Boris Barnet’s riveting blend of comedy, surrealism, stop-motion animation and social satire ranks as one of the supreme achievements of Soviet cinema, and a delightful example of parody of avant-garde filmmaking: think Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov with a smile. A country girl finds a job in Moscow and becomes involved in the lives of the inhabitants of an apartment building, discovering modernity at a breakneck pace (and finding a new meaning in life at a stage play on the life of Joan of Arc!) through a hilarious chain of narrative twists and turns. —Telluride Film Festival
Long overlooked in the West, Boris Barnet, whose career began in the silent era and lasted until the 1960s, was one of the most popular, prolific, and admired filmmakers of Soviet cinema. His untypical surname belonged to his English grandfather who had opened a printing business in Moscow. He studied painting at the Moscow School of Art before leaving in 1919 to serve as a medic in the Red Army. After the civil war he actually worked as both a physical trainer and boxer, and this physicality drew the attention of director Lev Kuleshov who cast him in his first film. Joining Kuleshov’s seminal film workshop, he took on various roles before and behind the camera, and finally directed his first film – a serial called Miss Mend – on which he co-directed with Thedore Osip. Toward the end of the silent era, he directed two wonderful comedies about peasant girls moving to the big city, Girl With the Hatbox and The House on Trubnaya Square. Though he directed several overtly political dramas… read more
Who can integrate documentary, vaudeville clowning & romantic comedy as brilliantly as the ridiculously underrated Barnet? Though the 2nd half has overextended gags, the 1st integrates Barnet's avant-garde sensibility with studio concerns. The narrative is mild propaganda (though with each performance - the play, the march, the cleaning- the stagecraft is exposed) but some of the footage couldve been shot by Ivens!