Wednesday, 21 September
Barbara the Fair with the Golden Hair
BARBARA THE FAIR WITH THE GOLDEN HAIR * 1970 * (Varvara-krasa, dlinnaya kosa) * Directed by Alexander Rou * 85 minutes * In Russian with English subtitles
Despite what people in the West think, back in some parts of the Soviet Union things were getting pretty funky in the 1960s. In terms of cinema there was an entire genre called "Soviet fantasies" that were literally out of this world. They had a crazed psychedelic aesthetic and baffling twists and turns, even though they were based on stories by past Russian writers like Nikolai Gogol.
This one was directed by a filmmaker with a very un-Russian sounding last name—Rou—and that's because his father was Irish and his mother was a Greek gypsy. He made a huge contribution to this weird film movement that feels very close to puppetry in its outlandish explosion of fairy-tale scenarios. They featured live actors mixed with props, puppets, masks, practical effects and elaborate costumes. Entire worlds were created with glittering surfaces and surreal set designs, and everything was crafted with imagination. These movies felt mystical, and were shot in a style close to technicolor extravaganzas.
Based on an early 19th century folk tale, this story takes place in an underwater world, where there is a struggle for power involving kidnappings and a young woman named Barbara who wants to break the rules. The aesthetics are astounding... both brilliantly high camp, and uncomfortably dark and creepy at other times. We enter a fantastique world that isn't frozen and regulated like our own, but rather a realm where transformation is possible. We have birds with human faces, and people who can change at will into animals like mice or little dogs.
This is the kind of stuff that engages your imagination in ways that CGI can't even dream of. So let's dive deep into another existence, filled with magic, possibilities, a crazy sense of humor, and a mind-boggling sense of poetry.
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