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Revolution in the Revolution: Soviet Cinema of the 60's

Revolution in the Revolution: Soviet Cinema of the 60's

For many film buffs, cinema's two greatest decades have been the 1920s and the 1960s. Everyone knows the enormous role of Soviet cinema in the 20s: the work of giants such as Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Vertov, and Dovzhenko in many ways set the standard for groundbreaking, innovative film art to come. Less well known and appreciated is the extremely provocative Soviet filmmaking of the 60s, since most cineastes concentrate instead on the French New Wave, European modernists such as Resnais, Antonioni and Bergman, or the emerging cinemas of Eastern Europe and Latin America. The 1960s are more a mindset than a chronological period, stretching from the last years of the 50s to the first years of the 70s. It was a decade of remarkable filmmaking in the Soviet Union. Encouraged (at least for the first half of that decade) by the Khrushchev-era thaw in cultural policies and influenced by some of the cinematic developments abroad, a new generation of innovative filmmakers wanted to renew the cultural mandate of the 20s: to create a new, revolutionary cinema for a new, revolutionary society, instead of reiterating the comfortable subjects and methods of socialist realism, with its exemplary heroes and obvious moral lessons. Still more exciting, this generation wanted to turn the camera lens on themselves and their contemporaries, exploring as candidly as possible the landscape of Soviet life and society. Even after Khrushchev fell and Brezhnev assumed power, Soviet cinema would continue in this challenging direction, acting as a kind of lightning rod for the limits of expression and criticism.

This stunning series includes crucial early works by important artists of uncompromising cinematic truth and beauty such as >Tarkovsky, Khutsiev, Muratova, Shukshin and Shepitko, among others. Another important feature is the inclusion of uncompromising films from the cinemas of the various Soviet republics, such as Georgia, Armenia, and Lithuania; often these cinemas offered filmmakers far greater latitude in choice of subjects and film styles than they might have within the more rigid if better-funded confines of Mosfilm. A kind of a prequel to the Film Society's sweeping retrospective on films of the glasnost era (1995), this exhilarating series discovers another treasure trove of Soviet movies and opens up a whole new vista of remarkable filmmaking in the 60s.

Richard Pena