Independent distributors Cinema Guild have officially announced that they will release a deluxe box set containing three early masterworks from Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov. The set will be available to own on December 18, 2012.
Never before available on home video anywhere in the world, the set includes Whispering Pages (on Blu-ray and restored from a 35mm negative recently discovered in Germany), Stone (DVD only) and Save and Protect (DVD only) in new director's cuts, all with new English translations, plus rare bonus material including four documentaries by Alexander Sokurov.
The pages that whisper through this brooding, beautiful tone poem are from nineteenth-century Russian literature, primarily Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. An anonymous man wanders through decomposing, fog-enshrouded catacombs and encounters a series of "the degraded and the humiliated," including a holy prostitute and a Kafkaesque bureaucrat. Shot partly in Sokurov's dreamlike black and white with a dense sound track of eerie, echoing voices and bursts of mournful Mahler.
"If ever a film replicated the state of dreaming, Stone does. Which is not to say it is, in the classical sense, surreal; but it has the flow and fugitive feeling of a half-remembered reverie, full of mysteries, portents, inexplicable happenings, and chimerical objects. Set in (and filmed in the actual) Chekhov museum, Stone centers on the relationship between a young museum guard and an older visitor who seems at different times to be a lover, a doctor, or a surrogate father. Shot in evanescent black and white with a sound track of silences, breathing, natural sounds, and fragments of classical music, Stone is haunting and enigmatic" (James Quandt)
Save and Protect
A retelling of Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary as a surreal story of universal suffering, the film emphasizes the heroine's internal transformation as she slowly loses her grip on reality. Her erotic fascination with rich clothing and her almost childish desire to seduce and to be lost in passion is brilliantly contrasted with the small-town life that leaves Emma tragically isolated in her passionate attempt to bridge the gap between spirituality and sensuality.
Bonus features include:
Disc One – Whispering Pages (Blu-ray)
An Example of Intonation (1991, 48 minutes)
Soviet Elegy (1992, 68 minutes)
Questions About Cinema, a documentary on Alexander Sokurov (2008, 60 minutes)
Disc Two – Stone (DVD)
Audio commentary by film scholar James Quandt
Diary of St. Petersburg: Kozintsev's Flat (1998, 48 minutes)
"The House That Chekhov Built," a BBC audio program on Anton Chekhov's house in Yalta, the setting for STONE (30 minutes)
Sonata for Hitler (1979-1989, 10 minutes)
Disc Three – Save and Protect (DVD)
SD copy of Whispering Pages (1994, 70 minutes)
About The Director
Alexander Sokurov is the visionary director of such landmark films as
Russian Ark, Mother and Son,
Father and Son, and Александра (also available from Cinema Guild). Sokurov was born 14 June 1951 in the village of Podorvikha in the Irkutsk Region. In 1974 he graduated from the History Faculty of Gorky University, and in 1979 he finished the Directing Faculty of VGIK, the national film institute. He is the author of more than forty feature and documentary films. He has participated in and won prizes at festivals in Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Locarno, Rotterdam, Montreal, and Moscow. He lives and works in St Petersburg.
Sokurov's early films are more than likely not suitable for Blu-ray. They were mishandled by the Soviets, and many disappeared in the West. The fact that Cinema Guild is actually putting this package together is tremendous news.
Hopefully, we will eventually see "Mother and Son" and "Father and Son" on Blu-ray.