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Attica

Film Club September 2016: Repentance

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For September I chose the Soviet film Repentance.

A few reasons why I chose the film.  First and foremost I had originally purchased this film because I had read somewhere that it had a great impact on it's society and was seen as a fine example of subversive art (I don't think the officials understood the magnitude of its mocking of them as well as some other things).  The people understood what it was saying even if some of the officials did not.  I think the film also does a fine job of dealing with some interwoven themes of science, religion, art, history/heritage, and family.  It can be surreal, funny, tragic, goofy, and at times, just weird.  It also boasts a great character, and I can't think of many characters who are as goofy, seemingly amiable,  yet with and underlying air that is so chilling, and which at times boils to the surface.

There are also a few moments where it has some haunting cinematography, as would be expected from a Soviet or Russian film.  Yet this film has moments that are not like any other Soviet/Russian films that I've seen, with it's combination of comedy, political satire, thriller, drama, and arthouse film.

I think its a fine example of how film can speak on several levels and have an influence on people's thinking and from there on society.  

Anyhow, hopefully that didn't give away to much.  I'm interested in seeing some people's thoughts.

 

Here's the film on Youtube

 

Here's a couple of articles about the film.

 

 

If anyhow finds some more information, then feel free to share it.

 

 

 

Edited by Attica

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Neat. It may be next weekend before I can get to the movie--it's Labor Day in the U.S., which means I'll be helping my father build a deck--but I'm eager to check it out. Soviet Cinema is one of my gaps.

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12 minutes ago, NBooth said:

Neat. It may be next weekend before I can get to the movie--it's Labor Day in the U.S., which means I'll be helping my father build a deck--but I'm eager to check it out. Soviet Cinema is one of my gaps.

I'll be away this weekend, so I won't be able to check in.

I think it's a film which, even if you don't enjoy all of it, you will find parts of it to enjoy.  

It's interesting in that at times it is quite subversive, but at other times it is more forthright than my tastes (for example - blind justice).  As I've indicated, I think the officials knew some of its themes, but even then didn't realize the extent of it.

Edited by Attica

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I've now watched half of this.  Wow...what an intriguing choice!  I very much hope we get around to a discussion of this film. 

 

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Setting the bait for those who haven't made time for this yet : Terry Gilliam and Andrei Tarkovsky meet together in a room and try to decide who is in charge.  The results are pretty brilliant.

Edited by Brian D

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I managed to get a DVD copy from my seminary's library loan. Looking forward to watching it this week.

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Yeah, I'll finally be getting to it this weekend.

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On 9/9/2016 at 0:55 PM, Brian D said:

 

I've now watched half of this.  Wow...what an intriguing choice! 

 

:)

 

 

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I'll be watching this in sections over the coming days--my September has unexpectedly proven to be more hectic than I anticipated. So these are undigested thoughts:

1. The first half-hour reminds me of The Trouble with Harry, for obvious reasons, and it's about as slippery, tonally.

2. I assume the toothbrush mustache had the same connotation in Soviet Russia as it did/does in the US, but I don't know that for a fact. [The NYTimes article seems to confirm it, though]

3. The machine in the church is a great image, though I wonder if anyone around here can identify the event depicted in the painting at about 35 minutes in.

4. "You have been listening to 'Great Minds of the World.' Next, a program of dance music."--echos of DeBord and Marcuse, there! All while pushing in on a painting of Adam and Eve expelled from Eden....

More as I work through this movie. I'm kind of digging it, even though it can be a little obvious [obvious isn't bad]

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On 9/13/2016 at 3:35 PM, Brian D said:

Terry Gilliam and Andrei Tarkovsky meet together in a room and try to decide who is in charge.  The results are pretty brilliant.

I thought it was what you'd get if the Serbian director Emir Kusturica (Underground) had collaborated with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.  Thank you much for the selection. 

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On 9/18/2016 at 5:54 PM, NBooth said:

I assume the toothbrush mustache had the same connotation in Soviet Russia as it did/does in the US, but I don't know that for a fact. [The NYTimes article seems to confirm it, though]

I'm pretty sure it does.  Although I think it's fairly clear that there are other aspects to the character which are a bit hazy to us.

