The Dryden presents on the next two Tuesdays a series of films by Chris Marker. Marker, among other things, is a film essayist, and two recent, well-regarded films will be shown during the first night's screening. (Two classics will be shown during the second, and will be reviewed here next week.)
One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevichkicks things off with a look at the director Andrei Tarkovsky and his works, four of which are not-coincidentally screening on consecutive Fridays at the Dryden. The timing is ideal, because One Day is necessary viewing for delving into Tarkovsky, kind of like those guides that cue a neophyte listener for what to listen for in classical music. But make no mistake --- it doesn't matter if you are interested in Tarkovsky or in Marker --- if you are interested in movies, you will want to see this film.
This is firstly because of the way certain aspects of Tarkovsky's oeuvre are nimbly dissected and laid out, and secondly because of the way Marker's film is composed. One Day is an associative reverie, with a brilliantly simple and free structure. Tarkovsky died in 1986 as he was finishing his last film, and we start with video footage of a bed-ridden day that finds him rejoining family he has not seen in years and putting the final touches on his film.
As a narrator guides us through this, she notes how various little things --- like the way someone is looking out a window --- deeply echo motifs in Tarkovsky's films. Then we're launched into a demonstration of how this is so and what it means that these things are in his films in the first place. Then we are brought back to the video footage --- compelling in its own right --- until something else spurs another reflection.
If the narrator sometimes overstates the profundity of Tarkovsky's results, she nonetheless provides an indispensable guide to the motives and the means behind them. Clips are sometimes arranged so they comment on themselves and their own context. In only 55 minutes, the major cornerstones of Tarkovsky's work are covered, and we get a real sense of the man. In a way, this last thing is the most important, as it is his "Russian soul" that provides the proper window into viewing his films.
One Day is followed by Remembrance of Things to Come, which is also associative, but in a relentlessly singular way. It takes a look at the portfolio of photographer Denise Bellon, apparently through her daughter's eyes. She is Marker's collaborator, and the film bears an obsession with the milieu of her formative years --- France in the time between the two World Wars.
This is a fascinating subject, and a worthy one, but the film sometimes strains to rope unrelated photographs into this theme. Marker free-associates between the different photographic subjects, but the subtext remains rigidly fixed. To be fair, a great deal of the photos honestly do document this period, and although she is not the actual narrator, the effect is like looking over YannickBellon's shoulder as she flips through her mother's photos, listening to her tell you about a period you had never thought to imagine.
Somewhat less effective than One Day, and burdened with an occasionally irritating soundtrack that appears to be grating its way out of another film altogether, Remembrance is still dizzyingly dense and ripe with thought-provoking associations, and an ideal companion for the double feature.
One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich and Remembrance of Things to Come screen on Tuesday, April 13, in the Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House, 900 East Avenue, at 8 p.m. $6. 271-3361, www.eastman.org.