out of you.” Anyway, QT has mentioned his love of Kael elsewhere and the racist has recently evoked the condemnation of Donnie Yen over his depiction of Bruce Lee in that last appalling piece of crap he directed. I’d like to put him in a closed room with Abdul, Shannon, and Donnie to argue his case but he is such a despicable coward that it is unlikley to happen. So telling you can only engage in insult in your response!

  15. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    Sent DE a note. If he responds positively, someone like you should be the face of it.

  16. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    I sent the diva that xerox DE was kind enough to make for me.

  17. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    Oh, I’ll ask Rosenbaum!

  18. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    I’ll do the work setting it up, but it would be nice to have a “name” out front.

  19. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    Dear Democrats:

    Yay, Trump’s indicted. Meanwhile, the GOP is eliminating black history from public schools. Roe is gone. Republicans express nihilism by electing people like Trump and putting a wrecking ball to actual, concrete freedoms. Again, history itself goes poof! Dems express their nihilism by turning politics into a mausoleum. They want empty victories. Most Democrats wouldn’t be this excited if we got Medicare for all. They like a void. The tax credit reduced child poverty by 40%. And when Bernie tried to extend it, they unanimously shut him down. The Party is bent on eliminating Section 230, speaking of capital “N” Nihilism. Bye, Internet Speech, which is to say speech itself. So please don’t crow about the indictment, not when you’re being an ethical shrub.


  20. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    Ehrenstein got back to me. Send me an email, mook.

  21. Tony Williams Says:

    Your hysterical posts have nothing to do with IN SPRING nor the discussion needed. Please stop using this forum as an excuse for your tiresome rants and why do you not set up you own blogspot so you can pontificate at length. I’m more interested in discussing a daily topic in a rational manner not listening to your insults you make in place of debate.

  22. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    Bon chance, bromide!

  23. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    If it’s anything like Vertov’s MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA, I’m in. As for the esteemed David Ehrenstein, I advise his friends to check in on him. Or is the cinephile “community” a yok, horse laugh and gazibe after all?

  24. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    Many of the qualities in Tarantino either were not present or were buried ‘neath Dutch Boy paint layers of fanboy-cinephile attitude in his work prior to Once Upon a Time. The emerging irony to me is that, while he says he’s concluding his career now because he doesn’t want to go into the same decline that FordHawks/Walsh/McCareyEtc. went into in the winter of their years, reaching that season himself appears to have given his work an unexpected depth.

  25. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    DC! “Tarantino’s [“Once Upon A Time in Hollywood”] shows how real life events could have turned out very differently. It’s a hell of a good revenge movie, done in feel good fashion.” -Lynch

  26. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    The original script WAS for a revenge picture.
    Tarantino would subsequently obviate the need for vengeance.
    MUCH more interesting this way.

  27. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    The point is: Lynch likes the film.

  28. Which is nice for him, and offers us an insight into his tastes, but I don’t accept him as an *authority* in this case: in other words, his appreciation doesn’t really deepen my understanding of the film.

  29. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    Well, since I’ve already stated my own specific reasons for loving the film here in this rather hostile, touchy anti-Tarantino zone, I don’t need Lynch in precisely that way either, as an “authority” to lean on or learn from. I’m simply presenting his opinion to you because the conformist moralizing has gotten so thick, the antagonism so hysterical.

  30. Tony Williams Says:

    DC, What has all this to do with IN SPRING? Could you please in future eliminate all irrelevant posts since there is much in this film and THE VERTOV GROUP at this time to discuss.

  31. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    I believe it was you, TW, who raised Tarantino, then explicitly taunted me. So while I hate to get all schoolyard on you: “You started it.” This is all sadly reminiscent of your earlier raging about a film that you had never seen, while calling for “ORDER!” and “DECORUM!” and “SCHOLARLY RIGOR!”

  32. Tony Williams Says:

    What has this got to do with IN SPRING? Actually, I appealed to the moderator of this thread, not you, since we are all getting so fed up with your childish rants. DC, Could you please install some “Order in the House”, as the House of Commons Speaker would say?

  33. This is a comment thread, not the House of Commons . . . or the bloody Athanaeum.

    That said, your work on ‘Bitches Brew’ was spectacular.

  34. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    Watching In Spring now, DC — the opening sequence is among the most atmospheric in cinema history. Something (not the imagery itself) reminds me of MENILMONTANT (Kael’s favorite — and mine). Returning to it with popcorn now… with the permission of in-house ethicists.

  35. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    Too good to watch on Youtube, must shell out for best copy possible. Jesus! The horse-flickering speed of it just kicked in. Sinister. Mood’s wildly different, but free associating to… Fischinger? That film he made whilst running from debt collectors… From Berlin to Munich… or something? Anyhow, I say that but this is unique!

  36. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    Tom, you’d plotz! Thanks for introducing me to it, DC.

  37. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    Y’know Epstein announced his abandonment of editing that had come to typify “experimental film” (and that he had helped pioneer) because he thought it had grown tired: “Today’s friends of cinema are tomorrow’s enemies” or words to that effect. When I see L’Herbier’s films, I think they fit too neatly into an ethos of tics that indicated speed, speed, speed but actually create stasis in his hands. (L’Argent’s the exception). Anyhow, this thing makes one look more strictly at cinema as an art. The editing… It’s never been built on. Looks familiar. Ain’t.

  38. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    All my “French” favorites, Epstein especially, a Pole, seem to come from Eastern Europe. The tradition of a more “pure” abstract art is strong there. French painters, even those who pioneer, Cubism, ultimately retreat into Nature. Matisse destroyed the only pure abstraction he ever made. Robert Delaunay married Sonia (Ukrainian), who’d go much further into the abstract realm than he could.

  39. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    In Spring (at least in its opening seconds) leans harder into abstraction than any film of its vintage I can think of.

  40. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    I mean, minus Richter & Co.

  41. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    Music’s abysmal.

  42. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    The music is so imitative (“naturalistic” with a relentless outre-ness) that it mocks the film itself, cartoonizes everything. Liked it at first.

  43. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    Ugh, as the film wears on it just seems like a catalogue of knowns. Gimmicks. Dammit. Wish he’d made this about three minutes long. That opening passage…

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