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The Secret of “Andrei Rublev”

In the most powerful section of Andrei Rublev, Andrei Tarkovsky’s hugely ambitious 1966 epic of medieval Russia, a young man whose village and family have been destroyed by the plague convinces the Grand Prince to let him make a beautiful new bell. The boy, named Boriska (and played by Nikolai Burlyaev with a whipsawing combination of youthful exuberance and self-flagellating despair), comes from a family of bell makers. Boriska claims that before his father died, he revealed to him the secret of casting a bronze bell. The boy, fresh-faced and inexperienced as he is, is hired. He enlists a small army of workers and runs them ragged as the seasons pass. Bouncing around like a busy bumblebee, he berates them about the right kind of clay, the right kind of pit, the right amount of silver, and at one point even has his best friend flogged for insubordination. Only briefly, and secretly, does he betray any hesitation, any sense that he might fail.

Tarkovsky takes in the epic scope of this undertaking. The camera peers down from mountaintops, from the sky at the workers toiling amid the dirt and mud. Then it hovers in closer, capturing the raw textures of their endeavor. Giant holes are dug; coarse chunks of dirt pass among dry, scabbed hands; massive fires are built; mad, exasperated eyes stare out at us in indignation, fear, doubt, petulance. Are these people forging a bell or a new world?

Finally, the bell is built, and hung, and rung. We wait an unbearably long time for its clapper to finally strike and send off a loud, low, clear, and perfect chime; Tarkovsky was known for making long, deliberately paced movies, but he was also a master of suspense. Having succeeded at long last, Boriska collapses in tears and frustration. Now, the film’s protagonist, the legendary Russian monk and icon painter Andrei Rublev (Anatoly Solonitsyn, in one of the great passive performances of cinema history), comes to the young man and comforts him. Amid his tears, Boriska reveals that his father never imparted to him the secret of bell making. The boy has been, essentially, flying blind.

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It’s a wonderful, mysterious confession, and it lies at the heart of this wonderful, mysterious film, which is now getting a revival run at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in a lovely restoration, and coming soon in a new Criterion edition. Over the course of his journeys, Rublev confronts jealousy, pettiness, carnality, and unspeakable violence. He even kills a man himself, in an attempt to save a woman from rape and murder during a brutal Tartar raid. Once criticized for the lack of emotion in his icons — his work, we’re told early on, is technically brilliant and subtle, but has “no awe…no faith that comes from the depths of his soul” — he finds himself unable to paint, even unwilling to speak.

Rublev is a mesmerizing portrait of an artist and cleric undone by a world that is cruel, chaotic, unexplainable. And it’s obviously about a lot more than medieval Russia; Tarkovsky never shot an impersonal frame, and he spent his entire career struggling for the integrity of his work. Suppressed by Soviet authorities, Rublev wasn’t seen in the USSR until 1971. Tarkovsky’s diaries from the period, among the most candid and anguished writings you’ll ever read by a filmmaker, are filled with exasperated accounts of officials placing obstacles in the path of his picture’s release, even as it garners praise and awards internationally. When the movie finally opened at home, the director saw no ads or posters for it anywhere, even though it was selling out its screenings. Many of his later films would suffer even worse fates.

But back to Boriska. In interviews, Tarkovsky noted that the story of the young bell maker spoke to the fact that generations never really passed on anything to one another, and that each person had to make their way through this world on their own. It’s an existentialist notion, but quite different from the sort that was fashionable in the 1950s and ’60s. Tarkovsky’s version of an indifferent world is inflected with the spirituality that is ever-present in his work, a sense that while we may be on our own, we are never quite alone.

Boriska carries on as if he understands a secret that nobody else does; indeed, he uses this supposed knowledge to judge others. And yet, it turns out, he doesn’t know anything. All he has, in other words, is his faith — a faith that comes close to breaking multiple times. And not only does he not know the secret, but, as we might suspect, he doesn’t even know if there ever is a secret.

Similarly, Rublev’s crisis of faith comes as a result of confronting a world that doesn’t seem in any way to reflect the divinity to which he’s dedicated his life. He’s a monk wandering a godless world, unsure if there is anything beyond the misery and horror he sees all around him. Boriska has the bell he doesn’t know how to make, and Rublev has the icons he’s forgotten how to paint. To that duo we may also add Tarkovsky, with the films he’s not allowed to direct, or release.  All three men must find a way to persevere, to not only act as if there is a different, better world, but in some way to help bring it about through — and, perhaps more importantly, within — their work. What if, Tarkovsky seems to ask, the silence of God is the very essence of God? What if the fact that there is no secret is the secret?

