Tuesday, December 11, 2018 at 7:30pm
Boris Barnet's By the Bluest of Seas

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Introduced by A. S. Hamrah and Presented with n+1

By the Bluest of Seas, Boris Barnet, 1935, digital projection, 69 mins

"Eisenstein apart...Barnet must be considered the best Soviet filmmaker." - Jacques Rivette

Coinciding with the publication of The Earth Dies Streaming, a new collection of film criticism by A. S. Hamrah, Light Industry and n+1 present a screening of Boris Barnet's By the Bluest of Seas, a neglected masterwork of early Soviet cinema.

Some of the cinema’s finest works wait to be discovered by American moviegoers. Among them: the films of Boris Barnet, a Russian director and actor who, from the 1920s through the 1960s, was forced by the vicissitudes of Soviet filmmaking to move between his true homes—anarchic slapstick and romantic comedy—and the inhospitable gulags of the patriotic war film and kitsch propaganda. Barnet’s films rival those of Eisenstein’s or any filmmaker of the Soviet cinema’s heroic age. Unlike theirs, his are funny. They are also beautiful, explosive, gliding. Whatever Barnet had to put up with under Stalin, by the late ’50s, he’d arrived at a style that transcended considerations of national borders and totalitarian commands. By then, his only rival was Jacques Tati. His 1961 Alenka, so poignant and funny and grandly entertaining, is a film by an artist who loved people and loved the movies. Once you’ve seen it, it’s painful to learn that Barnet died by his own hand, in 1965, at age 62. That’s tragic, absurd, like finding out that Harpo Marx or Gene Kelly had committed suicide.

By the Bluest of Seas is Barnet in his prime. It takes place on an island paradise in the Caspian that, for all its Tempest-like isolation, can’t escape Soviet bureaucracy. Two fishermen, Alesha (Nikolai Kryuchkov) and Yussuf (Lev Sverdlin), who represent the European Soviet Union and the Central Asian, compete for the love of a pale island blonde, Misha (Yelena Kuzmina), who can’t decide between them. The film is never didactic. Its desire is not for Soviet unity but for a kind of perfect union that exists only in tales or dreams. The way Barnet brings this microcosm to life is wholly original and charmed. By the Bluest of Seas has been favorably compared with Jean Vigo’s L’Atalante, but it breathes a salt air all its own. A scene set below deck as the three lovers are tossed by a storm attests that this is one of the essential films of the 1930s, a threesome movie as accomplished as Ernst Lubitsch’s Design for Living.

- ASH, The Earth Dies Streaming (originally published in the Boston Phoenix, 2004)

Followed by a book signing with Hamrah.

A. S. Hamrah has been n+1’s film critic since 2008 and was the editor of the magazine’s film review supplement. He has worked as a movie theater projectionist, a semiotic brand analyst, a political pollster, a football cinematographer, a zine writer, and for the film director Raúl Ruiz. He lives in New York.

Tickets - $8, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.