These three contrasting films by the magnificent and macabre Evgeni Bauer reveal something of the distinctive eroticism of his work and indeed of early Russian cinema as a whole. The two longer films share the common feature of a male victim, in marked contrast to the female victim of most melodrama; while the comedy The 1002nd Ruse celebrates a knowing female sexuality that would almost certainly not be found in any contemporary American equivalent (although it has much in common with the contemporary sex comedies of Lubitsch and DeMille).
A Child of the Big City traces the heroine Mon’ka’s evolution from a poor innocent seamstress to a monster of depravity and egotism. Her “rise” is paralleled by the fall of her idealistic admirer, Viktor, who finally commits suicide in face of her callous disregard. Film historian Miriam Hansen has noted this unusual variation on the familiar melodrama schema of the male aggressor and female victim: “Bauer’s contemporary urban and upper-class settings display male ruin and inadequacy as an effect of the real or imagined revenge of a powerful woman.”
Daydreams is regarded by many as Bauer’s surviving masterpiece. Film historian and archivist Paolo Cherchi Usai describes it as “a masterful balance between subject technique and narrative development. The tension in the plot (reminding one of Hitchcock’s Vertigo) reaches its climax in the extraordinary tracking shot during which the camera quite literally follows the main character along a deserted street, stops when he stops, then tracks back slowly, while he retraces his route. Necrophilia, mysticism and abstraction are the main ingredients of a tale with an astonishing and eerie finale.’’ [Silent Witnesses, ed. Tsivian et al, London/Pordenone: 1989]
A CHILD OF THE BIG CITY (Ditia bol’shogo goroda) Alternative title: The Girl From the Street (Devushka s ulitsy). Director/Art Director: Evgeni Bauer. Photography: Boris Zavelev. Production Compony: Khanzhonkov. Released March 5, 1914. Cast: Elena Smirnova (Monechka/Mary). Nina Kozlianinava (Mon’ka, the heroine, as a child). Mikhail Salarov (Viktor Kravtsov). Arsenii Bibikov (Kramskoi, his comrade). Leonid Iost (Kravisov’s lackey). Lidiia Tridenskaia (Masha, a laundress). Emma Bauer (A dancer).
THE 1002ND RUSE (Tysiacha vioraio khitrost’)Director/Screenplay: Evgeni Bauer. Based on the play 1001 khitrost’ (The Thousand and First Ruse) by Vladimir Azov. Production Company: Khanzhonkov. Released May 29, 1915. Cast: Lina Bauer (The cunning wife). S. Rassatov (Her husband). Sergei Kvasnitskii (Her lover).
DAYDREAMS (Grezy). Alternative title: Deceived Dreams (Obmanutye mechty). Director: Evgeni Bauer. Screenplay: M. Bosov & Valentin Turkin. Based on the novel Bruges la Morte by Georges Rodenbach. Photography: Boris Zavelev. Production Company: Khanzhonkov. Released October 10, 1915. Cast: Aleksandr Vyrubov (Sergei Nikolaevich Nedelin). N. Chernobaeva (His wife and Tina Viarskaia, an actress). Viktor Arens (Sol’skii, an artist).This DVD is also available for Institutional Purchase, which includes public performance rights and a 3-year streaming license. Please click on the “Format” button and select “DVD Institutional Rate.”
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