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Tracking Shots

Steppe workout: Alenka
photo: BFI

Two rarely shown movies shed additional light on the enigmatic personality of that one-man Soviet new wave, Boris Barnet (1902-1965). By the Bluest of Seas (1936) is a gently comic musical idyll in which two workers are shipwrecked on some enchanted island in the Caspian Sea, rescued by the benign sirens of the beach kolkhoz known as Beacon of Communism. The men compete for the affections of the same vivacious brigade leader. Originally filmed in color, it survives only in black and white.

The even less classifiable Alenka (1961), which is in color and might be called "By the Most Golden of Steppes," limns another Soviet paradise—the so-called virgin lands of Central Asia. A good-natured road movie filled with all manner of visual tricks, it tracks an eccentric truckload of once and would-be settlers, including the delightful little girl for whom the movie is titled. Each of thetravelers (who include Soviet star and future director Vasili Shukshin) tells their tale in flashback. The stories are open-ended; the last shot has Alenka, whose tale of misunderstood mathematical calculations is the movie's humorous high point, rewarded with a well-deserved ice cream.


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