(Moya babushka / Chemi bebia)
Peter Bagrov is a curator of the moving image department at the George Eastman Museum and an expert on Russian and Soviet film history.
Aleksandre Takaishvili, Elena Chernova, Evgenii Obanov, Akakii Khorava,
Gogol meets Charlie Chaplin in this riotous, scathingly antibureaucratic satire. My Grandmother is a genuine piece of grotesquerie descended from the Soviet Eccentric Cinema (FEKS) of the twenties. For invention, it matches any film of the French avant-garde, taking in all kinds of advanced filmic devices such as stop-motion, bits of puppetry, and animation, as well as expressionist decor and camera angles. The energetic music track will have you dancing a Soviet-style Charleston along with the film’s most memorable character, a wide-eyed, wild-haired bureaucrat’s wife who is caught up in a frenzy of bourgeois living. Her equally comic husband personifies the indolence, irrelevance, and obduracy of a state system that resembles nothing so much as a giant scoreboard, winding down. When he loses his job, he learns the true value of a “grandmother”—a slang term for the patronage and privilege that keep the machine greased. What are we to think when, at the film’s end, he is reprimanded by a Lenin-like worker, shot from the ground so that he looks ten feet tall? Suppressed for half a century, this irreverent blast has lost none of its immediacy.
Vsevolod Pudovkin, Nikolai Shpikovsky, USSR, 1925
José Raúl Capablanca
Judith Rosenberg on piano.
In a smiling salute to his master Lev Kuleshov, Vsevolod Pudovkin employed the Kuleshov cutting method to turn an international chess tournament in Moscow into the stuff of hilarious satire.