Andrei Rublev
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Janus Films
Opens August 24, Film Society of Lincoln Center

 

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“First Reformed” Director Paul Schrader Talks the Art of Taking Gambles

Although First Reformed (opening May 18) is immediately, undeniably a Paul Schrader film — with its lonely and unreliable narrator, unexpected violence, and constant hunger for some enormous transcendent moment — its director doesn’t dwell on these associations. “As an artist, you try not to, because they limit your imagination,” he tells the Voice. “Of course, as a critic, you’re always looking for them.” Schrader grew up in a Calvinist community in Michigan where moviegoing was absolutely banned, but when he fell from grace he fell hard, moving to Los Angeles and beginning a life in cinema. It’s a career he’s looking back on a bit these days. His classic 1972 book, Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer, has been revised and reissued. And a new series he’s programmed at the Quad — “Origin Stories: Paul Schrader’s Footnotes to First Reformed” (May 11–15) — spotlights a dozen-plus of his own cinematic influences and artistic idols. (He’ll appear at the theater on May 11 and 12 for screenings of Ordet, Diary of a Country Priest, Silent Light, and Ida.) Sometimes the parallels to his work will be clear in the selections; sometimes they’ll be elusive. “It’s not a linear straight line,” Schrader says. “The series is meant to be eclectic as to the influences. Nicolas Roeg’s Performance influenced many people’s sense of editing. Jean Renoir’s Rules of the Game inspired countless directors. It’s a little reductive perhaps to say that these films define me — but they moved an entire generation.”

Below are excerpts from our conversation.

I found First Reformed very striking — but not at all shocking. Although I think it may surprise some audiences — particularly its ending — for people who’ve been following your work, it seems like a film you’ve been leading up to for a long time.

Yeah, it connects a lot of things. There was a book of criticism I wrote, which tried to connect the world of my church background with the world of cinema, and that’s what sort of brought me into cinema. Then there was Taxi Driver, which was the first script I wrote, which brought me into the world of filmmaking. This film, and this program at the Quad, sort of reaches right back around and ties everything all together. Honestly, it really all began for me when I was a film critic in Los Angeles and I reviewed Pickpocket by Robert Bresson. I was like Paul on the road to Damascus — having this enormous moment of awakening. I couldn’t believe that movies could work in that transcendent way, could take you there. At the time I was in L.A., living with a houseful of UCLA filmmakers who were all working on a biker film for Roger Corman. I didn’t have much respect for what they were doing. I thought, “Filmmaking, that’s not for me.” And then I saw Bresson, and I thought, “Well, maybe.”

The Quad program is being described as movies that inspired you or First Reformed. But it also reads like a crash course in a kind of international, intellectual cinema that seemed to be a larger part of the conversation in the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies than it is now. Have we lost our openness to these sorts of movies? 

I don’t know. We showed First Reformed down in Austin, and afterward Richard Linklater told Ethan Hawke, “No one’s made this kind of film in sixty years!” Is that a compliment? I really don’t know.

But those are the sort of films you keep coming back to.

Well, one of the unique things of my background was that I grew up without cinema, because of the church. I really came to movies as a college student, as an adult. And, you know, you always remember your first love. You remember everything about it — where you were, what they wore, what song was playing on the radio. It’s life-changing. And for people like Scorsese and Spielberg, who first fell in love with cinema as children — well, it was those movies, for them. But for me, my first movie love was the intellectual European cinema of the Sixties. That’s what first inspired me, and that’s why we’re showing it at the Quad.

You’re showing some contemporary films too, like Ida. And there’s one American film, one genre film, Budd Boetticher’s The Tall T.

The Tall T is there because of its idea of the protagonist as an icon; the Randolph Scott character even refers to himself in the third person. The film has this iconographic reality, this non-psychological reality.

And yet, while filmmakers like Ozu and Rossellini are represented by only one film apiece, you made room for two by Bresson: Pickpocket and Diary of a Country Priest.

Well, as I said, Bresson’s work is what made me think filmmaking might be possible for me. But I’m also inspired by his sense of time, which I understood only partly when my book first came out. I realized later, watching these films, that duration is phenomenological. In his films, he shows someone leaving a room — and then he holds on that closed door for three seconds. What’s happening? Well, nothing. Nothing’s happening, but the shot isn’t about the door. It’s about you watching the door. It’s an insight he picked up from the Neorealists — movies are time. And you can sculpt that time by using the scalpel of boredom.

