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Oh right, that's not the bizarre "shaky" problem, that's the universal problem of PAL-to-NTSC transfers, although you won't notice it unless you've got a really high-tech setup or need clear crystal frames for individual study. For that reason, one should always try to purchase PAL discs instead of PAL-to-NTSC discs because multi-region DVD players will automatically make the conversion and not create any "blended" frames.

The "shaky" problem is one that's unique to Ruscico's original transfer of Stalker, which everyone has been using (the PAL Artificial Eye and the NTSC Korean and Image discs). It's a bizarre encoding problem that's quite subtle, but makes it look as if some shots are slightly "swimming" or "fluid." The bed in the early scenes of Stalker's house is a prime example, if you study it closely, you will notice that it seems to be moving independently of the rest of the room! (And no, this isn't one of Monkey's telekinetic powers.)

The bottom line is, if you have a multi-region player and especially if you have a progressive scanning state-of-the-art display (I don't), you should always buy PAL discs instead of region 1 PAL-to-NTSC transfers of them (which Kino, New Yorker, Wellspring, and many other companies sell). But the "shaky" Stalker problem is unfortunately endemic to all of the discs in all regions that use Ruscico's original transfer.

Edited by Doug C
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Oh, okay, that makes sense. I stand corrected.

That makes me really happy, cos I thought I got ripped off and bought the worst quality dvd.

But that also makes me sad, because that means Stalker is out in GARBAGE versions only. That fluid effect is horrid....

sad.gif

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Yes, Ruscico's prints are glorious but they make terrible technical decisions. For example, they could send their prints to London and have NTSC transfers done instead of making PAL-to-NTSC transfers in Moscow, but they don't in order to save money. Their first release of Stalker (and many of their other titles) contained their new 5.1 remixes exclusively rather than the original soundtracks. (I can take some pride in being involved with the fan outcry at the time that prompted Ruscico to reissue the disc with the original soundtrack as an option.)

Their Stalker disc, and all of the discs based on it, is far better than any oher version on video, but it does have a few annoying quirks that should've been corrected!

Edited by Doug C
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Heh, it'll be all yours baby!

It's much cheaper for companies to licence pre-existing transfers than to do their own, and I do like Ruscico's transfer of Stalker in many respects. If you ever see it on VHS, you'll immediately sing their praises. But yeah, the errors that are there are unecessary and infuriating.

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  • 11 months later...

I just found out about this Tarkovsky retrospective at the AFI Silver Theater about an hour ago.

If you live anywhere near D.C., get thee to the theater. If you've never been to the Silver, it's a nice venue. I saw Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar there last year.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 1 month later...

Well, after not being blown away by a film for a while, my introduction to Tarkovsky was a much-needed shot in the arm. I haven't felt quite this way since being introduced to Fellini and Bergman last year.

I caught Solaris over the weekend, after letting myself be intimidated by his works for quite a while and watching his films linger toward the bottom of my Netflix queue. Not sure what prompted the courage to dive in, but I'm glad I did.

I'll not pretend that this film was undemanding, but once I got into the flow, I found it completely mesmerizing. I broke my viewing into two parts. I caught the first 45 minutes or so (right up to Kris's landing at the station) during one of my typical late-night viewings. I had to stop because it was getting very late, and I knew I couldn't make it much longer. Somehow, though, a very sleepy state seemed appropriate here. smile.gif Honestly, who would have ever thought cars driving through tunnels could be so amazing? Or reeds billowing under a stream? Such beautiful imagery, all combined with a sense of danger that was quite unnerving. I'd had a rough day, and the combo of stress and this film experience meant that I fell asleep, had a nightmare, and woke up shaking. I think the film somewhat shaped the dream, and that's a good sign in my book. When a film affects the subconscious, well, that's what I'm after. But I'm crazy that way. wink.gif

The next day, even though I had plenty of other things to do, I couldn't tear myself away from this. I won't even get into discussing the plot or anything like that. I don't think I can right now, and I'm not sure I should even be able to do so at this point. I only know that I have the feeling that I witnessed something different, something great.

Man, I really wish I could see this on the big screen.

Suffice it to say, though, I'm sold, and I'm ready for more.

I read in an article that Tarkovsky deliberately shot a lot of his films using both color and b/w. His idea was that the only way we could experience truth was if we experienced both.

Hmm. Interesting. This was really strange to me, but I figured the whole film was rather disconcerting, so I took this to be just another way to get this feeling across. But the black and white/color shift is a common thing, huh?

I'm glad to read the comments here about Soderbergh's version. I was curious

Edited by Diane
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Man, I really wish I could see this on the big screen.

Me too. I've wanted to see Tarkovsky on the big screen for a decade, and still haven't. His stuff occasionally plays in Seattle on big screens, but the films are so long that I rarely manage to carve out enough time to go. (And friends are rarely interested in going with me, so that means I have to take a whole afternoon to myself, which I rarely get to do.)

