Tuesday, August 27, 2013 at 7:30pm
Aleksandr Medvedkin's The New Moscow
155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn
Introduced by Juliet Koss
The New Moscow
Aleksandr Medvedkin, digital projection, 1938, 80 mins
Made in 1938 and removed from circulation by the censors before its scheduled release date in January 1939, The New Moscow (Новая Москва / Novaya Moskva) is one of dozens of films made by Aleksandr Medvedkin (1900-1989) over the course of an extraordinary career spanning more than six decades of Soviet cinema. Following on the success of his best-known feature film, Happiness (Счастье / Schast’e, 1934), and produced at the height of the Purges, The New Moscow tells the story of Alyosha, a young engineer who travels 3,000 miles from his village home to develop and eventually exhibit his “living model of Moscow,” a miraculous three-dimensional time-lapse revelation of the gleaming Soviet future. Filmed only three years after the unveiling of the General Plan for the Reconstruction of Moscow, both Alyosha’s “living model” and The New Moscow more generally deftly manipulate documentary footage of the city’s latest architectural projects. As Medvedkin put it in a 1985 interview, “cinema can be a very real weapon in the battle for construction.”
With slapstick humor, thwarted love and mistaken identities, carnival scenes, musical numbers, and an extended sequence with a runaway piglet, The New Moscow contains more than enough to entertain. Simultaneously obeying and subverting the cultural mandate to celebrate architectural dreams and designs, it showcases recent constructions and scenes filmed on location (including, most famously, a trip on the newly built Moscow metro) while also foregrounding Muscovites’ unnerving experiences of the built environment in a state of constant flux. Confusion in the face of the ongoing demolition and alteration of the city undermines the film’s intermittent insistence on the utopian potential of new Soviet architectural and urban design. Revealing the destruction of the architectural past, squeezing raucous comedy from technological mishaps, and challenging the futuristic temporality of the “living model,” The New Moscow ultimately ridicules Soviet construction ideals and, by extension, the model Soviet future. - JK
Juliet Koss is Associate Professor and Chair of Art History at Scripps College in Claremont, California. She is the author of Modernism After Wagner (University of Minnesota Press, 2010) and is currently writing a book entitled Model Soviets, Monumental Snapshots, and the Perfect Future.
Tickets - $7, available at door.
Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.