All violent revolutions eat their children, and none was more voracious than the Soviet Union in the Stalin era. The trickle of useful idiots from the West who went to Moscow and extolled the tyrant seemed unaware that he had suppressed an extraordinary generation of artists and was busy murdering real and imagined dissidents. One survivor of that early, creative phase was Dziga-Vertov, the made-up name of a revolutionary moviemaker, who made the first Bolshevik propaganda films, kept his head and his camera through the war years, and outlived Stalin by a year. The UCLA Film and Television Archives are presenting a major retrospective of his work at the Hammer Museum’s Billy Wilder Theater, February 17 - March 3.
Seize this rare chance to see sparkling archival prints of newsreels and documentaries that are as fresh as when they were made, 90 years ago. The popular success of Hugo and The Artist has revived interest in the silent era, when movies had as little need of dialogue as ballet. Live music and a dazzling virtuosity of imagery and cutting were the ingredients for the best movies of that era and Dziga-Vertov was one of the most inspired directors. He was also, like Leni Riefenstahl, a passionate propagandist, building support for an evil regime, but there’s no denying his mastery of the medium. Beyond the formal brilliance is a fascinating portrait of the Soviet Union—not as the squalid backwater it was, but as a heroic beacon for humanity. Lies can be very seductive and it’s hard not to be swept along.
For a schedule and to buy tickets, click here.