Back in your reviewing days, even in your early raves about Bresson, you warned readers that he could send some of them to sleep.

It’s a very different approach to cinema. I mean now, as a filmmaker, I have a sense of timing that’s different from yours as an audience. Things aren’t going to happen in the way you’re going to expect, necessarily, but if you get on my time-wavelength, something will happen. This is something Bresson did brilliantly. He’s not the first, and compared to some who followed, Bresson now looks like Michael Bay. But what he did was, instead of leaning forward, desperate for your attention, he leaned away. That’s a very tricky dance, because the viewer can then lean toward you — or leave the theater. It’s the kind of aesthetic, contemplative cinema we see in Antonioni, Tarkovsky, Mizoguchi, Béla Tarr. It’s not always spiritual, as it is in Bresson. But it’s always a gamble.

Winter Light, which you also included, might not be the first Bergman film that comes to mind when many people think of you, or even think of Bergman.

Yes, well, I had to have that film. I didn’t really have a choice because in a way the whole premise of my film comes from it. I knew, if I didn’t include it, someone would say, “He’s pretending there’s no Winter Light in his movie!” But there were other inspirations. Diary of a Country Priest, of course. And you know, as I worked on the script for First Reformed, I was contemplating a number of endings. Should I go with the Dreyer ending? The Bresson ending? Or a real Sam Peckinpah ending?

We won’t tell readers which one you choose.

I knew whichever one I went with would have knocked a few people out of their seats. When I did finish the film, I showed it to a friend of mine, a psychiatrist. And the film ended, and the screen went black, and she said, “Are you fucking with me?”

When we started this conversation, you said your new film “connects a lot of things,” and certainly there are themes in it that are such a singular part of your work. And then there are other things, the stylistic touches, which draw from so many other artists. Like the levitation scene, which feels like a nod to Tarkovsky.

Well, you can’t have levitation without Tarkovsky!

Or the pacing, which, again, goes back to Bresson.

Cinema gives you a whole buffet of devices, and no two directors use them in the same proportion. But we all eat from the same buffet. We all steal. The trick of being a cinematic thief is you have to steal around. If you keep going back to the same 7–Eleven every time, they’re going to catch you. So for one film you go to the liquor store, another film you hit the gas station, the flower shop. You keep moving. For me, making a movie, the two questions are always: “Have I done this before?” and “Can I do this?” One of the reasons Bret Easton Ellis and I did The Canyons was simply, “Can we pull this off? Can we make a film without anyone’s permission, without anybody saying ‘No, you can’t hire Lindsay Lohan, no, you can’t hire James Deen’? And then finance it through crowdfunding?” And it turns out we could, and I was really glad I did it. Once.

And then you went from that movie, where you had total control, to Dying of the Light, which was taken away from you.

Which was a horrible experience. It was re-edited and re-scored, without my input. So, I took workprint DVDs, and edited it into my own cut, Dark. I don’t have the legal right to the footage, so I can’t release it. But I have used it as lecture materials, and if you go to my website, you can see it in the context of a lecture I gave at Rotterdam. It’s alright to use it in that way, or make it available to scholars for research, but I can’t show it. That’s why after that experience I wanted to do another film with Nic [Cage] where I did have final cut, so we did Dog Eat Dog. It’s a lot easier to have final cut if it’s a low-budget film.

Given all this — given some of the other experiences you’ve had, with studios and the box office — how do you keep on going in this industry? How do you keep making art?

Well, if challenge doesn’t turn you on, you can’t be a filmmaker. You look out the window and it’s raining, and you’re supposed to be shooting a scene in the park that day — well, great, let’s figure out how to shoot it in the rain. I remember waking up one morning, shooting Mishima, and thinking, “Wow, absolutely nobody thinks I can pull this off. Isn’t that terrific?” That kind of resistance has to be your cup of coffee. You have to get up every day and say, “OK, world, here I come!”

