High art, low comedy, hard labor and royal prerogative are here thrown together in an elegant unity, a breathtaking demonstration of Russian cinematic -- hence artistic -- brilliance.
Stream Russian Ark
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Seems destined to go down in film history as a technical tour de force.
Dramatically, this is something of a waking dream.
A technical and visual tour-de-force.
The problem with these feats is that they threaten to overwhelm the film's content, both as complex historical commentary and as aesthetic and theoretical gesture.
Even in its most tedious scenes, Russian Ark is mesmerizing.
It was only with the advent of digital technology that the notion of an entire film done in a single take became possible. Mike Figgis got there first with ''Time Code,'' and now the Russian director Alexander Sokurov has brought off a comparably startling feat with Russian Ark.
A coda that will have the movie's audience gasping in exhilarated exhaustion, whispering astonished gratitude to Sokurov for having created vigorous art out of 21st century video technique and asking themselves, "What's the Russian word for Wow!?"
The film is a glorious experience to witness, not least because, knowing the technique and understanding how much depends on every moment, we almost hold our breath.
Substantively there is no content. Everything we see or hear engages us only as part of a directorial tour de force. That force is exceptional, but since there is not much more to the picture, it leaves us hungry.