MoMA presents the first major North American retrospective of the Georgian-born filmmaker Marlen Khutsiev (b. 1925, Tbilisi), who revitalized Soviet cinema with his New Wave sensibility during the Khrushchev Thaw of the mid 1950s and early 1960s. Still energetically making films in Russia at 91, Khutsiev will be in New York to introduce screenings and take part in an onstage conversation on October 8.
Orphaned by war, and unmoored by the end of Stalin’s totalitarian rule, the generation that came of age in the late 1950s found themselves restless and alienated. During the Thaw, that fleeting moment of relative artistic freedom between the terrors of Stalinism and Brezhnevite stagnation, Khutsiev gave cinematic expression to their inchoate desires, anxieties, and social and political awakening in such landmark films as Springtime on Zarechnaia Street (1956), Ilych’s Gate (1962), and July Rain (1967). Moving freely across temporal periods through a polyphonic soundtrack of music, poetry, and inner thought, his camera wandering the atmospheric streets of Moscow in search of private refuge from public duty, Khutsiev portrayed Russia’s postwar generation of students, poets, lovers, and antiheroes with an unsparing realism that earned him top prizes at international film festivals like Venice and Berlin, as well as the admiration of Fellini, Godard, and other young turks of cinema. By the early 1960s, however, his films also brought harsh condemnation from Communist leader Nikita Khrushchev—the “morally sick” Illych’s Gate was banned until after perestroika—and though Khutsiev was never officially branded a dissident, he walked a precarious line for much of his half-century career.
MoMA’s complete survey of 11 feature films—many of them in new 35mm prints with more faithful subtitles—restores Marlen Khutsiev to his proper place in the pantheon of postwar cinema. The retrospective features It Was the Month of May (1970), his deeply personal reflection on war crimes; the Tarkovsky-like metaphysical excursion Infinitas (1991); and …And Still I Believe (1974), a documentary testament to 20th-century upheaval that Elem Klimov and Khutsiev completed after their mentor Mikhail Romm’s death.
Introduced by Peter Bagrov, Curator, Gosfilmofond
Organized by Joshua Siegel, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art; and Peter Bagrov, Curator, Gosfilmofond of Russia. Special thanks to Gosfilmofond, Mosfilm, Ruscico, Slovenska kinoteka, and VGTRK for their generous participation.