The first vanguard of perestroika (1984-1989)
The collapse of the ideology imposed by the Party determined a crisis of the New Russian cinema that was deeper than the dismantling of the old state productive structures. The existential disorientation, shared by the entire Russian cinematographic intelligentsia suddenly free to express itself, paradoxically translated, at least initially, into absolute aphasia. Many promising directors decided to wait a couple of years, waiting for the out of the chaos, before setting out to tell new stories. Sokurov, for example, returned for some time to his first experiences as a documentary filmmaker, shooting in particular Moskovskaja elegija (1987, Elegia moscovita), Sovetskaja elegija (Soviet Elegy) and Peterburgskaja elegija (Petersburg Elegy), both from 1989, Prostaja elegija (1990, Simple Elegy). The younger and inexperienced directors, however, couldn’t wait to try their hand at daring experiments, fearing that at any moment that long-awaited process of freeing ideas might stop. The first to ride the wave were the studios of Lenfil′m in St. Petersburg, which have always been more open to the West and to the most extreme experiments. Some of the directors of the first avant-garde of perestroika (1984-1989) began by breaking the taboos, not only political and ideological, but also sexual, ethical and aesthetic, which had paralyzed Soviet cinema from the 1930s onwards. Numerous short films were made, often produced independently with negligible budgets. Several studios of independent producers of ‘parallel’ cinema were also born, such as for example. the Mzalalafil′m organized by Evgenij G. Jufit, who was also the leader of one of the most radical cinematic currents, necrorealism, an expression of the Leningrad underground. In 1984 Jufit created Sanitary-oborotni (Portantini-werewolves), considered the manifesto of necrorealist aesthetics. A series of shorts inspired by the same vein of ‘nihilistic naturalism’ followed, leading in 1991 to the current’s first feature film, Papa, umer Ded Moroz (Dad, Santa Claus is dead), a sadomasochistic tale of a psychological perversion that inspired some of the currents. more extreme postmodern westerners.
The second avant-garde (1989-1995)
After the first years of ideological and formal deconstruction, the cinema of perestroika entered a self-referential phase, launching a frontal attack on Soviet cinema so often mythologized inside and outside the USSR. The second avant-garde unleashed a stoning campaign against the artistic idols of totalitarianism, in which the members of the Guild of Film Critics were the protagonists: a group of young critics and at the same time well-informed filmmakers, educated and determined to promote one of the trends more radical than the New Russian cinema. The result was a rather difficult set of parody films of the Soviet classics, but not only, often based on free associations and cultured quotations which however remained a marginal experience of Russian cinema more useful to its filmmakers than to the public. Nonetheless, the cathartic intent of the action revealed the widespread need of young directors to free themselves from the weight of a filmic tradition that hindered the take-off of a new language of images. Suffice it to mention Perechod tovariša Čkalova čerez Severnyj Poljus (1990, The passage to the North Pole by comrade Čkalov) by Maksim G. Pežemskij, who parodied the Valerij Čkalov (1941) by Mikhail K. Kalatozov, a cult film of the Stalinist era. The film-manifesto of the current was released in 1992, Sady skorpiona (The gardens of the scorpion) by Oleg A. Kovalov: a surrealistic collage of film fragments from the 1920s and 1950s, based on free associations, which destroys, through the iconoclastic fury of the promising critic-director, the myths of Soviet totalitarianism. Nikotin (1993, Nicotina) by Evgenij I. Ivanov belongs to the same vein, written with the Russian critic Sergej N. Dobrotvorskij, remake of Jean-Luc Godard’s À bout de souffle (1960), set in contemporary Leningrad. The film retains the plot and structure of the original, but the characters’ characters belong to a different environment, which transforms the noir of the great French director into a modern melodrama. The triumph of this line of critical correlation with film classics was achieved with Támás Tóth’s Russian-Hungarian-Ukrainian co-production Deti čugunnych bogov (1993, Children of the Gods), a veritable anti-utopia about the end of history. In 1994, however, Sergej D. Livnev made another film in the avant-garde.