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The Alexander Sokurov Collection

Save and Protect (1990)                   Second Circle (1990)                  Elegy of Life (2006)


(aka "Spasi i sokhrani" or "Спаси и сохрани" or "Madame Bovary" or "Rescue and Save" )

 

directed by  Aleksandr Sokurov
Soviet Union/West Germany 1990

 

RUSSIAN ARK director Alexander Sokurov's SAVE AND PROTECT is an even looser adaptation of Flaubert's "Madame Bovary" than Manoel de Oliveira's ABRAHAM'S VALLEY, and having knowledge of the novel's basic plot (even through a viewing of Vincent Minnelli's or Claude Chabrol's adaptations) would be helpful given the director's extremely loose and fragmented construction. Here, Emma (Cecile Zervudacki) - although she is never addressed by this name - is the materialistic wife (her father is long past at the start of the film) of a country blood-letter (Aleksandr Abdulov, THE FUNERAL PARTY) obsessed with foot ailments. Emma is already in debt with a usurious merchant (Viktor Palech) of everything French and elegant, but a botched operation by her husband puts additional financial pressure on them. When her aristocratic lover (Aleksandr Cherednik, PETERSBURG) abandons her and heads to Rome, Emma falls ill and her husband incurs more debt by encouraging her to take up other interests like music lessons; unbeknownst to him, Emma takes on other lovers, including a university graduate. When the merchant starts leaning on Emma for repayment, Emma's world starts to fall apart...

Sokurov's approach feels almost improvisational with an exploratory handheld camera happening upon occasionally striking compositions (the focus of some compositions is sometimes not the focus of the action and the camera threatens to crop actors out of the frame during their own scenes), expected plot developments that come about with little to no foreshadowing, scenes that wain and linger rather than close, and actors whose performances are individually consistent but uneven when played against one another. The amorous encounters are fleshy but filmed in a detached manner that seems to reflect the heroine and the sound sometimes drops out completely for long stretches (almost underlining the impression that the actress and character are simply going through the motions of the plot). Viewers will probably find the film an incredibly frustrating yet also stimulating viewing experience.

Eric Cotenas

Posters

Theatrical Release: 16 February 1990 (Netherlands)

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DVD Review: Artificial Eye (Alexander Sokurov Collection) - Region 0 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution

Artificial Eye

Region 0 - PAL

Runtime 2:07:08 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.9 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio Russian/French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Subtitles English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Artificial Eye

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• none

DVD Release Date: October 22nd, 2012
Slim Amaray

Chapters 12

 

Comments

Artificial Eye's dual-layered presentation is uneven. The first half of the film looks quite beautiful with sharp close-ups (some natural light shots look softer), but the second half is consistently softer and marred by black speckling, occasional vertical scratches, rare splices, and one large stain for a few frames. The print carries the 2009 copyright of the re-edited version (the timing quoted in Vincent Canby's 1992 New York Times review is 167 minutes), so it may be that the original elements were even more poorly cared than THE SECOND CIRCLE (the Russian lab also ran into problems with that film's original negative).

The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio is generally very clean. The audio goes dead for some sequences, but faint hiss can be heard during this period suggesting it is intentional. The optional English subtitles thoroughly translate the sometimes rapidly spoken Russian dialogue, but some repeated French words or phrases are only translated once (they do not, however, translate any of the credits other than the title card). There are absolutely no extras.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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(aka "Krug vtoroy" or "Круг второй")

 

directed by Alexander Sokurov
Soviet Union 1990

 

Alexander Sokurov's THE SECOND CIRCLE chronicles the bureaucratic hell a young man is put through when he returns to chilly Siberia to bury his estranged father. The son remains with the corpse remains in the boxy, decrepit apartment as he goes through the formalities from positive identification, nickel-and-diming funeral arrangements (quite a funny sequence that breaks up the grim monotony) and ransacking the apartment for hidden cash, the embalming(!), to depositing the body in the coffin and squeezing it out through the narrow doorway. We learn nothing of how the son actually felt about his father because even he is given next to no time to reflect. His reactions to the funeral agent's treatment of his father's corpse and belonging could suggest either a hint of sentiment or a gut reaction to a lack of respect for the dead. Not inaccessible, but also not particularly rewarding.

