Tuesday, December 11, 1990

Or: Smoke, Drink, Dance

by Professor Arkadii Alternenko

A little while ago in Moscow there was something entirely new. Perhaps before October 17th something similar had taken place, but perhaps not. But even after this memorable year, these events were firsts, Therefore the organizers all decided to title the conception: the First Moscow Festival of Modern Art. Included in the term “modern” is its original meaning, not our own country’s exhausted demagogical meaning of the word.

But to be exact, the participants were writers, artists, filmmakers and actors whose work is based on modern aesthetic principles, which assumes that a search for those forms of self-expression which would be in accordance with the surrent state of knowledge (attained through both sensual and metaphysical means) of man about himself and his world. That which in the antique ideological language means the “avant garde.” As well as the well-known obligatory adding of two to three fully-charged epithets, and with the mandatory ritual head-banging.

But today different times arrived. A legion of ideological Hinduists, who have not made merry long on the feast of life, and therefor they, gnashing their teeth with rage and believing in the restoration, today lead the ball. That’s why it has become possible for this First International, which has revealed to the Moscow audience much which they have never seen before.
It turns out that in the USA films are not only made in Hollywood, and that American film perhaps is not only the commercial gathering of large crowds into the gigantic moviehouses; crowds of people craving to have a look at a beautiful love or a noble princess, from head to toe brandishing automatics, machineguns, biceps, triceps, and love of country. Just nearby this empire of mass culture (also in California) there lives and works, not tested by the similar neighborhood, and having not a bit of selfdoubt, film and video makers who call the fruits of their creative efforts experimental film.

This film, indeed, is not intended for the large halls. The fact that the demonstration of experimental films was not at the “Rossiia,” where at the time Rambo stylishly “silenced” his compatriots, but in a comparatively small hall, the Ts.D.R.I., amply proves this. This hall was able to hold all those who wanted to come and did not burst along its seams. Such public “neglect” is explained not in that the films of the experimentalists are boring. It is simply that their understanding by the audience demands the possession of a definite level of aesthetic preparation and at least an element of philosophy, that is to say, of those qualities frankly after which both MosFilm and Hollywood throw a lot of rubles and dollars.

It is not easy to convey in words all that the artists with vivid expressions of creative freedom manage to render on film. Especially since plot is a rare enough phenomenon in experimental film. One can even say some of its elements are hardly present in the film, which led the audience to the back and forth abusive striptease. But nothing horrible happened at the moment of its showing. Although it was pretty crowded, no one, not even those on whom things fell, made a sound; in the hall nothing could be heard, neither the slaps in the face, the heart rending sobbing, all the well-known movements of a body going into an overflowing bus. But indeed, several of the accessories were new and unusual to us.

One could not call the experimental-cinematographer such an honorable name if the film had ended with such naked banality. The concept of the author absolutely demands this act of freedom (that is the emancipation from clothing); underlying everything the howling orchestra grew louder and louder as the mademoiselle uncovered her ears, nose, bra (in two moves), legs, arms, and finally head. And when hardly anything else remained on her, that which did remain was thrown off joyfully towards intergalactic space.

Well, if one tries to say something intelligent about the other films, this is doomed to indubitable failure. How much is it possible to impart to the reader the expression: “dynamic photographs of a city” or “nonfigurative pictures of hell in the artist’s interpretation?” As the wise old men say, “It is better to have seen once....” Once possible method of shedding some light is by comparison. Let’s say by comparing with the films of Sokurov. But this comparison, even if it is the most accessible for our countrymen, is still only approximate. Experimental film more or less is similar to our parallel film. But in this case for a wide audience the films of our “parallelists” are more accessible than the “experimentalists.”

Such a paradox may lead a few hotheads to the idea that such film art, which is accessible to so few, is worthless. But as soon as one puts the question in pregmatic terms, one must forget about the expansion of the boundaries of aesthetic mastery of the world. After all the searches and discoveries of this film frequently use “author-realism.” For example, it is used by Sergei Soloviev in two of his films, “Assa” and “The Black Rose etc.” And at least these finds fall into not bad hands, but in my view, a director nevertheless should not point out in numerous interviews the originality of their stylistics, but perhaps master the lessons of their peers. To name a few names, I would mention the Brothers Aleinikov. Incidentally, this would not be a bad idea for Victor Korkii Aleinikov to remember when he is registering his patent for his ironic relationship to Soso Djugashvili.

But the innumerable and faceless legion of mass culture followers devour the juiciest fruits of parallel and experimental film; and they use them without talent in their premature video footage.

However, the festival’s program was not only two days of film. Many noteworthy events went on during the whole ten days. For example, the performance of the French ballet “Alen Rue” set to jazz music had adequate plastique with palpable demons of improvisation and paradoxicality. The act of the English theater group “Alarmist” from Brighton crossed over nationalistic conservatism, and in contrast to the famous “Globus” theater, refused to allow men in female roles.

There was even an attempt at a joint performance (Contraband, The Black Square, On The Red Presna) at Pushkin Square but unfortunately it was cancelled due to continual antediluvian downpour. But perhaps this was for the best, since the average Moscovite, who smokes sparingly now and out of necessity eats his bread and butter without the bread, becomes unaccustomed to humor, especially the avant-garde variety. And indeed how would the Moscovite New Soviet/Too Soviet have behaved himself? Probably the Russian writer/patriot, without a reasonabhle doubt, would have branded it “The Foreigners’ Corps de Ballet, Mocking A Monument Of National Sanctity.” And so it was very wise that the citizenry were so controlled by the weather!