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Kino-Eye: The Revolutionary Cinema of Dziga Vertov

Tuesday, November 29, 2011
7:00 p.m. Three Heroines
Dziga Vertov (U.S.S.R, 1938)

(Tri Geroini). Vertov the filmmaker had two passions: women and planes. The best sequence in Lullaby (1937) is of a young and irresistibly self-effacing woman describing her first parachute jump. These two passions came together in Three Heroines (1938), which follows the legendary female pilots Raskova, Osipenko, and Grisodubova in their failed but magnificent attempt to make the first nonstop trans-Siberian flight. Using documentary reenactments, Vertov depicts the flight, the crash, the rescue, and the women’s heroic return to Moscow, where crowds shower them with flowers, and leaders with speeches. The film’s unspoken irony: a good crash and a successful rescue make a better story than a mission accomplished.

• Written by Vertov. Photographed by S. Semenov. (54 mins, In Russian with English electronic titling, B&W, 35mm, From the Austrian Film Museum)

Followed by:
For You, Front! 

Dziga Vertov, Elizaveta Svilova (U.S.S.R., 1943)

(a.k.a. For the Front!/Tebe, Front!) From the start, Vertov made himself known as an irreconcilable enemy of “acted films,” which he regarded as a violation of truth—and truth was what Kino-Eye was all about. At the peak of World War II, however, such lofty artistic principles proved impractical. For You, Front! is a fiction film with a script and two actors. In a letter to her fiancé Dzhamil, a soldier on the front, Saule asks if there is anything he needs from “our beloved Kazakhstan.” Yes there is, he replies, and it is something buried inside the mountain: lead, that most precious of all metals, which can be used to make bullets to kill the enemies of “our beloved country.” Vertov’s poetic and patriotic movie was never released, however, most likely because the wartime censorship did not want Allied troops to pinpoint the location of the lead mines.

• Written by Vertov. Photographed by B. Pumpyansky. (45 mins, In Russian with English electronic titling, B&W, 35mm, From the Austrian Film Museum)

*Total running time: 99 mins