Based on the life and work of the Russian film director Alexander Medvedkin (1900-1989), The Last Bolshevik is a tribute from one filmmaker to another. An archeological expedition into film history that reveals new cinematic treasures, the film prompts a reflection on the relation between art and politics in the former Soviet Union.
The film captures the commitment, energy, struggles, illusions and disillusions of a believing but never naïve Bolshevik. From Medvedkin’s classic 1934 satire Happiness, and the ‘film train’ which he directed in the 1930s, to his sardonic comedies and bitter war newsreels, Chris Marker draws a panorama of the artistic, political, and moral universe of a life and a country, bringing it right up to date with his own vision of Russia today.
An intricate work with many levels and layers, The Last Bolshevik is also a distillation of the art and beliefs of one of the greatest documentarians of our time, Chris Marker, who has revolutionized documentary as his near-contemporary Jean-Luc Godard transformed film fiction, crossing boundaries and mixing genres.
“I write to you from a far-off country…”
Information regarding the early life of Chris Marker, photographer, filmmaker, videographer, poet, journalist, multimedia/installation artist, designer, and world traveler, is scarce and conflicting. The year to which his movies, videos, and multimedia projects are dated depends on which source you use, and in which country you live. Personal data is in a state of complete disarray: Derek Malcolm, writing about ¡Cuba Sí! (1961) for The Guardian, reports that Marker was born in Mongolia, of aristocratic descent. Geoff Andrew of Time Out London isn’t sure (Andrew, 146), and most sources, along with the Internet Movie Database, use the location I’ve listed above as his place of birth. Some say his father was an American soldier, others that he (Marker) was a paratrooper in the Second World War. Still others, that he comes to us from an alien planet. Or the future. Throughout his career, he has rarely been interviewed, and even more rarely… read more
it takes the firm mind of a Marker to show how fictional images and fake constructed documents contaminate our image of history; how carefully built context precedes and massively determines the meaning of "autonomous" events (like those Queen lyrics, which change meaning when put in German by Laibach, showing the way a historical context can make the same text cover in a dramatically different ideological coccoon,
because we've got images formed on and about structures as big as entire languages!), how truthfulness is just as close to lie as any bigot's babble. but that, in the soothing manner of a homeopathic healer, not in the whipping bark of an impatient, reformist (and naive bolshevik) pulpiter..
"remember how you cried, when you discovered that two images together could make sense? nowadays televisions floods the whole world with senseless images and nobody cries.. was that why T believed in nothing anymore, except music? he asked me to stay for a few moments, to listen to his favorite music. that was his version of a black hole: the whole era condensed into one life, a whole life condensed into a few notes.. "
Marker is right on target when he says that the ideal of a better world died with the U.S.S.R. even though that nation had long since become dystopian. Somewhat like Godard, Marker is a champion of filmmakers: sometimes I felt as if history was only something that helped or harmed men like Vertov and Medvedkin. Nonetheless, it's a stunning kaleidoscope of images and ideas, and yes the cat is adorable as all getout.