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Russian Ark (single-shot film)


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FYI, all Russophiles:

in Alexander Sokurov's haunting and poetic and lavish film about the Hermitage/Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, among other personages, the legendary Alla Ossipenko appears as visitor of the galley standing in front of Rembrandt's great "Danae," before which she gestures her hand in attitudes similar to that of the reclining figure in the painting.

In addition, a fact that seems not have pointed out at all in any of the reviews i've read, the central visitor/raconteur whom the camera and cameraman follow for nearly the full 90-min. duration of the film, is meant to be the Marquis de Custine, who wrote a famous (or infamous) memoir of a 3 mo. trip to Russia in 1839, called "La Russie en 1839" (translated a recently as 1989 in the US as "Empire of the Czar: A Journey Through Eternal Russia." Though the Marquis was given the Czar's blessing to make his trip around Russia, the thoughts he published about the country, oftentimes critical of the autocracy and character(s) he observed, were considered scandalous by the power-that-be and his work banned from being circulated in Russia during the time of the Czars.

Also, the film's final grand segment, a ball during the time of Nicholas II, is graced by a heavenly Glinka mazurka, conducted by V. Gergiev and danced quite beautifully in the work of a choreographer whose name crawled by too quickly in the credits for me to catch.

To quote blurb writers, "Russian Ark" would seem a "must-see" for anyone with more than a passing interest in Russia and its ways.

If anyone here learns of DVD release of this film, please post the particulars. It would be a "must-buy" on my list.

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An additional note about the Custines - they liked to travel and hobnob with the truly famous, the better for the "family business", ceramic manufacture. Custine's father had visited George Washington in 1782 in Newburgh, NY, and brought a lovely set of Sevres for Martha. My museum preserves that house, but not, alas, any of the dishes.

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and aptly enough the marquis figure in 'russian ark' rhapsodizes at some length while looking over the banquet preparations being made for the guests of a formal court presentation between Nicholas I and the Ambassador of Persia. The prime object of his admiration is the imperial dinner service, sevres, o course, in this instance, cameo pattern that the porcelain connoisseur especially admires.

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"Russian Ark" provides a fortunate opportunity for people to visit (view) the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. Rehearsals must have gone on for months to choreograph the action of a gargantuan cast, filmed in one camera shot.

There is a palace near Tsarskoe Selo, called Pavlovsk, that displays a sixty piece toilet set of Sevres, which was a gift from Marie Antoinette to Maria Feodoravna, wife of Catherine the Great's son Paul.

Pavlovsk was also the place where Glinka in 1839 was inspired to write his "Waltz Fantasie", also known as the "Pavlovsk Waltz".

I hope Alexander Sokurov's next film is about Pavlovsk.

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Gali Abaydulov is the choreographer in the movie. The museum was closed for two days only to make it happen. The first day they rehearsed, the secon - shot. They have to stop twice. The first time it was cameraman mistakes, the second time the artist forgot his line.

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