 

On 9/18/2016 at 5:54 PM, NBooth said:

The machine in the church is a great image, though I wonder if anyone around here can identify the event depicted in the painting at about 35 minutes in.

Oh, yes.  It is great.  The ideas surrounding it are fantastic.  I love that this part of the film gives such an interwoven commentary on science, faith, the arts, communism, culture, history.  etc.  So much of which is depicted in those images.  When I think about it, it's pretty much all there.  There also might be little bit of a 1950's type sci-fi/horror flick thrown into the mix.

 

On 9/18/2016 at 5:54 PM, NBooth said:

More as I work through this movie. I'm kind of digging it, even though it can be a little obvious [obvious isn't bad]

There's a lot to dig.  You might not have made it into the more surreal (and weird) stuff yet.  There's some great cinematography coming up.  

 

 

Edited by Attica

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21 hours ago, Froggy said:

Thank you much for the selection. 

Welcome. :)

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On 9/18/2016 at 5:54 PM, NBooth said:

 

I'll be watching this in sections over the coming days

 

I'm re-watching it in sections.

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Day two:

1] The figures in armor remind me that Russia positioned itself as a continuation of the Roman Empire by way of Byzantium.

2] Reference to art for the working class. This was, of course, a concern for artists both in the USSR and in the West (particularly during the 30s, though), and every time an artist shows up in anything, I assume it's a surrogate for the person making the movie/writing the book. Here, the artist seems to be straining against the demand that he "enlighten the people" in the place of their political leaders.

3] Running though the sewers makes me think of The Third Man--which isn't the first time this has happened, though I can't remember the other time.

--that puts me at halfway through. More in the coming week.

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NBooth wrote:
: 1] The figures in armor remind me that Russia positioned itself as a continuation of the Roman Empire by way of Byzantium.

Yes, linguistically I believe there's a direct line from "Caesar" to "Czar".

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Attica is right that the mayor is a great character.  He is both wildly comic and frightening.   One mark of the movie’s maturity and depth, though, is that he is human.  We see him struggling and confused at times by his own extreme impulses…I think of the magnificent scene where the underling comes in with high head after having arrested all that the mayor told him to arrest, but the mayor barely understands what has just happened.  The mayor himself seems at times to be so overwhelmed by his own madness that he can’t keep up with his edicts. 

 

My favorite moment with this character: the speech with something like these words “4 out of every 3 people is a traitor.” 

 

I have such affection for this film that I hope it gets discovered by Criterion, thereby rescuing it from You Tube obscurity.  If A & F does the “politicians/politics” top 25 that we had discussed a bit last year, this would be a fine choice to place highly on that list!

 

I do think this film’s genius fades in the final half hour, but up until then it seems to me like a complete film: full of hilarity, pathos, historical significance, great characters, and visual and structural ingenuity.  Despite the final fade, though, this film stands as a scintillating cry from history that should endure. 

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Ok, pushing through to the end tonight.

1] I wonder if the carving-names-on-logs trick has some historical precedent.

2] "We must accuse as many people as possible" makes me think of Zizek in Violence and his discussion of the "false choice."

3] It may be a-historical to think so, but the scene by the piano is pretty Lynchian.

4] Confucius reference! "We will catch the cat in the dark room even if there is no cat there!"--great line about paranoia. 

5] I do a lot of thinking about fascism and authoritarianism, as a professional matter, and this is textbook stuff. So, it's a little obvious--but probably not as obvious to people in the middle of it.

6] 1:39:21--maybe I'm seeing things, but this looks like another Third Man reference. DId they even have The Third Man in the USSR?

7] Random connection, but the refusal to bury the mayor's body actually reminds me of what really happened to Lenin.

8] If that Rubic's Cube appeared in a contemporary movie, they'd be accused of layering on the period feel too thick.

9] "Those were difficult times"--classic rationalization.

10] Again, the generational argument is very on-the-nose, but it feels real and intersects with late-Soviet society in ways that I'm probably not prepared to unpack.

11] 1:50:00--did I mention that this movie is very Lynchian?

12] This scene.

13] For me, it's the last fifteen or so minutes that really drop in terms of interest.

14] Obvious climax is obvious.

