The Visual Manna of Tarkovsky’s “The Mirror”

Russians may find profundity in the story and themes of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1975 film The Mirror, but for the rest of us it’s the images, the visuals.

A woman runs. Screenshot (132)A barn burns. Screenshot (127)A bird lands on a boy’s cap. Screenshot (128)A dog leaves a cabin. Screenshot (129)A boy looks back at himself. Screenshot (131)The music plays. And we reflect. Screenshot (130)We know something about who we are, as if a light glowed behind us, as if this was not so much a movie as a dream that we had somehow conceived together.

Stanislaw Lem’s “Solaris”

Continuing in my science fiction research, I have begun Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris. solaris_a_living_planet_by_justv23-d4honx8Made into a film by both Andrei Tarkovsky and Steven Soderbergh, it is the story of a planet with a living consciousness, Gaia in the extreme. Although the writing is dense at times, the narrative is artfully dream-like, almost in a trance. Most impressively, the notion of a living mass conscious comes across as an effective precursor for what we are heading for here, our collective and unspoken mission to be eternally plugged in.WEB-robocalypse18rv6

The Academy’s Most Popular Award

Hollywood’s Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is occasionally on the mark with their annual Best Picture – Casablanca (Curtiz, 1943), Midnight Cowboy (Schlesinger, 1969), Annie Hall (Allen, 1977) & No Country for Old Men (Coen Brothers, 2007). no-country-for-old-menHowever these awards have more to do with Hollywood politics and marketing campaigns – such as Harvey Weinstein bullying on behalf of the dreadfully mediocre Shakespeare in Love (1998) – and much less to do with the art of film-making. shakeAs a consequence, the Best Pictures ends up consistently falling short. This isn’t just an issue with which film wins, but which are nominated and has been a problem right from the start of the Awards in 1927. The most apparent has been in the exclusion of most of the great foreign films in ages past, failing to nominate Passion of Joan of Arc (Dryer, 1928), M (Fritz Lang, 1931), La Regle de Jeu (Renoir, 1939), regle-du-jeu-05-gSeven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954), Wild Strawberries (Bergman, 1957), Breathless (Godard, 1960), Aguirre, Wrath of God (Herzog, 1973) and The Sacrifice (Tarkovsky, 1986) and City of God (Meirelles, 2003)…to mention only a fraction. cityofgodThe Academy is flawed at its core, responding to the topicality of the film – social movements above all – and less to the work itself. “Best Pictures” are often predicable and dull, lacking in both vision and inspiration…and this year is no different. Here’s my list of the Academy’s most glaring mistakes.

Not even nominated                  Winner (Soon to be Forgotten)

1933      Duck Soup (McCarey)              Calvalcade (Lloyd)GROUCHO MARX

1946      Gilda (Vidor)                                Best Years of Their Lives (Wyler)

1952      Singin’ in the Rain (Kelly)            Greatest Show on Earth (DeMille)

1958      Vertigo (Hitchcock)                      Gigi (Minnelli)

1968      2001: Space Odyssey (Kubrick)  Oliver! (Reed)2001_-a-space-odyssey-large-picture

1979      Manhattan (Allen)                        Kramer vs. Kramer (Benton)

1982      Blade Runner (Scott)                   Gandhi (Attenborough)

1989      Do the Right Thing (Lee)              Driving Miss Daisy (Beresford)Do the right thing

2003      Elephant (Van Sant)                     The Lord of the Rings (Jackson)

2013      The Master  (Anderson)               Argo (Affleck)themaster

That’s Show Biz.

Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice

Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice (Sweden, 1986) offers a hypnotic sequence of images, the camera tracking sideways across rooms and fields, fog horns and chanting girls in the background. Amazingly, the 143-minute film is comprised of only 115 shots, some of these over eight minutes in length. This, Tarkovsky’s final film made while diagnosed with terminal cancer, is a staggering work that strikes at a primal level. And while the film can get bogged down by an obscured story and series of monologues, the images are profound.The colors transform throughout, sometimes into black and white, often washed out, dreams and reality, from an apocalypse through a glass partition to a sleeping boy, until it all seems to mean the same thing. It’s us and all in our head.