Despite that precedent, beleaguered Khrustalyov, My Car! — production dogged this time not by Soviet watchdogs, but by unreliable international funders — was greeted with walkouts and "disaster" judgments at its 1998 Cannes bow. Yet many of the same critics, overwhelmed at first by its wholesale abandonment of realism and coherence for phantasmagoria, pronounced it a masterpiece after second or third viewings. Framed like Ivan Lapshin as a child's memory of (later) Stalinist life, its 150 minutes lunge still further toward a Fellini-like grotesque-carnival clutter of excesses, from the hospital where "unauthorized death [is] prohibited!" to the delivery truck in which our macho surgeon protagonist is shockingly assaulted in a spontaneous gay orgy. He's ordered resuscitate the already dead Stalin, an impossible task capping an insane rule; the film's last words (the director's own?) are a voiced-over "Fuck it all!" Khrustalyov is a monumental clutter of energy and invention, so jerry-built that the fear it might collapse at any moment is part of its indelible rush.
Guerman is, logically enough, headed next to outer space — his adaptation of Soviet sci-fi classic Hard To Be a God took five years (starting in 2000!) to shoot, and is still being edited, thwarting hopes for Cannes premiere this month. Adversity may not have invaded his career by invitation, but one gets the sense that by now, at age 75, it is his most trusted collaborator.
WAR AND REMEMBRANCE: THE FILMS OF ALEKSEI GUERMAN
May 17-31, $6-$8
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission, SF