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On Both Page and Screen, Polish Master Stanislaw Lem Makes You Question Reality

Like a lot of kids, I was hipped to Stanislaw Lem, the Polish master of genre fiction, by a bespectacled, pony-tailed fellow-traveler among the self-segregated literary geeks who congregated at one end of my high school’s third floor By then, I was already heavy into Neuromancer and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Dune, but reading Stanislaw Lem for the first time was like discovering a secret treasure chest hoarding everything I loved. Here was where Terry Gilliam got the mixture of laughter and terror that makes Brazil so vital; here was Philip K. Dick’s paranoia stripped of its psychedelic wallpaper and painted over with a droll half-smile. Whether reading about The Cyberiad’s Trurl and Klapaucius, hapless robot inventors traveling the universe solving problems that they usually had caused in the first place, or Eden, in which a Star Trek–like interstellar mission discovers a planet with a domineering and invisible totalitarian government, each successive Lem work felt like it was expanding the idea of the possible.

Lem is probably best known in the United States for his novel Solaris, which inspired films of the same name by directors on the order of Andrei Tarkovsky and Steven Soderbergh. Had he only done that, dayenu, but Lem’s dozens of novels and short stories have proven massively influential — an influence that’s now on full view at “Stanisław Lem on Film,” a series of screen adaptations of the author’s work running through November 11 at Anthology.

Although known first and foremost as a science-fiction writer, Lem dabbled in a variety of modes: horror, detective procedurals, semi-autobiographical realism. But there are certain hallmarks that recur throughout his novels and the films inspired by them. In a typical Lem story, an everyman confronts the limits of rationality and empiricism, whether he’s butting heads with a scheming artificial intelligence, a faceless bureaucracy, or a truly alien being. Through these close encounters, Lem asks confounding — and often hilarious — questions about the nature of intelligence, humanity, and the self.

The premise of Solaris, for instance, is explosively personal: The characters, scientists seeking — and failing — to understand a planet covered in a mysterious sentient ocean of goo, are visited by avatars of people they’ve wronged in the past. The visitations appear to be the planet’s method of communicating with the scientists, but what is being communicated, and why, is never determined. The avatars, formed out of the memories of the scientists, don’t know they aren’t real, and don’t understand the hostility and fear they’ve provoked. Just as Solaris the planet presents each of the visitors with a different companion, Solaris the novel presents each reader with a different facet of itself. Is it a horror novel? A philosophical treatise? An autopsy of grief, regret, and obsession? A slamming-door farce of scientific bumbling? It’s somehow all of these, and more.

It’s no surprise, then, that the three feature-length adaptations of Solaris presented in “Stanisław Lem on Film” are so thoroughly distinct from one another. If you’re a Solaris completist, you’ll want to check out the earliest and most faithful of the trio, Lidiya Ishimbaeva and Boris Nirenburg’s Solyaris (1968), which is rarely screened in the United States. A television movie originally produced by Soviet Central Television, Solyaris adapts the novel like a filmed play, giving us a series of extended two- and three-person scenes as the crew of the Prometheus tries to understand what is happening to them. Andrei Tarkovsky’s legendary 1972 version takes the opposite strategy, using nonlinear storytelling, inventive visuals, and mysterious longueurs that ache with meaning (or, if you’re one of its detractors, lull you to sleep). Either way, on the big screen it is an experience one submits to, rather than a film one watches. Soderbergh’s Solaris (2002), the best of the three, balances the sense of sci-fi mystery with a humane and affecting examination of survivor’s guilt. Despite its outerspace setting, Solaris feels like one of Soderbergh’s most personal films. Anchored by one of George Clooney’s best performances, it also features a then-underappreciated Viola Davis and a manic Jeremy Davies, who adds some much-needed humor to the proceedings.

A sense of humor is what’s missing from the series’ biggest disappointment, Ari Folman’s The Congress (2013), an adaptation of Lem’s greatest novel, The Futurological Congress (1971). The novel is Lem’s take on Candide, a wild, mordantly satiric romp through a fauxtopian future where every problem has been solved by psychopharmacology and the government drops “Love Thy Neighbor” bombs that disperse mind-altering, romance-inspiring chemicals on dissidents. Folman’s film takes some of the basic world-building of Lem’s novel and bogs it down with meditations on the nature of celebrity and a nearly incoherent tragic plotline starring Robin Wright as a fictionalized — and eventually animated — version of herself. Despite a recurring visual motif showing a box kite hovering in the air, The Congress remains resolutely earthbound. As an adaptation, it’s the worst of both worlds: incomprehensible if you haven’t read the book, but deeply unsatisfying if you have.

