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Originally commissioned for the French television series, "Cinema de notre temps," One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevitch (2000) is an intimate and fascinating portrait of the acclaimed Russian director, Andrei Tarkovsky, recorded and assembled by his close friend, Chris Marker, a legendary figure in the French cinema. The title is an illusion to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's 1962 novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich which dealt with life in a Stalinist labor camp. Like the main character in that book, Tarkovsky experienced years of harassment of every sort from the Soviet authorities, even though he wasn't a political dissident. It was merely the fact that he was an unconventional filmmaker and an intellectual that intimidated the Russian government and led to their persecution of the director, eventually driving him into exile in Europe.
At the beginning of One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevitch , we see footage of Tarkovsky's son and mother arriving in Paris (after being denied visas for five years). They are greeted by Tarkovsky's wife, Larisa, who takes them to her ailing husband, now dying of cancer and no longer a threat to the Russian authorities. Yet, the reunion is joyful and Marker's documentary integrates his footage of Tarkovsky's final days with striking excerpts from the director's films along with comments and personal anecdotes by Tarkovsky, his wife and various friends and associates, to create an extremely accessible film essay on this enigmatic director.
Among the highlights are never-before-seen clips from Tarkovsky's London stage production of Boris Gudunor, a sequence from his student film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's The Killers in which he makes a cameo appearance, whistling "Lullaby of Birdland," and an interview with Ingmar Bergman's favorite cinematographer, Sven Nykvist, who photographed Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice (1986). There is also a fascinating account of a seance Tarkovsky once conducted in which the ghost of Boris Pasternak, author of Dr. Zhivago, allegedly informed him, correctly, that he would make only seven films - "but good ones."
For film lovers who haven't experienced the films of this internationally acclaimed director, One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevitch is an excellent place to start as it features mesmerizing clips from his entire oeuvre: everything from his first feature, My Name is Ivan (1962), to his autobiographical dream work, The Mirror (1975), to his final film, The Sacrifice. At the same time, this portrait of an artist is a great introduction to the works of Chris Marker, who has devoted most of his career to making poetic, idiosyncratic documentaries like San Soleil (1982). The one exception was La Jetee (1962), a science fiction story, which is generally acknowledged as Marker's most famous film and was later appropriated by Terry Gilliam for his 1995 remake, Twelve Monkeys.
Director/Editing/Screenplay/Cinematography: Chris Marker
Narration: Alexandra Stewart
Music: Georges Delerue
Cast: Andrei Tarkovsky, Larisa Tarkovsky, Sven Nykvist, Erland JosephsonC-55m.
by Jeff Stafford