Archive for September 23rd, 2008

The Last Bolshevik ****½

by Allan Fish

(France 1992 120m) DVD1/2 (France only)

Aka. Le Tombeau d’Alexandre

I am a peasant by blood

p  Michael Kustow  d/w  Chris Marker  ph/ed  Chris Marker  m  Alfred Shnitke 

Certainly amongst the ten single most overlooked entries in this tome, Chris Marker’s truly transcendental film remains in relative obscurity today.  Pauline Kael called it “a great film that almost no-one has seen“, and I think that the irony would not be lost on Marker or, indeed, on his subject.  The Last Bolshevik is the analysis – story seems such a mundane, inappropriate word – of the life and career of Alexander Medvedkin by those who knew, loved and respected him.  Even now, it’s possible you may never have heard of him, and it’s perhaps only by the alphabetical structure of this book that a few of you who have heard of him have.  L comes after H, after all, and early amongst the Hs you will find an entry for Medvedkin’s accepted masterpiece, Happiness.  It’s also perhaps ironic that I first came to view the film, thanks to the US DVD release in 2008, when Marker himself was approaching the age when Medvedkin himself had died. (more…)

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Up the Yangtze ****½

by Allan Fish 

(Canada/China 2007 93m) DVD2

The bitterest road to wisdom

p  Mila Aung-Thwin, John Christou, Germaine Wong  d/w  Yung Chang  ph  Shi Qing Wang  ed  Hannele Halm

Upon first glimpsing the title of this lyrical documentary in the average film guide, British readers might groan at the thought of a fourth entry in that low Frankie Howerd (see below) comedy series of the seventies.  The opening caption will soon dispel those fears, as a quote comes up on screen about the three roads to wisdom that even those unfamiliar with his writings in any detail will guess to be Confucian in origin even before the great one’s name decorates the screen. 

Don't worry, he's not here...

Don't worry, you won't find him here...

            Chang’s film, several years in the making, focuses on the plight of the poverty-ridden Chinese around the Yangtze river who are forced to move from their makeshift hovels to higher ground when the Three Borges dam project causes the waters to rise by well over a hundred metres.  We are shown the people, specifically one family of illiterate parents and children wanting to make something of themselves, as they face up to the inevitable, with the eldest daughter finally forced to work on a cruise ship up river to make money to help her parents to survive and save for her high school education. (more…)

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