Written for Sight and Sound on August 15, 2015. Since writing this, I’ve discovered that free access to a subtitled version is now available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09J-oSZF9G4. — J. R.
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)