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One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich

Une journee d'Andrei Arsenevich

Marker’s 55-minute video One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich (the title plainly alludes to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1962 novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, about life in a Stalinist labour camp) is the best single piece of Andre Tarkovsky criticism I know of, clarifying the overall coherence of his œuvre while leaving all the principal mysteries in the films intact. It becomes clear early on that Marker was an intimate friend of Tarkovsky and his family, and was shooting home-video footage of some of Tarkovsky’s final days in the mid-1980s, when he was dying of cancer. But this is handled throughout with exquisite tact and restraint and is never allowed to intrude on the poetic analysis of the features. In fact, the video interweaves biography and autobiography with poetic and political insight in a manner that seldom works as well as it does here, perhaps because personal affection and poetic analysis are rarely as compatible as Marker makes them. Attempting to explain an artist’s life through his work and vice versa is perilous, but I think Marker gets away with it because his essayistic manner demonstrates that his acquaintance with both Tarkovsky and his films is sufficiently deep to trace the connections without making too much of them.oJonathan Rosenbaum.

France, 2000. English version. Black and white/Colour. Beta-SP video. 55 mins.

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