Monthly Archives: August 2015

THE ENCHANTED DESNA

Written for Sight and Sound on August 15, 2015. — J. R.

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The Enchanted Desna (1964)

There are few masterpieces harder to access than this 70-millimeter, stereophonic poem by Moscow-born Yuliya Solntseva (1901-1989), widow of the great Alexander Dovzhenko, who devoted most of her filmmaking career, after playing the title role in Aelita (1924), to assisting her Ukrainian husband and then filming his unrealized projects after his death. I’ve never seen this subtitled, but Godard’s favorite film of 1965 was periodically screened at the Paris Cinémathèque over the following decade, and I’ve managed to fill in a few details by reading an English translation of Dovzhenko’s extended memoir of the same title. It’s a rambling but exalted account of his impoverished rural childhood, where, as in his best features, it becomes impossible to distinguish reality from fantasy or imagination, or pantheistic epic from a kind of music dreamt in images — a reciprocal dance performed by nature, family, and other eccentric local touchstones in perpetual, mysterious collaboration.  (Jonathan Rosenbaum)

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THE DAY I BECAME A WOMAN

Written for Sight and Sound on August 5, 2015. — J.R.
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The Day I Became a Woman (2000)
Marziyeh Meskini’s first feature, shot exclusively in exteriors on gorgeous Kish island in Iran, tells three successive tales of rebellious female empowerment at separate ages: Havva enjoys sharing tamarind pulp and a lollipop with a male friend a few hours before she turns nine and officially loses her freedom by becoming a woman. Ahoo fiercely pedals her bicycle with other women while her husband and other male relatives on horses try to restrain her. Houra, a dowager, buys a beach full of home furnishings at a nearby mall and has them hauled out to sea. All three tales are both allegorical and sensual, and the leisurely pacing of the first is followed by the constant motion of the second. The Surrealist deconstruction of domestic space in the third brings all three characters together, and once again turns the censorship rules into creative opportunities.   (Jonathan Rosenbaum)
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