In celebration of the release of The Alexander Medvedkin Reader, we’re showing Medvedkin’s absurdist fantasy film Happiness with a post-screening panel discussion featuring editor/translator Nikita Lary. The film is a folktale about a lazy peasant who dreams of becoming a tsar but finds his pursuit of happiness thwarted by those around him. Marked by its biting satire and surreal imagery transplanted to the cinema from popular Russian wood prints, the film sees weakness and greed everywhere, targeting both tsarist inequality and the travails of collective life under the Soviet Union. It was denounced as “a libel against the Russian peasantry” by a leading newspaper and banned in the Soviet Union for 40 years because of its perceived anti-Bolshevik humor. David Drazin accompanies on piano, with vocals by Chicago-based Russian folk-singing group Golosá.
(Aleksandr Medvedkin, USSR, 1934, 70 min., 35mm)
The Seminary Co-op will sell copies of The Alexander Medvedkin Reader before and after the screening.
Pianist and composer David Drazin is a music and motion picture archivist who has acquired a national reputation for his piano improvisations accompanying silent films. Mr. Drazin received his Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies from Ohio State University. An accomplished performer, he moves easily from dramatic classical to lively jazz styles, boogie-woogie and blues, original novelty works and Harlem stride piano.
Golosá is Chicago’s only Russian folk choir, founded in 1997 at the University of Chicago. Golosá strives to preserve the music and culture of the Siberian Old Believers and of Russian folksinging in general, singing sacred and secular Russian folk songs in a mixed-voice a capella ensemble. They perform all year long throughout the Chicago area.
Nikita Lary is professor emeritus of humanities at York University in Toronto. He is the author of Dostoevsky and Dickens: A Study of Literary Influence (1973), Dostoevskii and Soviet Film: Visions of Demonic Realism (1986), and numerous articles.
Nikolai Izvolov is a graduate of the All-Russian State Institute of Cinema (VGIK) in Moscow. From the early 1990s Nikolai has taught at the Higher Courses for Screenwriters and Directors at VGIK; in 1996-1997 he also served VGIK as provost for scholarly and creative work. From 1997 to the present Nikolai has chaired the department of Russian Film History at the Scientific Research Institute for Cinema Art. Nikolai specializes in the digital reconstruction of old films, including such films as Dziga Vertov's Lenin Kino-Truth, Aleksandr Medvedkin's Tit, or the Tale of the Big Spoon, and Lev Kuleshov's Engineer Pright's Project. He is the author of the book The Phenomenon of Cinema: History and Theory, and dozens of articles.
Tom Gunning is the Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Art History, Department of Cinema and Media Studies, and the College at the University of Chicago.
Robert Bird is Associate Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Department of Cinema and Media Studies, and the College at the University of Chicago.
Co-presented by the Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies.