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Another Russia: A Tribute to Lenfilm Studios

Another Russia: A Tribute to Lenfilm Studios

Created in the wake of the Bolsheviks' victory in 1918, the studio that eventually was called Lenfilm early on established a reputation for attracting some of the very "free spirits" who were then gravitating to the new Soviet cinema. Away from the increasingly prying eyes of Moscow authorities, Lenfilm directors perhaps felt more able to experiment than their colleagues elsewhere. Aesthetically, the dominant force at Lenfilm in the silent era was the team of Grigory Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg; Kozintsev especially would remain a major influence on Lenfilm production over the next five decades, and his enormous prestige allowed him to create a space at Lenfilm for outsiders and dissenters. During the period of the "thaw," from the late 50s through the early 70s, Lenfilm attracted several key figures, such as the 60s cultural icon Gennady Shpalikov, whose only feature film, A Long Happy Life, was made for Lenfilm in 1966. Some of the best Lenfilm directors were rarely shown abroad: Ilya Averbakh, whose beautiful Monologue captured the coming generational conflict; Dinara Asanova, maker of hard-hitting, complex social dramas; and Vitali Melnikov, whose deft combination of comedy and drama always seemed to capture the national mood. With the coming of perestroika in the mid-80s, Lenfilm again became the headquarters for an exciting new, even more skeptical generation of filmmakers: Sergei Selyanov, Lidiya Bobrova, Konstantin Lopushansky, and especially Alexander Sokurov. The role played earlier by Kozintsev at Lenfilm was somewhat taken over by Alexei Guerman, a bold, uncompromising filmmaker whose My Friend Ivan Lapshin in 1983 was considered by many to herald a new era. Today, Lenfilm Studio remains active and open, although the many changes in Russian life and economy since 1991 have taken their toll on the entire film industry. Yet even a brief survey such as this will reveal an astonishing history of artistic excellence, cinematic innovation, and political courage - a powerful legacy on which future filmmakers can certainly build.

Richard Pena