Sunday, 31 July 2011

Kira Muratova: Brief Encounters - Короткие встречи (1967)

Director: Kira Muratova
Writers: Kira Muratova, Leonid Zhukhovitsky
Stars: Nina Ruslanova, Vladimir Vysotsky, Kira Muratova

Nadja, a country girl moves to the city and becomes Valya's maid. Valya, a member of the District Soviet. ...

Kira Muratova's film, Brief Encounters, is structured as two interspliced narrative lines. Together, they tell the story of how two women-the urban, city council official Valentina and the rural cafe waitress Nadia-love the itinerant and restless geologist Maksim, played by the chansonier cult figure Vladimir Vysotsky, for many years an actor at Moscow's Taganka Theatre.
The lives of these two women intersect when Nadia comes to the city to find Maksim, whose address she had been given on a slip of paper. There she encounters Valentina, who assumes Nadia has come to be interviewed for a housekeeper position and hires her immediately. The subtly comic pairing of the two women and their unintentional love triangle with the missing man are infused with a lyric sensitivity, as the film's episodic flashbacks narrate each woman's emotional dependency on the absent Maksim.

Director Kira Muratova, who also plays the role of Valentina, the city bureaucrat, provides a psychological depth and complex richness to her character that contrasts starkly with the more traditional femininity of her foil, played by actress Nina Ruslanova, for whom this was the first film role. The relationship of the two female characters contrasts city and country, as well as differing class expectations, and normative gender roles.

The film's nontraditional structure, avoiding linear narration and a single, unambiguous perspective, proved ideologically problematic upon its completion in 1967. The film was shelved until 1987, when it was released during the perestroika period, together with such delayed films as Aleksei German's Trial By Road and Aleksandr Askol'dov's Commissar.

Muratova's work, from her early Brief Encounters to the more recent Three Stories and Second-Class People, has challenged viewer expectations that Russian culture, and cinema in particular, has an ethical responsibility to present an unambiguous moral message. Unlike a number of her prominent colleagues, notably Aleksandr Sokurov and Nikita Mikhalkov, Muratova has resisted both spiritual and patriotic aspirations in her work, opting instead for a dark and brutal humor that does not readily lend itself to a redemptive reading. Although her work retains few traces of the "provincial melodramas" from the earlier period to which Brief Encounters belongs, she continues to prefer disrupting and disturbing the genteel norms of her audiences, rather than satisfying their love of a predictable, well-wrought story. ...

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