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Overall Rating

Awesome: 32.35%
Worth A Look52.94%
Average: 5.88%
Pretty Bad: 2.94%
Total Crap: 5.88%

3 reviews, 16 user ratings

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Russian Ark
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by Greg Muskewitz

"On board and off."
4 stars

Unconventional history tour of Russia’s past — not just any tour, but a grand-scale spectacle walking tour — shot in one perdurable, peripatetic take on digital video.

In its most decipherable form, the stunt of the film (outside of its single-take arc of time) perambulates about the Russian State Hermitage Museum, tracking through different periods and movements with an unidentified stranger, a host if you will, who encounters somewhat of the sense of displacement as the viewer. (Once again, the DV cannot hold a candle to the fire of film, causing additional disability in some of the poor quality of what we’re looking at, even if we know what it is.) The preserved and reenacted past (“St. Petersburg has the best balls in Europe”), meticulously coordinated and choreographed is a wonderful collection of the obscure and unique, which is enlightening and stifling all at the same time. Adjustment is necessary for the bewilderment of the film’s initial discourse and purpose, as well as the scale of its ambition, never stopping to take a breath or clarify. Russian Ark boils at root down to a clash of cinema versus theatrics, particularly as director Aleksandr Sokurov seeks to experiment with the conventions of film, unevenly mixed with the theatrical presentation, the stage demeanor, the costumes and make-up, the attitude of the-whole-show-must-go-on-and-all-at-once, and near the end, the finalizing blow of stultification, the sempiternal ballroom dance; the thing just becomes exhausting. Despite what would be assumed as the seamless flow assisting the free-roaming camera from scene to scene, and aside from the groundbreaking experimentalism (much more so, and fully executed unlike Mike Figgis’ Time Code), the factor of over-indulgence — and perhaps over-information — racks up an attrition of attention, even if there is a faint recollection of the lost and wandering baroque hallways in Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad. With Sergei Drieden.


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originally posted: 04/21/04 07:35:41
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User Comments

4/13/08 Srikanth imperssice camerawork, but somewhat slow and meandering 4 stars
3/30/06 sirrocco Ok. One shot - impressive, but there is less plot than a bar of soap. 2 stars
5/12/05 Mike Never seen anything like it. Filming this must have been REALLY hard work. 5 stars
2/14/05 Angolmois In this movie, medium IS the message. Helps if you're Russophile. Otherwise, so-so... 4 stars
12/23/04 Edler I am too dumb to like this much, I guess. 3 stars
7/25/04 DM A fascinating concept, but not that great of a film 4 stars
7/14/04 Timmy poetic and demanding 5 stars
7/04/04 Valerie Easson A magnificent film! 5 stars
1/31/04 Vladimir Iilych Lenin Nothing about post-1917 history, which depresses me somewhat. Rewarding in the end. 3 stars
9/23/03 --- Sucks Goat Penis 1 stars
7/09/03 Don Barrett Pretentious twaddle. I hated it. 1 stars
7/06/03 Mr. Hat (I'm Back MoFos!!!) A little slow getting started, but camerawork is brilliant & the ocean@the end is awesome!! 4 stars
6/21/03 alien assassin If this movie strains your brain, go home and watch the Osbournes !!!!! O 5 stars
5/19/03 costars2 Beautiful, confusing, impressive, memorable 4 stars
1/16/03 Heather Beautiful, innovative, but not for people with short attention spans 5 stars
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