As he did with his critically-acclaimed BLOCKADE, a documentary re-creation of the WWII siege of Leningrad, filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa has once again scoured the Russian film archives for REVUE, selecting excerpts from newsreels, propaganda films, TV shows and feature films that present an evocative portrait of Soviet life during the 1950s and 1960s.
With scenes taken from the length and breadth of the Soviet Motherland, REVUE illustrates industry and agriculture (dam construction, steel plants, Stakhanovite labor competitions, farmland seeded by hand and plowed with horse), political life (local elections, abundant Lenin iconography, speeches by Khrushchev, the threat of capitalist spies), popular culture (a village choir, a dance troupe, a travelling cinema, poetry readings for workers, a propagandistic stage play), and technology (space exploration, astronaut Yuri Gargarin, new industrial development).
The film's fascinating flow of disparate scenes representing typical Soviet life of the period is, seen from today's perspective, alternately poignant, funny, and tragic. The cumulative impact reveals a life of hardship, deprivation and seemingly absurd social rituals, but one always inspired by the vision, or illusion, of a communist future.
Seen from these dual historical and contemporary perspectives, REVUE is both a nostalgic and instructive look back at a communist past that represents social engineering on a grand, and frightening, scale.
"A new perspective on Soviet life. ...REVUE offers a geographically and chronologically broader perspective on the post-Stalinist Soviet Union. ...It offers unprecedented coverage of the propaganda of the period, whose strong continuities with Stalin-era public culture appear especially interesting in light of the recent scholarship's critique of the thaw paradigm. ...The film is a valuable primary source for teachers to use..."—Polly Jones, University College, University of Oxford, Slavic Review, Spring 2012
2008 Rotterdam International Documentary Festival
2008 BAFICI Buenos Aires Film Festival
2008 IndieLisboa Film Festival
“Loznitsa combines a knack for finding sociological meaning in throwaway moments with a less-is-more aesthetic... By juxtaposing labor-filled activities with TV shows and plays proclaiming the ‘bounties’ of revolution, the film offers glimpses of a government-sanctioned alt universe.” —Time Out New York
“Fascinating... a well-edited documentary that’s equally informative and entertaining.” —Avi Offer, The NYC Movie Guru
"Loznitsa's narration-free compilation of documentary scenes from the Soviet way of life is a must for anyone interested in glimpsing the disappeared Soviet experience. An unorthodox iconography of society, culture and politics in the old U.S.S.R."—Louis Menashe, Polytechnic Institute of New York University