Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Marlen Khutsiyev: July Rain - Июльский дождь (1966)

Director: Marlen Khutsiyev
Writers: Anatoli Grebnev, Marlen Khutsiyev
Stars: Yevgeniya Uralova, Aleksandr Belyavskiy,Yuri Vizbor

"July Rain is the one-film Soviet New Wave. A unique blend of idealism and realism, heavily influenced by Antonioni, nothing like it was ever again achieved - or attempted - in the Soviet cinema as far as I know. The virtually plotless story of a young unmarried couple's involvement and eventual break-up is told as a series of finely-observed episodes which together form almost an encyclopedia of the time and the place. Among other things, it is a priceless portrait of a somewhat fantastic city which no longer exists.

The film was made in 1966, soon after Nikita Khrushchev's downfall, when the new conservatives started to dismantle the small creative liberties won after the death of Stalin (and little used, particularly in the cinema). Although the film was not banned, it got only a token release on something like a hundred prints (drop in the sea at the time). The invitation from the Venice Film Festival was declined, and the film was little seen in the West, if at all. Even in Russia, although its reputation is now high, and it has thankfully been restored (sort of), relatively few people have actually seen it." ...

The heroes of July Rain who came out of the recent [film by Khutsiev] Lenin's Guard, are not simply three years older-they went through an entire historical cataclysm, the cataclysm which is all the more terrifying because it seems not to have happened at all, at least not officially, on the surface, in the public sphere.
July Rain marked the beginning of a different cinema, far less joyful and optimistic, which lost (or was loosing throughout the decade) illusions and light ideas about reality, cinema ruthless to any illusions and ideas of yesteryear. This cinema was hiding the pungency of its social diagnosis under situations that, on the surface, seemed trivial, everyday, and neutral.
— Miron Chernenko, Marlen Khutsiev, pp. 17-19

If it were not for Moscow, Khutsiev's July Rain would be three times shorter. I don't know any other film where a space the role of which within the plot should be secondary, would be so independent. Moscow here is like a sea, and you can't get used to it or get enough of it.
The utilitarian nature of Moscow's transfers, escalators, and tunnels is fictional, improvised by some dilettante architect only to fill the space of life of these thirty-year-olds, who, instead of making money and career, read Pasternak's poetry until four in the morning.
— Petr Shepotinnik, Iskusstvo kino [Film Art] 8 (1997), p. 55.

Looking back at the Soviet cinema of the Sixties could perhaps induce nostalgia or a sense of superiority. But in fact it is more likely to elicit admiration, and a realization that the aesthetic ferment of that decade was much richer and more profound than any Western New Wave, including France's. — Ian Christie, Film Comment 36.6 (Nov-Dec 2000), p. 42.

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