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Russian Ark

Year: 2002
Director: Aleksandr Sokurov
With every critic in Australia fawning all over this movie like it's The Greatest Story Ever Told, I'm almost embarrassed to report that it didn't have much effect on me.

It wasn't a story, you see - there's no narrative, performances or plot to speak of. It's a guy walking through a Russian palace being followed by the camera, where every room he enters is populated by people from different periods in Russia's rich and lavish artistic and political history.

The gimmick is that the entire film - its full feature length of one and a half or so hours - is one continuous shot.

And don't get me wrong, that is astounding. It would have taken thousands of hours of rehearsals (unless a lot of the background players ad-libbed, something that would only make it less impressive) - especially considering the cast of thousands of extras, several full orchestras etc (an achievement they were so proud of it became the film's tagline).

To say nothing of a shitload of cables and lights.

But here's the catch; it was just so slow. A modern-style movie with detailed interaction between characters, a plot, fast motion - that would impress me if it was all one shot (although it'd be virtually impossible as you'd have to be God to make that few mistakes).

The guy walks from room to room, has his conversations, speaks his dialogue to the narrator etc so slowly it would have made it a lot easier, and while I'm not disputing that it was an amazing achievement, it wasn't everything everybody's falling all over each other to praise. In short, it was a much more exciting moviemaking feat than it was a movie.

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