Program Type: 
War and Remembrance: The Films of Aleksei Guerman
May 17, 2012 - May 31, 2012
Screening Room


War and Remembrance: The Films of Aleksei Guerman
May 17-31  •  Screening room
Admission per film: $8 Regular/ $6 YBCA member

Aleksei Guerman’s films — five features to date, all shot in stunning black-and-white and staged in complex, obsessively detailed tracking shots—have long been championed by a small but enthusiastic cult of admirers. But today, even the savvy art-film-goer is unlikely to have heard of Guerman, let alone seen any of his work — a dilemma for which this retrospective represents one small corrective.

Guerman was born in 1938 in Leningrad into something like Soviet cultural royalty, the son of author, playwright, reporter and screenwriter Yuri Guerman, a man who dined with Stalin and Gorky. The younger Guerman studied theater and film, beginning as an apprentice in the then-prosperous Soviet studio system. But Guerman quickly proved to be a troublesome cog in that well-oiled machine, clashing with a co-director and running so afoul of the authorities on Trial on the Road that the film was suppressed for the next 15 years.

Guerman’s subsequent projects have been subject to variously long production delays, owing to everything from the collapse of funding to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Yet Guerman has, rather like one of his own wizened, war-weary protagonists, soldiered forth, creating one of the most profoundly human and richly cinematic bodies of work in modern movies. We are delighted to present the first complete North American retrospective of a master of modern cinema, including new 35mm prints of The Seventh Companion and Trial on the Road.

Co-presented by Seagull Films and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. With the assistance of Lenfilm Studios. Generous support provided by George Gund III.

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  • Khrustalyov, My Car!
    May 17, 2012 6:00pm
    Screening Room

    Note special start time
    By Aleksei Guerman
    Guerman’s most visually stunning, wildly provocative work, this fever-dream meditation on the crazed final days of Stalin's regime was a cause célèbre of the 1998 Cannes and New York film festivals. Based on a Joseph Brodsky story, the film takes off from the infamous “Doctor's Plot,” in which a group of predominately Jewish Moscow doctors were fingered as members of a conspiracy to assassinate Soviet leaders. Guerman creates a consistently amazing visual and aural rendition of the charged atmosphere of those sad times, in which no point of view is ever fixed, nor any shadow devoid of possible danger, nor any stray remark free from potentially lethal consequences. (1998, 150 min, 35mm)

  • Twenty Days Without War
    May 20, 2012 1:00pm
    Screening Room

    By Aleksei Guerman
    After the banning of Trial on the Road, Guerman turned his attention to another WWII story. In the winter of 1942, Soviet Army Major Lopatin (Yuri Nikulin, a celebrated comic actor and circus performer cast against type) returns to his own home town to deliver the effects of a fallen comrade to the dead man’s wife. Above all a film of intimacy and tenderness, Twenty Days is Guerman’s melancholic tribute to those who remain on the homefront in times of war, and how none of them escape without their own physical and emotional scars. (1976, 101 min, 35mm)

  • My Friend Ivan Lapshin
    May 24, 2012 6:30pm
    Screening Room

    By Aleksei Guerman
    Set in 1935 in the fictional provincial town of Unchansk, this was Guerman’s first film to receive wide international exposure. It wryly chronicles the material deprivations and minor satisfactions of communal life during the time in which Stalin’s cult of personality became a routine part of everyday life... and gangsters still ran rampant. Part adventure, part social commentary, and always shot through with Guerman’s signature ironic wit, Ivan Lapshin is a richly complex memory film about a “forgotten” era. (1984, 100 min, 35mm)

  • The Seventh Companion
    May 26, 2012 6:30pm
    Screening Room

    New 35mm print!
    By Aleksei Guerman and Grigori Aronov
    Having been arrested with other former members of the Tsarist bourgeoisie, Maj. Gen. Adamov (Andrei Popov) is cleared of his alleged crimes and released back into society. But in the post-revolutionary world, Adamov’s apartment has been turned into a crowded commune and, with nowhere else to turn (“The fact that you are alive is a misunderstanding,” he is told), the soldier begins a campaign to return to the battlefield. A dress rehearsal of sorts for the subsequent Trial on the Road and Twenty Days Without War, The Seventh Companion stands as an essential part of the Guerman filmography. (1967, 89 min, 35mm)

  • The Fall of Otrar
    May 27, 2012 1:00pm
    Screening Room

    By Ardak Amirkulov
    Guerman produced and co-wrote this staggering historical epic about the intrigue and turmoil preceding Genghis Khan’s systematic destruction of the lost East Asian civilization of Otrar. Hallucinatory, visually resplendent and ferociously energetic, the film is packed with eye-catching (and gouging) detail and traverses an endless variety of parched, epic landscapes and ornate palaces. But this is also one of the most astute historical films ever made, its high quotient of torture and gore (Italian horror genius Mario Bava would have been envious) always grounded in the bedrock realities of realpolitik. (1991, 176 min, 35mm)

  • Trial on the Road
    May 31, 2012 6:30pm
    Screening Room

    New 35mm print!
    By Aleksei Guerman
    As great an anti-war film as Kubrick’s Paths of Glory, Guerman’s first solo feature was banned for 15 years (for its allegedly anti-heroic depiction of the Soviet involvement in WWII). Inspired by a real case, Trial on the Road tells the story of a Junior Sergeant in the Red Army who is forced to prove his patriotism via a series of increasingly perilous missions, climaxing in the nail-biting re-routing of a Nazi supply train that ranks among Guerman’s most dazzling set-pieces. Guerman cuts through the popular myths of WWII valor to show us a bitterly ironic battlefield where distinctions like “hero” and “traitor” cease to have any real meaning. (1971, 96 min, 35mm)

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YBCA's programs are made possible in part by:
Abundance Foundation
Koret Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
Novellus Systems