"Russian Close-Up" & "Opening in Moscow" [THE THAW: Proto-verite in the Soviet Union]
THE THAW: Proto-verite in the Soviet Union
Dir. Albert Maysles, 1957, 33 min
Albert and David Maysles managed to buy their BMW motorcycle for only 300 dollars in Germany and travel across Eastern Europe into Russia (something Albert had done the previous year on a motor scooter). The reason that they were able to obtain the motorcycle so cheaply was that is was assumed that having the brothers' make their film about Russia while riding that bike through the Soviet Union would be good publicity. The brothers were helped in large part by the fact that they had Russian visas and by the fact that they were (officially at least) going to attend the communist youth festival in Hungary. When they got there they were some of the very few Americans that were present. This film is a document of that adventure as well as a visual diary of the places and faces encountered by Albert and David along this cross-country motorcycle ride through the former Soviet Union.
Since Russian Close-Up is a silent film Albert Maysles will provide a taped audio commentary recorded especially for this screening.
Opening in Moscow
Dir. DA Pennebaker, Shirley Clarke, Albert Maysles, 1959, 45 min
n 1959 Richard Leacock, Albert Maysles, Shirley Clark and DA Pennebaker were all in Moscow where they made this film and also helped out with Richard Leacock's film about Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in Moscow. This movie is an impressionistic look at Kruschev's Russia centered around the opening of the american exhibition in Moscow at the 1959 world fair. The movie is fascinating as a record of the reception to the American exhibition and as a slice of life portrait of the average citizens of Moscow. In observing Russian people observing Americans play acting the role of the average U.S. citizen at the exhibition, the film documents a curious inversion where it is American lifestyle that signifies the exotic culture that is then presented and exhibited to spectators instead of the other way around. However, we in the audience are also spectators observing the spectators which creates an interesting relationship. The film cleverly cuts between shots of the spectacle of the American exhibition and shots of Moscow and its people going about their daily lives thus making a statement about the differences and similarities between Russian and American working class life during this crucial period.
AFTER THE SCREENING: DA Pennebaker present for discussion. Moderated by Malek Rasamny
These films are presented with Red Channels and the Brecht Forum.
343 Lenox Ave.
New York, NY 10027
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