Friday, August 03, 2012

PFA: Russia's 'Ivan Lapshin'
& Camp 'Atomic Brain' Play on Saturday

The Pacific Film Archive is repeating the Alexei Guerman series that ran earlier this year at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and tomorrow night with a screening of his "My Friend Ivan Lapshin" from 1984. Program notes describe the film:

The adventures of the varied inhabitants of a 1930s communal flat reveal a world still optimistic about Communism, yet poised to be devoured by Stalinism. Simultaneously hopeful and mournful, realist and fabulist, Lapshin was named the best Soviet film of all time in a 1987 poll of Russian critics.

I've seen Guerman's "Khrustalyov, My Car!", which is set in the years leading up to Stalin's purges and his death, and the politically incorrect "Trial on the Road" showing the rehabilitation of a World War II Russian soldier after his collaboration with the German army and recommend catching them. Both were beautifully composed films shot in glorious shades of black, white and ash grey and clean, fast-moving narratives.

"Khrustalyov, My Car" easily demands a second viewing, to appreciate the details of the production design and decipher more of the political references not generally known outside of Russia as the demise of Stalin approaches. Really, I don't need much reason to catch this film again.

The screening of "My Friend Ivan Lapshin" is at 6 pm on Saturday at the PFA theater on the Cal campus, and I'll be in the audience. Discovering the entire body of Guerman's films this year is long overdue for myself and the Bay Area's foreign cinema-loving audience.

After that I'm off to the outdoor showing of 1963s mad scientist transplantation flick "The Atomic Brain" sponsored by PFA programmers.

This fun and cost-free outdoor movie event starts at 7:30 pm, but the film won't unspool until twilight. Musicians will be on hand to entertain the crowd and we're promised avant-garde art sculpture beautifying our one-night only outdoor theater. Come out to the Bank of America parking lot on Center Street between Shattuck and Oxford.

From the heights of Russian cinema to the depths of American camp classics. That is why we love this unique film archive!

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