Having said that, Solaris was my introduction to Tarkovsky as well, back in 1995, I believe. I've seen it twice since then, and the experiences are richer and more rewarding each time.

And you're right, there is something strangely cool about watching Tarkovsky while sleepy... it just has that groove that feels like a half-waking state. (Of course, the central character of Distant has worse luck trying to watch Tarkovsky's Stalker late at night, and eventually surrenders to watch something ... uh ... far less artistic.)

I found Soderbergh's Solaris to be an interesting experiment, but ultimately shallower and severly miscast. Clooney was okay, but I couldn't stand Natascha McElhone as the woman. Jeremy Davies performances come in two kinds--A) interesting, and B) derivative and annoyingly twitchy. This one was of the "B" variety.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Link to this board's Solaris thread.

Link to the Solaris discussion we had three message boards ago when Soderbergh's film came out (including tangents on the definition of "science fiction" and whether Robert Wise, who may have borrowed from Solaris in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, was himself borrowed from by Tarkovsky).

Diane wrote:

: Honestly, who would have ever thought cars driving through tunnels could be so

: amazing? Or reeds billowing under a stream?

Did Tarkovsky ever make a film that DIDN'T have reeds billowing under a stream?

There is a lot to like in Tarkovsky's films, but if you watch them too close together -- at a cinematheque retrospective, for example -- you may begin to think they're all the same, and this may dilute the experience of any given film for you. Reeds billowing under streams, horses frolicking in the grass, there are things Tarkovsky just can't help doing no matter WHAT the movie is about ...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I am suprised no one has mentioned The Mirror here. We talked about that film extensively on previous versions of this board. If you read Sculpting in Time one gets the sense that The Mirror really is at the center of his work, his aesthetic and his biography become indistinguishable in the film. When people ask me about where to start with Tarkovsky, I always tell them to start with The Mirror. Just watch it. Don't bother with it in any other terms than a series of images, certainly be haunted by the pervading psychology of its ineffable narrative, but just let it roll over you.

It really is a tough film, but it really is what Tarkovsky is all about.

I have this at home and hope to give it a go this weekend. I feel a mixture of fear, curiosity, expectation, and excitement as I approach it. My pleasant experience with Solaris should have cured me of my fear...but I seem to recall reading somewhere that Solaris is one of Tarkovsky's more accessible works. Hmm.

Anyway, I'll probably start The Mirror late tonight because the only other film I have at home is Eraserhead, and I have a hunch it won't be suitable for late-night viewing before bed (even the picture on the actual DVD scares me). And the combination of sleepiness and Tarkovsky really was quite nice last week. It just somehow worked

Edited by Diane
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Wow. What a great pair of films. Sounds like you are in for an interesting weekend.

Please keep us updated on your thoughts concering The Mirror. I really find Solaris to be a demanding film, difficult to piece together, confrontational in its imagery, etc... Something about The Mirror is really quiet and personal, almost conversational.

Edited by (M)Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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I really find Solaris to be a demanding film, difficult to piece together, confrontational in its imagery, etc... Something about The Mirror is really quite and personal, almost conversational.

Yes to all of this.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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The Mirror was a difficult film, but I expected that going in. I'm happy to have watched; I just sat back and tried to take it all in without getting too worried that I was getting lost or whatever. I probably shouldn't admit this, but I quickly found that this one was *not* suitable for late-night viewing, as I began to drift off after about 25 minutes (blame my sleepiness, not the film). I was in and out, but I woke up once to immediately recognize the into at Darren's blog. smile.gif Such a beautiful moment. Actually, I'd say that that section of the film was really my favorite Edited by Diane
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Parts of the film were amazingly nerve-wracking (the grenade, when the mother kills the bird).

That tension is even more nerve-wracking in a theater-setting. When I saw Mirror at the National Gallery a year or two ago, there were audible gasps during the chicken scene.

Diane, I'll give you the same advice I give everyone when they first see Mirror: if you're interested in understanding the film's "plot," try to get your hands on Vida Johnson and Graham Petrie's book, The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue (1994), which includes a really nice, chapter-length formal analysis. They include quite a bit of biographical material, along with Russian and European history, which contextualize the found footage that Tarkovsky uses. They argue, for example, that the footage from the Spanish Civil War and the scene with the Spanish family (the red-headed girl whose father slaps her) are intended to evoke the feelings of nostalgia and of longing for one's home(land) that characterize so much of Tarkovsky's last four films. I read the book after I had seen Mirror three or four times -- after I had already become an enthusiastic fan of its tone and images -- but their reading helped fill in a lot of the gaps.

I bought a Russian DVD of Mirror mostly because of its improved transfer and audio, but another nice side effect is that I can turn off all sub-titling. The words in the film are almost completely irrelevant to me at this point. I now put the film on whenever I'm stressed or anxious, and, for whatever reasons, the tone and beauty of the film's images and pacing and even the sound of the characters' voices just overwhelm me. The cut from the young girl's stare to the Soviet ballooners is my favorite of all time, and the music cue makes it transcendent. I cry almost every time I see it.