The set-up for “Roly Poly,” for which Lem wrote the screenplay, suggests “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

Humor, after all, is Lem’s secret weapon. There’s a delightful haplessness to his characters: They’re often very normal people trying to make sense out of the absurd and menacing worlds into which they’ve been thrust, and through them, Lem slyly suggests all the ways we’ve made unquestioning peace with our own absurd and menacing lives. Take Andrzej Wajda’s daffy short film Roly Poly (1968), for which Lem wrote the screenplay. Roly Poly explores the basic philosophical question of what makes us who we are through a set-up straight out of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. In it, brothers Richard and Thomas Fox are rally car drivers, but when an accident leaves Thomas dead and Richard in possession of nearly half of his brother’s organs, their family lawyer finds himself in a madcap world of piecemeal people and soul transference. The brothers’ life insurance company refuses to pay out, ruling that Thomas is 48 percent alive. Richard, hard up for cash, keeps entering races, crashing into crowds of people, and receiving the organs of his victims until he becomes equal parts man, woman, and dog, with the personalities of all three.

Anchored by a delightful comic turn from Bogumil Kobiela as Richard, and propelled by a jaunty space-jazz score, Roly Poly is reason enough to check out the “Shorts Program” (on November 11). It’s paired with two films by Marek Nowicki and Jerzy Stawicki featuring Piotr Kurowski as Ijon Tichy. Ijon, who narrates many of Lem’s stories and novels, is a Lem hero in a nutshell: a straightforward, optimistic, accident-prone scientist who can’t help but find himself in situations as bemusing as they are dangerous. You can watch him run afoul of a mad scientist in Professor Zazul (1962), and a malevolent artificial intelligence in The Friend (1965). The somewhat-dated look of midcentury black-and-white sci-fi in those films is a perfect match for Lem, who didn’t transcend genre so much as revel in it. At its best, Lem’s fiction, and the films in this series, use the familiar mechanics and disarming goofiness of genre storytelling to leave us feeling like his protagonists: seeing the world, and the limits of our understanding of it, in a whole new way.

“Stanisław Lem on Film”
Anthology Film Archives
Through November 11

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Stunning and Impossible, Tarkovsky’s Final Film, The Sacrifice, Returns to the Big Screen

Upon its release 28 years ago, Andrei Tarkovsky’s final film, The Sacrifice, was variously called “stunningly beautiful” and “impossible to sit through” by critics. It is both.

Tarkovsky’s two-and-a-half-hour meditation — on the death of intellectual curiosity in the modern age and, ultimately, on death itself — unfolds in only two settings: a sprawling manor as spartan and shadowy as the da Vinci frescoes showcased in the opening credits; and a strip of seaside-hugging, pastoral acreage.

Sven Nykvist’s prolonged wide shots of these exquisitely gloomy backdrops — there’s nary a close-up in the entire film — dwarf Tarkovsky’s already impotent characters. At the forefront of The Sacrifice is that most annoying of ironies: a windbag who prattles on about the futility of words, yet still keeps on talking. This dour essayist, Alexander (Erland Josephson), is thrown a birthday party by his melodramatic wife, Adelaide (Susan Fleetwood),his mute son “Little Man” (guess if he talks by film’s end), and several glum friends. Punctuating all the Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, and Biblical references are shots of low-flying jets rattling the china and radio reports of impending Armageddon, which prompt Alexander to promise God he’ll sacrifice his house and family in exchange for restored order.

Even the kinetic scenes here are rather heavy-handed (a lengthy house fire, a levitating sex scene) and can’t revive the film from its bookish stupor. This new 35mm restoration will surely render Tarkovsky’s bare-bones visuals more compelling to behold. But Tarkovsky’s philosophizing will only intrigue those who still quiver at the shopworn lament that advancing technology is destroying the world.

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Patti Smith

The rocker-writer-actor-poet and her perennial sidekick, nuggets-nourishing guitarist Lenny Kaye, kick their evergreen art, acid, and punk-rock hybrid as decisively as ever. Hard to complain about an ecstatic punk priestess whose career began with songs about Rimbaud and more recently includes a zoned-out poetic tribute to filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. With Belle Ghoul.

Sun., Dec. 29, 7 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 30, 7 p.m., 2013

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Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia Screens at BAM

A few years ago, a lit-mag editor treated me and other dinner guests to the story—almost certainly apocryphal—of another lit-mag editor who had read, in just one day, two separate poems, submitted by two separate poets, each describing some desperate swimmer crossing some storm-tossed channel with a lit candle held just above the water. That candle mustn’t go out, of course, or something profound—hope, poetry, Lady Di/Marilyn Monroe—would die with it.

