Having been a fan of the little-known Russian filmmaker Boris Barnet since seeing a double bill of The House on Trubnaya Square and The Girl With the Hat Box at the Telluride film festival two decades ago, I am happy to be able to report that for once Jonathan Rosenbaum’s laments about what parts of our film heritage are and are not available on video are about to be consoled [“Glimpse of a Rare Bird,” February 6]. In June the film preservationist David Shepard and Image Entertainment will release a DVD containing a double bill of Barnet’s Outskirts and the absolutely delightful The Girl With the Hat Box.
As with his earlier releases of the deeply moving Childhood of Maxim Gorky and the thrilling Storm Over Asia, Shepard seems to be on a one-man crusade to prove that early Soviet cinema is not the deeply tedious and leadenly propagandistic affair that our film classes taught us it was. I urge anyone who, like me, overdosed on Eisenstein and Vertov and swore off Soviet cinema as a result to give the Barnet DVD a try when it comes out.
Jonathan Rosenbaum replies:
This is wonderful news. To your welcome tribute to David Shepard, I’d like to add the name of Yuri Tsivian, the film scholar at the University of Chicago who specializes in Russian film and whose recent scholarly audiovisual essays included on DVDs of Eisenstein, Vertov, and most recently Evgeni Bauer have set a new critical standard. I’d also like to take this opportunity to correct an error in my account of Barnet’s By the Bluest of Seas: this film was originally shot in black and white, not color.