Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Now is the Winter of Something Russian

This morning it was raining – hard enough to really soak those folks without rain gear on our 30 minute walk to class.  But my little umbrella left me fairly un-soggy-fied, and my foot was feeling a bit better, so the morning started off pretty well.  We had film history again this morning, during which we talked about Russian cinema from the 1930s-1950s.  We watched some great clips, including an awesome Soviet propaganda sequence in which Stalin (or a much handsomer film version of Stalin) descended from above to congratulate his troops on their victory after WWII, and to proclaim his dedication to freedom and world peace – of course prompting spontaneous cheers of “Viva Stalin!” from the crown of onlookers.  Most notably, we spent half the class watching the filmThe Cranes are Flying.  About 95% of it could have passed for a good old American-style romantic film a la An Affair to Remember only during a war (I’m sure there’s a much better parallel to draw here… but it’s almost 1:00am, I’m in Russia, give me a break).  Charming woman, dashing man who goes off to war, his dashing brother moves in on his turf but the charming woman never stops believing, even after he is missing in action, even after she has been told he died.  Finally, as the troops return, she hears the news of his death from someone she believes and she begins to weep.  But she hears a Stalin-like figure talking about how it is their duty to remember those who fought so bravely and to assure that we will never need war again… and she was cured.  All her heartache needed was the realization that she had the opportunity to be there for her fellow comrades, and that whole lost love thing was a thing of the past.  The film was really well made and well acted though.  We can’t wait to get to discuss it next week!= Acting class was extremely fun today.  We are really pushing ourselves in terms of concentration, and our exercises keep getting harder and harder, which is a lot of fun.  We started an exercise today that I fully intend to use with my improv kids in the fall in which we had to build a sort of movie image one detail/one person at a time.  There are so many important lessons that came out of that exercise I could hardly keep my head on straight.  Then we started our person etudes in which we are supposed to be a person as different from ourselves (though still our own gender) as possible.  Only a few people had time to go today, but so far, the ideas have been very creative.  I’m nervous about mine… but hey… no pain no gain. After class half of us shuffled off to the Сатирикон for a production of Ричард III (Richard III).  Yes, that Richard III. There were a lot of things I really liked about the production, though I wasn’t as blown away as it seems many of the other people in the group were.  The visual style sort of reminded me of an Edward Gorey cartoon – dark and sketchy and cockeyed.  The use of fabrics and shadows were really striking.  Richard was charming and creepy in all the right ways – and we’ll be seeing the same actor play Lear next week, so I’m very much looking forward to that transformation.  There were some cuts that worked really well, and some cuts that I didn’t quite understand.  They cut almost all of Ann’s role – she just had her first scene.  So when she showed up among the dead people haunting him, I was a little surprised to see her, since he hadn’t seen her in hours.  However, they did very consciously sculpt the play so that the final destruction of Richard was a direct comeuppance for the specific evil he had done, eliminating the big battle against Richmond and company.  Instead he was murdered by the spirits of the young princes – who had also played the assassins all along.  And boy howdy… the ways they found to kill people in this play were absolutely stunning.  They were all very stylized, and completely captivating. During the show, my ankle began to bother me again, so I hobbled a bit as we wove our way back through and under the streets of Moscow back toward the dorm. The realization hit me today that we have one and a half weeks left of classes at this point.  Then we have one week without classes. Then we’re back to the States.  Madness!  (And… as time is flying by, we still haven’t received our documentation to carry with us… so 2 1/2 weeks in, we’re still wandering the streets semi-legally. Gotta love that.) Doppleganger Update – I saw Russian Brita Clothier on my way to class this morning.  And it struck me this evening that our film history professor may well be Russian Isabella Rosselini (I have no idea if I am spelling that right).

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