Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"MOSCOW" by Mikhail Kaufman

I just watched Kaufman's propaganda film Moscow. First off, I should remember next time that when they say these films are silent, sometimes they mean COMPLETELY silent, no score behind it or anything, which was the case here.
There were some fascinating moments. A lot of it was the little stuff. Somewhere between Les Halles Centrales and this film, I really got the sense of hustling and bustling markets. Open air markets. Sewing machines. People creating clothing. People selling clothing.
The telephone switchboard operators, linking up all the different calls.
The butchers and people hauling sacks of vegetables.
The electric lamp factory workers.
Lots of shots of vendors and merchants, and people heading to work in industrial settings or markets.
Transportation-there were a ton of shots of transportation, some gorgeous shots of Moscow's parks, and bikers going through there, a few on motorbikes, but mostly on bicycles.
It was interesting how the film seemed to become least enticing when the shots were of things that are hard to film: meetings of elected leaders, meetings of commercial groups, how in the hell in a documentary film do you make a sit-down meeting look interesting?
The film felt very didactic though, very much like a lesson. Besides some playful moments messing with forward and backward motions around people diving and swimming, it was mostly very straightforward.
Liked the shots of children in public orphanages- bathing, eating, in cribs.
Liked the shots of the amusement park carousel- that was actually inspired.
The shots of the homeless children in the streets.
It was basically a very straightforward praise of Moscow in the time of Stalin, and an interesting introduction to the city. I've never been there before, but the film makes me interested. How different would it look now from the city of then? Back then it was all streetcars, bikes and horse-drawn wagons. I wonder how much that's changed.
Playing chess in parks- that still goes on.
The zoo and museumgoers, taking in the sights.
There were some good shots of horse races as well. That was quite beautiful, though overlong.
The cuts were super-quick though, and in some cases the camera was moving so much I felt like I was back in the Blair Witch Project. It was like the Moscow chase scene in Bourne Supremacy, without Bourne or any supremacy.
The film did best when it stuck with the lives of common people. Had some nice shots of workers' villages springing up near town.
It really painted Moscow as a place where the poor were coming to work from other parts of the USSR and Asia, the same way we here in America like to think about New York. There was even a building back then called "The Stalin Bureau for Oppressed Peoples".
So much of the stuff that was being done there, the manufacturing especially, seems invisible here. But if I was to do a documentary about a month at a supermarket, I wonder...could I get that kind of access?

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