Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tarkovsky Was A True Friend of Socialism! His Films Weigh Many Kilograms!

[I have had two comments from friends.  Tom Barron saw some version in 1973 as a student at CalArts thus proving that whatever I saw in 1976 was certainly not the premiere in Los Angeles, or maybe they just claimed it was as a way of selling tickets.   

[Josh Pines of Technicolor tells me that Solaris in the 3.5 hour version is a masterpiece of the cinematic form and that I do not know what I am talking about.  Well, he may be right.  Or it may be that the difference between 3.5 and 8 hours is the difference between heaven and hell.  Film editing, you know, a part of the cinematic art form?  I stand by what I saw, which was complete fucking torture to the 23 or 24 year old who saw it.  That said, I volunteer to watch it again, an approved version of some length, particularly if it is on DVD or otherwise digital so I can skip around to the good parts].

[Josh also tells me that he can find no evidence of an 8 hour version of Solaris. This is very odd, and requires more research.   I will either have to find a library with the monthly Nuart notices back to 1976 or find a film expert online, or a relevant web site to post my question.  This is not a retraction, but it is a notice that there has been some doubt expressed that an 8 hour version existed.  I think I saw it but it was a hideously painful experience of unbelievable and unrestricted boredom, and very long ago.  I do not usually misremember things, but I sometimes misunderstand what I am seeing and thus remember something that did not happen as I recall it, a subtle point.  I have been known to confuse when something happened, e.g. what year it happened.  It may take a while, but the story of whatever it is I think I saw will become clear eventually and when I find out I will update this post.  ]   

I remember hearing in college that in a socialist society, there will be no racism, sexism or poverty. Even at the tender age of 17 I had a feeling that what I was hearing was total bullshit. But had that idealist speaking at that event said that "Under socialism, and with Marxist Leninist thought, the dialectic process will result in films that are devoted to the class consciousness of the proletariat, therefore the only judgement of a film that will be possible or necessary will be a quantitative measure. The film will by definition be "good", the only question is how much good, and that can be objectively measured by its length or weight".

This is an argument that clearly has merit and we are forced to consider it.

In the world of Science Fiction cinema, for many years there were only a few films that could be taken seriously by an elitist film snob, and I promise you that did not include "It Came From Outer Space", even though that worthy 1953 film was released in 3D which as we all know is a very essential quality of any important film made today, or in *any* period of the history of the cinema.

No, there were only a handful of films that could be taken seriously by an elitist and that could also be labelled science fiction, which was and to some extent still is a ghetto devoid of "serious" art as that is judged by those who judge. For example very few, almost no films, which were science fiction could expect to be written up in Cahiers du Cinema. But first among those would be Solaris (1972) by Andrei Tarkovsky.

Was Tarkovsky inspired by the great film "It Came From Outer Space"?

Solaris (1972) was the instant darling of the intelligentsia. Anything by Tarkovsky was, of course, but Solaris was acknowledged to be a world class masterpiece by all who saw it.  Sadly, very few outside Moscow, Berlin or Paris were able to see it.   In only a few years, a very short period of time by the standard of the day, this film did show in two cities in the United States, New York and Los Angeles.  I attended what was either the Los Angeles premiere or within a few days of that in its first run at the Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles.

And yet, I can tell you that many people who think they have seen this landmark film have not done so. They have been fooled, fed an inferior product by well-meaning but fundamentally misguided individuals who have fallen from the Sociallist path. Many who think they have seen Solaris have actually seen the George Clooney remake. Yes, the film is so fabulous that it has earned its own remake, a true Hollywood compliment.

But no, you say, you actually saw the Tarkovsky original. Perhaps. How do you know that you really saw the Tarkovsky original? Can you objectively judge whether you saw the original, or some degraded lesser form designed for the corrupt American market which is so very concerned with the number of showings they can get of the film in a day?

I am just going to walk around in a big circle until I die !

Perhaps instead of seeing the original Tarkovsky film, you instead saw the pathetic worthless 2.5 hour version. No? I am glad to hear that, it would not be possible to squeeze Tarkovsky into 2.5 hours any more than we could squeeze our consciousness into 800 polygons.

Well, then perhaps you saw the appalling travesty that was the 4 hour version that toured the United States, that center of artistic compromise? And you think you should be proud of yourself for seeing this? Don't be so proud; what you saw was a very shortened version made for the kiddie market and others of short attention span.

I see, you perhaps saw the very limited run of the 6 hour version of this ultimate masterpiece? I am sorry to break this to you, but essential, even fundamental elements of the actual film were left out, to accomodate the need for Capitalist pacing and to compete with action adventure films starring Bruce Willis.

Can you say boring?   Ok, now say boring for 8 hours.

Sadly, we must laugh at the futility of those who saw these shortened versions, for they have not truly seen Tarkovsky's vision. What those of us present in Los Angeles and New York saw was the full, complete masterwork of 8 hours, untouched, unbroken, perfect, not a single frame of film removed which would have immediately and completely destroyed the aesthetics of this Socialist masterpiece!

What an experience it was.  Yes, even though it was in 1976 I can remember every moment of it. Totally captivated by the filmmakers mastery of technique, I was spellbound in tingly anticipation that at any moment something might happen, something, anything, might happen.   Please, could something please happen?   Perhaps some wild action such as an actor making a cup of coffee?  Anything, please, I don't care, please God make something happen in this movie!  Solaris had not less than 10, perhaps as much as 15 minutes of action jam packed into those 8 hours.   Compared to Tarkovsky, I thought, an Ingmar Bergman film would seem like one mad car chase after another.

I thought I was going to die of boredom.  This is your great intellectual Science Fiction masterpiece?, I thought to myself in the lobby, slamming down bad liquid caffeine and chocolate brownie units, trying desperately to stay awake.   Give me a one-eyed slime monster any day of the week, at least it isn't pretentious, just cheap.    

In terms of quantitative social realism, although I do not have the official numbers, we can say that this 8 hour masterpiece of the proletarian dialectic was so good that it measured not less than 13,167 meters in length and weighed not less than 97.956 kilograms thus proving Tarkovsky was a true friend of socialism!

I now have the exciting news that online friends of socialism and Tarkovsky may watch this masterpiece online: 

Solaris (1972) on IMDB
It Came From Outer Space (1953) on IMDB

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