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Russian Ark (free)

  • Vilas Hall 821 University Avenue Madison, WI, 53706 United States (map)

The existence of Russian Ark (2002) as an unbroken 93-minute take through the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg seems like something of a mythic achievement or miracle of cinema. And while a brief synopsis of the historical fantasy would be incomplete without acknowledging its approach, director Alexander Sokurov has sidestepped any gimmicky promotion to create his own timeless work of art. Every nook radiates love and appreciation, as if his Sokurov sees the Russian art museum as a construct and symbol of the magnanimity of life. Historical figures from Peter the First, Catherine the Great, Nicholas the Second, Alexander Pushkin, to royal officers coexist on the same plane as various modern sightseers and Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky. Officially, the film's patient tour is guided by the wide-eyed first-person lens of an unnamed narrator, who has awakened or perhaps fallen into slumber and found himself outside the museum doors with eighteenth century guests arriving by carriage. As his inner inquiries are externalized, a romantic French Marquis (based on de Custine) with a case of wanderlust, serendipitously manifests to reciprocate. The marquis' waltzing, awestruck movements also seem to coordinate the film's methodical rhythm and alluringly smooth camera tracking, inviting the audience to glimpse at the interaction of modernity and antiquity. It's not only a unique and edifying consideration of the relationship between periods of history on a psychological level that assuredly influenced Jem Cohen's Museum Hours (2012) but also an elegiac, eternal dance in the real, moving time of film (24 frames per second). This recently restored DCP presentation will also feature a post-film discussion with Maria Belodubrovskaya, Assistant Professor of Film in UW-Madison's Department of Communication Arts, and author of a new text, Not According To Plan: Filmmaking Under Stalin.  —Grant Phipps

Earlier Event: November 16
Among Wolves (free)
Later Event: November 17
CANCELED: Jeff Garlin