Chris Marker writes what is reproduced below in extreme modesty, given the depth of his film: its astute insights into Tarkovsky’s film language & signature motifs, its palpable emotional presence that embues the intimate family scenes, his empathetic camera and commentary. He is not an outsider here; he is family too in Tarkovsky’s largesse as Marker captures a home movie of the reunion of Andrei Arsenevich’s family after five years of implacable bureaucracy – and the nostalghia that forms the atmosphere of exile.
The text appears on the back cover of the US DVD containing his and two other films, Sergey Dvortsevoy’s In the Dark and Marina Goldovskaya’s Three Songs About Motherland, which he places on the DVD with equality and a view to expanding the awareness of contemporary US audiences regarding Russian filmmaking. We know, though, for him, Tarkovsky is in a league of his own. In person, Marker referred to him simply as “le maître.” [Forum des images aka Vidéothèque de Paris café, July 1991]
We add after Marker’s text the summary of the film given by Icarus Films on their site. More material, more quotes will follow, in the minor-key, unsung tradition of bricolage.
THREE SONGS ABOUT MOTHERLAND, the title of Marina Goldovskaya’s inspired wandering throughout her country, could have been used as a general title for this DVD. Each of us in his manner sings the paean or the doom of a place on Earth that defies any rational grasp.
I had the easiest task. Entering Tarkovsky’s world carries you within a sumptuous chorale, a multivoiced fugue that encompasses all that’s Russian. Marina, since years, pursued a patient pilgrimage home, with her unique gift to mix with people and extract the best of them. As for Sergey Dvortsevoy and his blind man, he illuminates the Russian way to embody what has been since Antiquity the natural hobby of sightlessness: prophecy.
The night Stalin died, I was on Times Square, beside another blind man: Moondog, the musician. I couldn’t help feeling something metaphorical in this confrontation between blindness and history. There we were, like the apes at the beginning of Kubrick’s “2001”, facing an opaque, indecipherable monolith. So is the blind man in his basement, facing the enigma of an opaque, indecipherable country which he manages to graze with the help of his companion the cat, the creature who sees what even the seers don’t see.
Sometimes we come to the conclusion that Mother Russia just can’t be analyzed, criticized, dismantled, explained: too complex, too brutal, too elusive, too paradoxical, too cavorting… Sometimes even, to my dismay, she can’t be loved. But still, yes, she can be sung.
Chris Marker, back cover of DVD, One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich
Through film clips, journal entries, and personal musings, ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF ANDREI ARSENEVICH is renowned French filmmaker Chris Marker’s homage to his friend and colleague, Andrei Tarkovsky, who died in 1986.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century, and certainly the most important post-War Russian filmmaker, Andrei Tarkovsky has achieved a mythic status with such visionary masterpieces as Andrei Rublev, Solaris and Stalker. His stylistic idiosyncrasies: minimal plots, fragmented narrative, and long takes have become staples of the modern art film. His confrontations with the Soviet government, the censorship of his films, and his eventual exile only contributed to his mystique.
Through close readings of Tarksovsky’s films – including rare scenes from his student film (an adaptation of Hemingway’s The Killers) and a practically unknown production of Boris Goudonov – Marker attempts to locate Tarkovsky in his work. Parallels drawn by Marker between Tarkovksy’s life and films offer an original insight into the reclusive director. Personal anecdotes from Tarkovsky’s writings – from his prophetic meeting with Boris Pasternak (author of Dr. Zhivago) to an encounter with the KGB on the streets of Paris (he thought they were coming to kill him) – pepper the film.
With behind-the-scenes footage of Tarkovsky obsessively commanding his entire crew (including famed Bergman cinematographer Sven Nykvist, during the filming of a complicated sequence from his final film The Sacrifice), and candid moments of Tarkovsky with his friends and family, bedridden but still working on the editing of his final film, ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF ANDREI ARSENEVICH is a personal and loving portrait of the monumental filmmaker.
“**** (4 stars). A masterpiece! Marker’s ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF ANDREI ARSENEVICH [is] the best single piece of Tarkovsky criticism I know of, clarifying the overall coherence of his oeuvre while leaving all the mysteries of his films intact. The video interweaves biography and autobiography with poetic and political insight in a manner that seldom works as well as it does here.”
—Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
“A brilliant appreciation of the last great Soviet director, Andrei Tarkovsky. No less then Jean-Luc Godard or Martin Scorsese, Marker is an original and perceptive exegete of other filmmakers…. The most sustained and heartfelt tribute one filmmaker has paid another.”
—Jim Hoberman, Village Voice
“A sublime meditation on the poetic, surreal universe of Tarkovsky.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Fascinating! What makes Chris Marker’s documentary such an invaluable gift is that his insights into the director are so accessible – and so provocative. Not only is it a remarkable analysis of Tarkvosky’s brilliance; it’s also a showcase for Marker’s.”
—Time Out New York
“A superb analysis of Tarkovsky’s lyrical vocabulary. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more thorough explication of Tarkovsky’s vision than the one provided by Marker here.”
“A film that defies categorization as a documentary, or even as a ‘film essay’ …A love letter is more like it: personal, passionate, unguarded. The meat of the film is a dazzling montage, drawn mostly from Tarkovsky’s work, but reorganized into illuminating new patterns… inspiring us to make our own observations and connections.”
“Even those of us who find Tarkovsky’s films more tedious than tantalizing will appreciate the care and love that went into this reflection on the man and his work. I can’t remember any film capturing an artist more intimately…”
—Detroit Free Press
“Chris Marker’s informative tribute to the late Andrei Tarkovsky is an important contribution to film scholarship.”
“Chris Marker’s ‘One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevitch’ is perhaps the best film yet made by one (great) film-maker about another. A revelatory document, loving, lucid and lyrical, on the elemental structuring of Tarkovsky’s work, it marries moving footage of the terminally ill director shooting and struggling to finish his final film ‘The Sacrifice’ with an exemplary assessment of the films and their importance, humane, humble and always open. In its own essential way, it too is a masterpiece.”
—Gareth Evans, The Andrei Tarkovsky Companion
2001 DoubleTake Documentary Film Festival
2000 Berlin Film Festival
2000 San Francisco Film Festival
2000 Toronto Film Festival
2000 Telluride Film Festival