Sorry. This is the only film that makes me write with such hyperbole. wink.gif

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Oh, thanks for the advice about that book, Darren. I'll have to look into that.

And I love what you're saying here. Your enthusiasm is contagious.

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  • 5 months later...

Maybe it's been posted before...but his choices are interesting

From Nostalghia.com

Tom Lasica

Tarkovsky's Choice

In 1972 Andrei Tarkovsky told Leonid Kozlov about his favorite films. Tom Lasica recently talked with the critic.

Source: Sight and Sound, March 1993, Volume 3, Issue 3. All rights are reserved by Sight and Sound and The British Film Institute (BFI). The article is reproduced on Nostalghia.com with the kind permission of the Sight and Sound Publishing Manager. We are also indebted to Jon Lomax and Nick Wrigley for diligently tracking down the article for us, ploughing through huge piles of Sight and Sound back-issues, and for providing us with the below high-quality scan. Note that Tarkovsky's list was first printed in Kinovedcheskie zapiski 14, 1992. Nostalghia.com has obtained a scan of the original page — it may be viewed here.

I remember that wet, grey day in April 1972 very well. We were sitting by an open window and talking about various things when the conversation turned to Otar Ioseliani's film Once Upon a Time There Lived a Singing Blackbird.

"It's a good film," said Tarkovsky and immediately added, drawing out his words, "though it's, well, a little bit too... too..." He fell silent with the sentence half finished, his eyes screwed up. After a moment of intense reflection, he bit his fingernails and continued decisively, "No! No, it's a very good film!"

It was at this point that I asked Tarkovsky if he would compile a list of his favorite ten or so films. He took my proposition very seriously and for a few minutes sat deep in thought with his head bent over a piece of paper. Then he began to write down a list of directors' names - Bu

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Bergman on Tarkovsky (from Bergmanorama.com):

When film is not a document, it is dream. That is why Tarkovsky is the greatest of them all. He moves with such naturalness in the room of dreams. He doesn't explain. What should he explain anyhow? He is a spectator, capable of staging his visions in the most unwieldy but, in a way, the most willing of media. All my life I have hammered on the doors of the rooms in which he moves so naturally. Only a few times have I managed to creep inside. Most of my conscious efforts have ended in embarrassing failure—The Serpent's Egg, The Touch, Face to Face and so on.

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Mouchette

Brilliant! Now that is both Bergman and Tarkovsky that prefer this to Au hasard.... This is not to say that I agree, but yet more evidence that Mouchette is one of the most underappreciated French films.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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  • 5 years later...

I saw the first half hour of The Mirror today, and I can tell already that it will be my fave of the five Tarkovskys I've seen. (Solaris, Andrei Rublev, Stalker, The Sacrifice.) So, no, I didn't begin with it like Leary mentions is a great way to begin, but I am already blown away by it. If I can get my sleep schedule in order I'm hoping to see the whole thing tonight.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Thought I'd post this while it's on my mind. I just think it is funny.

The cinematography in The Mirror, even from only seeing the first thirty minutes, is something I just don't get. It is awesome, I can say that much. But how this stuff is accomplished with such precise measure as these images and scenes just begin to bleed together and wash over me, wow, I can't even fathom how this was all pulled together.

None of that changes the fact that you can see the shadow of a boom mic for about a minute in the opening scene with the hypnotist. And that doesn't even bother me, I just know it is a major cinematographic faux pas, and I wonder if it bugged Tarkovsky later on.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I saw the first half hour of The Mirror today, and I can tell already that it will be my fave of the five Tarkovskys I've seen. (Solaris, Andrei Rublev, Stalker, The Sacrifice.) So, no, I didn't begin with it like Leary mentions is a great way to begin, but I am already blown away by it. If I can get my sleep schedule in order I'm hoping to see the whole thing tonight.

The scene with the wind, trees, then moving into the house, is one of my favourite scenes in film. It's hauntingly meaningful and beautiful.

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Oh duh. I'll bet you could see the shadow of the boom because they were taping it. Wow, I'ZA dummard. It isn't explicit but I think that's got to be it. Makes Tark the master's master.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Thought I'd post this while it's on my mind. I just think it is funny.

The cinematography in The Mirror, even from only seeing the first thirty minutes, is something I just don't get. It is awesome, I can say that much. But how this stuff is accomplished with such precise measure as these images and scenes just begin to bleed together and wash over me, wow, I can't even fathom how this was all pulled together.

None of that changes the fact that you can see the shadow of a boom mic for about a minute in the opening scene with the hypnotist. And that doesn't even bother me, I just know it is a major cinematographic faux pas, and I wonder if it bugged Tarkovsky later on.

Yes, it's supposed to be from Soviet television, so the boom mic is intentional.

I'm glad you're loving it. It gets better.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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