Thursday, January 6, 2011
D.A. Pennebaker, Albert Maysles & Shirley Clarke - Opening in Moscow (1959)
In 1959, Albert Maysles, Shirley Clarke and D.A. Pennebaker were all in Moscow where they made this film and also helped out with Richard Leacock's film about Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in Moscow. This movie is an impressionistic look at Kruschev's Russia centered around the opening of the American Exhibition in Moscow. The movie is fascinating as a record of the reception to the American exhibition and as a slice of life portrait of the average citizens of Moscow. In observing Russian people observing Americans play acting the role of the average U.S. citizen at the exhibition, the film documents a curious inversion where it is American lifestyle that signifies the exotic culture that is then presented and exhibited to spectators instead of the other way around. However, we in the audience are also spectators observing the spectators which creates an interesting relationship. The film cleverly cuts between shots of the spectacle of the American exhibition and shots of Moscow and its people going about their daily lives thus making a statement about the differences and similarities between Russian and American working class life during this crucial period.