Monday, September 10, 2018

Russian art pre-, during and post- the Bolsheviks in Margy Kinmonth's documentary, REVOLUTION: NEW ART FOR A NEW WORLD

An oddball combination of history -- with emphasis on Russian artists and their art -- lots of pretty palaces and one nonsensical visual effect used over and over again right through to the end credits (it's the kind of thing that may take you back to your elementary school days when you took such delight as the classroom movie projector went in reverse and showed the film images moving backward), REVOLUTION: NEW ART FOR A NEW WORLD is a so-so documentary with an ace up its sleeve.

That would be its ability to show us very interesting Russian art of the pre/post/during Revolutionary period, some of which has not been seen in the west (or not for a very long time) and is mainly of the non-figurative, abstract variety which so displeased a certain dictator named Joseph Stalin that most of these artists found themselves either summarily executed or shipped to one of those infamous gulag prisons.

As written and directed by Margy Kinmonth (shown at right) and thanks to its melange of either British or thick Russian accents (and no English subtitles available), the documentary is a real effort to sit through, though for fans of modern art, the chance to see all this may be worth it.

TrustMovies' particular favorite is the symbolic red horse (above), but you'll have you own pick, I'm sure, out of the plenteous art on view. We meet a array of Russian museum directors, art experts and relatives of these artists (one of whom is shown below), and even the noted film director Andrei Konchalovsky (whose grandfather, I believe, was one of these artists) and who tells us in passing that he considers Kasimir Malevich's famous Black Square to be simply ridiculous -- an assessment with which I thoroughly agree.

By trying their best to be more modern, rule-breaking, world-changing and avant-garde than was the west at this point in time, Russian artists did indeed produce some interesting stuff, some of which we see here. We get some politics along the way too -- quotes from Lenin, and a little history regarding the passing of power from him over to Stalin -- and the movie ends with a long list of artists, together with what happened to each.

With the advent of (thanks to Stalin's insistence on) socialist realism, together with the stifling of inventiveness, the Russian avant-garde dwindled and finally disappeared almost entirely. A few artists took refuge in avant-garde tableware, of all things!  (The doc also includes a silly and unnecessary recreation of a Stalinist torture/confession session.)

If, overall, Revolution: New Art for a New World is pretty ham-handed, it is finally saved by its look at the fine art, collages, poster art and even advertising art of the time period. From Film Movement and running 85 minutes, the disc -- which hits the street tomorrow, Tuesday, September 11, for purchase and/or rental -- also includes an additional 20 minutes of extra footage and interviews. 

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