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USSR 1929. Dir: Alexander Dovzhenko. 99 min. 16mm

The Ukrainian Alexander Dovzhenko stands, with Eisenstein, Pudovkin, and Vertov, as one of the giants of the Soviet silent era. Many consider Dovzhenko the most radical, innovative, and intensely personal Soviet filmmaker of the period; Georges Sadoul has called him “cinema’s greatest epic poet.” Arsenal, one of Dovzhenko’s two major masterpieces (the other is Earth), is a work of breathtaking lyrical beauty and daring formal experimentation. Nominally the story of a humble Ukrainian soldier during the First World War and the beginnings of the Russian Revolution, the film uses folklore, caricature, comedy, allegory, agit-prop, drama, and myth to expose, in highly symbolic, imagistic, and non-narrative fashion, the horrors of war and the misery of oppression. Soviet film expert Jay Leyda called Arsenal “the first masterpiece of the Ukrainian cinema” and compared its visionary power to Picasso’s Guernica.


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