The Seventh Companion (1967)

This year’s Academy Awards revealed that today's filmgoers are seeking out stories from the past while beginning to recognize the importance of preserving bygone cinema. This March, the Film Society is proud to indulge this ethos by bringing you the overlooked and underseen, not to mention censored and banned, body of work of a great Soviet filmmaker in our series “War and Remembrance: The Films of Aleksei Guerman.”

It is increasingly rare in this age of digital access and distribution to simply not be able to see the work of a great living filmmaker. Still, Guerman remains almost unknown to even the savviest of art-film followers, and save for the French co-production Khrustalyov, My Car!, all of his films are wholly unavailable on any home video format in the English-speaking world. Therefore our complete retrospective, the first of its kind in North America, is a unique opportunity see Guerman's work at all, let alone on the big screen in 35mm prints!

All shot in stunning black-and-white and staged in complex, obsessively detailed tracking shots that rank with the best of Scorsese and De Palma, Guerman has shot six films from 1967-1998 in the USSR/Russia, and is placed side by side with Tarkovsky in the canon of Soviet/Russian directors.  However, he has been hindered by production difficulties (like, oh, the collapse of the Soviet Union) and opposition over the course of his 40-year career, and even his most triumphant film Trial on the Road was censored and placed “on the shelf” for 25 years by the Ministry of Culture of the Soviet Union under Gorbachev.

Although most of his films are historical films about Stalinism and anti-war films that question the dominant Soviet narratives, Guerman’s films are elusive and not just political commentaries or didactic statements. Guerman conducts months and months of research before filming—attempting to recreate old photographs, conducting interviews with people from the period—all for the sake of what has been called a “stubborn quest for historical truth.”

At the moment of this retrospective, Guerman is nearing the completion of work on his decades-in-the-making sixth feature, an adaptation of the brothers Arkady and Boris Sturgatsky’s sci-fi novel Hard to Be a God (rumored to be premiering at Cannes 2012). Leading up to what will hopefully be an expansion in critical recognition of his work, our retrospective is a perfect time to get on board with and share in the renaissance and unearthing of this Soviet auteur.

War and Remembrance: The Films of Aleksei Guerman” runs from March 14 – 20. Save with a four-film package, starting at just $28 for Film Society members!