Eric Cotenas

Theatrical Release: 25 October 1991 (Netherlands)

Reviews        More Reviews       DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Artificial Eye (Alexander Sokurov Collection) - Region 0 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

Distribution

Artificial Eye

Region 0 - PAL

Runtime 1:25:21
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.9 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio Russian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Subtitles English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Artificial Eye

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• none

DVD Release Date: October 22nd, 2012
Slim Amaray

Chapters 12

 

Comments

Artificial Eye's single-layer transfer represents the 2005 director's cut (the original cut reportedly runs 92 minutes so the cuts are not as extreme as those visited on the director's cut of Sokurov's SAVE AND PROTECT when one takes into account PAL speedup). Although supplementary text on the Kino US DVD - not compared here, but a PAL-NTSC conversion - mentions the poor condition of the original negative when accessed to create the director's cut, the quality isn't as shockingly degraded as parts of SAVE AND PROTECT (since the film mixes black and white, sepia, and muted colors, image degradation isn't as distracting). The optional English subtitles for the sparse dialogue are without error. There are no extras.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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(aka "Elegiya zhizni. Rostropovich. Vishnevskaya." or "Элегия жизни. Рос" or "Elegy of Life: Rostropovich, Vishnevskaya")

 

directed by Alexander Sokurov
Russia 2006

Fairly straightforward documentary subject by Alexander Sokurov chronicles the lives of husband and wife team Mstislav Rostropovich (a cellist who studied under Shostakovich) and Galina Vishnevskaya (a singer who took the Bolshoi Theatre by storm despite her initial lack of musical education) on their fiftieth wedding anniversary. The documentary focuses on their upbringings, their careers, world travel, and their defiance of the Soviet government in sheltering dissident writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (for which he was exiled). Their apartments are decorated with fifty-years of artwork collected during world tours as well as many Russian treasures, and Rostropovich also purchased a facing flat that belonged to composer Modest Mussorgsky (which he has turned into a museum for the composer). While Rostropovich continues to perform (seen both in archival footage and in contemporary video performing (under Vienna Philharmonic conductor Seiji Ozawa) performing for European royalty, Vishnevskaya retired from singing in 1982 to found her own school of operatic singing. Although both husband and wife were born a few years after the establishment of the Soviet Union, they have developed and maintained a very Russian sense of personhood through their performance of Russian music (Rostropovich maintains that Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" is Russian music, not Italian despite subject and setting) and curatorship of Russian art in general. Rostropovich died after the film in 2007, and Vishnevskaya appeared in Sokurov's Cannes hit ALEXANDRA the same year.

Eric Cotenas

Poster

Theatrical Release: 21 April 2007 (Japan)

Reviews        More Reviews       DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Artificial Eye (Alexander Sokurov Collection) - Region 0 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

Distribution

Artificial Eye

Region 0 - PAL

Runtime 1:40:45 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.8 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio Russian Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles English (burnt-in)
Features Release Information:
Studio: Artificial Eye

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• none

DVD Release Date: October 22nd, 2012
Amaray

Chapters 12

 

Comments

Although the most recent of the films in the Sokurov collection, ELEGY OF LIFE, the combination of archival film footage and DV footage isn't ever going to look great, and some of the digitized archival footage exhibits tape damage. The burnt-in subtitles have some grammatical errors, but the different font and text size (from the subs on the other two Sokurov discs), and the fade-in/out effect for the subtitles suggest that they are part of the master. No extras are included.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


DVD Menus
 

 


Screen Captures


Subtitle sample

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 


DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

Artificial Eye

Region 0 - PAL

 



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