The usual slush-pile rejection notes would seem inadequate in a case like this. So how should that editor—surely hypothetical—have responded to the dueling iterations of that simple, somewhat vainglorious metaphor? By mailing each poet the other’s work, perhaps—and by demanding each immediately find a way to view Nostalghia, the late masterpiece from Andrei Tarkovsky, by 1983 himself a guttering presence far removed from his element.

Sick of being harried by the censors in his native Soviet Union, Tarkovsky had come to Italy for freedom and financing—and, after this film, he never again returned home. Nostalghia is steeped in some of the stiffest ennui of Tarkovsky’s career, even as he conjures images of surpassing beauty.

Set in the ruins of a great civilization, the film presents Oleg Yankovsky as the heartsick writer Gorchakov, another Soviet exile trying to craft meaning from a life removed from his homeland. Researching a Russian composer, yet another artist alienated from the country of his birth, Gorchakov tours a hot spring and a Tuscan convent, meets a troubled street philosopher, and never gets around to seducing his bombshell interpreter (Domiziana Giordano), who comes to resent this oversight.

Not much happens, and everything does, all in Tarkovsky’s stately, long-take style, where each shot gives the shadows time to spread and deepen. You know when you’re a few minutes early to meet someone, and you don’t have a phone or magazine to fuss with, and you for once take in the world around you through what’s left of your animal senses? That’s what Tarkovsky forces from us, again and again.

There are visions, memories, riddles, curious encounters, and a slow crescendo of spiritual longing. There’s much sublimity and—possibly, depending on how comfortable you are leaving the house without your phone—some boredom. (I heard some snoring a recent press screening of BAM’s sharp new 35mm print.)

But stick with it. There are shocking acts that rupture the stillness, and then there’s one of cinema’s great endings, a wrenching, rapturous scene that would set both of those poets into embarrassed rewrites. If the pleasures of a great work of art can be “spoiled,” I’m about to do so: In the final moments, Gorchakov, inspired by the madness of that philosopher he met, attempts to cross from one side of a dried-up pool to another—without his lit candle going out. In one long shot, he lights the candle, shuffles out into stones and puddles, shielding the flame from the wind. That wind perseveres, though, and snuffs the candle. Then, it all happens again. Hungry for meaning, Gorchakov keeps trying, even as his body begins to break down. Will he die? Will he make it? Why is he bothering? And why does it stir so deeply?

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Solaris

Dir. Andrei Tarkovsky (1973).
Originally hailed as the Soviet 2001, Tarkovsky’s sci-fi epic, adapted from Stanislaw Lem’s more sardonic novel, is actually something closer to Vertigo—a strange and beautiful meditation on memory, simulation, and lost love.

Sat., Nov. 26, 2, 5:30 & 9 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 27, 2, 5:30 & 9 p.m., 2011

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TECH VS. HUMAN

Who would have thought when Stanley Kubrick released his iconic film 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968 that the prescient director wasn’t merely releasing a sci-fi thriller but also an alarming look into the future and the dangers of technology? Adapted from Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel,” the film received accolades for its pioneering special effects, soundtrack, and set design. Now you can see it on the big screen today and Friday as a part of BAM’s Sci-fi Thanksgiving series, which also includes Andrey Tarkovskiy’s Solaris (1972) on Saturday and Sunday.

Thu., Nov. 24, 3, 6 & 9 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 25, 3, 6 & 9 p.m., 2011

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Stalker

(Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979).
Loosely adapted from a novel by the sci-fi writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Tarkovsky’s last Soviet film is a perverse replay of Solaris’s cosmic voyage, a remake of Andrei Rublev in a secular world of post-apocalyptic misery. (It’s also weirdly evocative of David Lynch’s Eraserhead). Stalker is as devious as it is gorgeous—the only certain thing is its blatant anti-technological, anti-rational, anti-materialist bias.

Thu., July 9, 6:15 p.m.; Sat., July 11, 1 p.m.; Sun., July 12, 8:30 p.m., 2009

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Solaris

(Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972).
Originally hailed as the Soviet 2001, Tarkovsky’s sci-fi epic is actually something closer to Vertigo—a strange and beautiful meditation on memory, simulation, and lost love.

Thu., July 9, 1 p.m.; Fri., July 10, 3:15 & 8:30 p.m., 2009