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Two Materpieces from the Forgotten Lady of Russian Cinema,
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This review is from: Criterion Collection: Eclipse: Wings & Ascent [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
The release on DVD of these two films from Larisa Shepitko allows us a chance-finally-to see two masterpieces from a director who, sadly since her death in 1979, has been all but forgotten. As the reviewer above notes, the Ascent deserves to be remembered among the very best films to come out of Russia. It is a beautifully shot, cinematic and poignant film that tells the story of the relationship between two partisan comrades and their fate after capture. Shepitko's use of religious symbolism and iconography is, in my view, as interesting and powerful as her contemporary Tarkovsky. I would agree that The Ascent is the better of the two films, but Wings should not be overlooked. Made in 1966, the film might be read as a tribute to Russia's (also largely overlooked) female combatants in WW2. Made during a particularly fruitful period for dissident film-makers, the film is also both an insightful comment on the fate of many a female party apparatchik, documenting the difficult relationship between the main protagnonist and her daughter, for example, but also a not so subtle critique of the lives of most women in a still profoundly patriarchal society some 50 years after the revolution. An important film then and one that is also blessed with some lovely cinematic moments, as Nadya escapes from the hemmed in constraints of civilian life, into the life of the mind and imagination and the freedom of the open skies.
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