I really wish someone would put out a Blu-Ray print of this. I bet it looks really good when it isn't being streamed from YouTube off an upload of a low-qual print. I liked the movie, though circumstances kept me from really devoting the amount of attention it deserved. I imagine it repays second- and third viewings. 

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I watched it last night. Thanks for the selection, Attica. It was a really fascinating choice about totalitarian governments, paranoia, the role of art in influencing a society, and people's reputations. I didn't think all those ideas were developed or integrated as well as they could have been, but I did like the framing of the flashback with the trial.

I was most struck by the strong vein of absurdist humor running throughout the entire film. You could almost call it Bunuellian in places (e.g. people being buried in a freshly plowed field, and a man randomly bursts into opera singing). Also, I was wondering why there was such a focus on roses? We first see a baker frosting roses onto a cake, and the next scene begins with roses covering Valmar's coffin, and there were quite a few other scenes in which roses were prominently framed.

Otherwise, all I have to say is that I agree with Nathanael's observations.

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On 9/23/2016 at 2:08 AM, Brian D said:

One mark of the movie’s maturity and depth, though, is that he is human.  We see him struggling and confused at times by his own extreme impulses

Right.  They also manage to make the character frightening, but then at times kind of like able, quirky, and fun.  His singing in the apartment comes to mind, he was having a great time.

My favourite scene with him was the scene where he got slapped.  Such fine acting.  I had to rewind it several times.

 

On 9/26/2016 at 7:39 AM, Evan C said:

Thanks for the selection, Attica.

Welcome.  

 

On 9/26/2016 at 7:39 AM, Evan C said:

I didn't think all those ideas were developed or integrated as well as they could have been

Remember, this was made under communism.  I'm surprised that it had what it did.  I think it could have been integrated further in the sense that connecting the dots of the connection between those variety of things might be a leap for some.  Not sure if that would have made a film which can be too obvious in places, too much more obvious.

 

On 9/26/2016 at 7:39 AM, Evan C said:

I was most struck by the strong vein of absurdist humor running throughout the entire film. You could almost call it Bunuellian in places (e.g. people being buried in a freshly plowed field, and a man randomly bursts into opera singing).

Yeah, that really showed different sensibilities.  The same with their choices of the music that went along with the humour.  That field and song scene was one of the "weird" parts I had mentioned.  

But really, what a neat scene, he was so weird and goofy, but at the same time and partially because how this was handled, the character came across as so unnerving.  

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When you mention the mayor being "unnerving", I think of the grandly creepy conceit of the approaching cars in the piano dream sequence:  In 2 different cars coming from opposite directions at perhaps the very same moment, the mayor pops up with a half-grin from the passenger seat to hound the steps of the heroes. 

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Nbooth, your comments about this film being Lynchian make me want to see more Lynch films.  What Lynch films did the piano scene most remind you of?

I didn't quite catch what was Lynchian about the 1:50:00 moment, but it could be because the timing of my copy is different.  That moment in my version was when the shouting man was escorted out of the courtroom.  Is that the one you wanted to cite?

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As I rewatched the church sequence about 34 minutes in, I was struck by the human faces straining up through the machinery to glimpse the potent Biblical art on the walls.  An enduring image that suggests so many things at once.  It makes me think of the worshiper fighting to worship God in the face of cold and seemingly mammoth obstacles...obstacles that could be in the form of either technology or ideologies. 

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7 hours ago, Brian D said:

When you mention the mayor being "unnerving", I think of the grandly creepy conceit of the approaching cars in the piano dream sequence:  In 2 different cars coming from opposite directions at perhaps the very same moment, the mayor pops up with a half-grin from the passenger seat to hound the steps of the heroes. 

Yeah, they did a lot of neat tricks with him.  The part of him jumping out the window the way it did was fantastic.  Goofy, funny, yet also entirely creepy.

 

6 hours ago, Brian D said:

I was struck by the human faces straining up through the machinery to glimpse the potent Biblical art on the walls.  An enduring image that suggests so many things at once.  It makes me think of the worshiper fighting to worship God in the face of cold and seemingly mammoth obstacles...obstacles that could be in the form of either technology or ideologies. 

Yeah there was so much going on there.

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I'm leaving Artsandfaith and won't be taking part in this discussion any longer.  Enjoy the film.

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I'm sorry to hear that Attica. I'll miss your input here.

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