Worksheet 10 - Worksheet ten Part two: Soviet Cinema: Le...

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Worksheet ten Part two: Soviet Cinema: Le Tombeau d’Alexandre Le Tombeau d’Alexandre (1993) is a memorial to Alexander Medvedkin, a relatively obscure filmmaker in the Soviet Union who died in 1989. Marker talks with a few people who were contemporaries of Medvedkin including his daughter and the daughter of Vsevlodod Meyerhold, and two young Russian film students working on a study of Medvedkin. More than ‘remembering’ Medvedkin, the film creates a memory of Medvedkin. It does so by arranging other memories, verbal and visual, other views of him that necessarily include memories of the Soviet Cinema and the Soviet Union since Medvedkin’s life and work were inextricably bound to both these aspects and their histories. Le Tombeau d’Alexandre is similar to Citizen Kane (1939), a collage, arrangement (as in a musical arrangement) of memories, diverse material and points of view. Memory is not a report document, testament, nor information of what may actually have occurred in the past as it is a construction of the past, in effect a narrative, a fiction, a story (sometimes a myth), neither true nor false, but rather re-membered , put together, a kind of fable, made with existing material. The French histoire (story) and the French Histoire (history) provides the best sense of what is at stake and interwoven in Marker’s le tombeau (tomb, memory, history, story, fiction) of Medvedkin. Marker structures his film by three forms: the letter (he ‘addresses’ Medvedkin’ in six letters), the essay, literally an ‘attempt’ (Marker’s model are the Essais of the French sixteenth century writer and philosopher Michel de Montaigne), and the musical form, a tombeau , popular in the seventeenth century in France. The tombeau were musical composition performed as memorials. One of the most important composers of tombeaux was François Couperin, a French musician of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Couperin incorporated into his tombeaux a variety of musical references largely of popular airs and dances, that is to say, his music was not unlike a mélange of other existing musical forms that Couperin cited and re- arranged. The most direct reference to the tombeau form (citational, memorial) in Marker’s film is Le Tombeau de Couperin composed by the twentieth century modernist composer Maurice Ravel. Ravel’s Tombeau was originally a piano suite composed toward the end of the First World War (that is, coincident with the Bolshevik Revolution) and later orchestrated in 1919. It consists of six movements (like the six letters of the Marker film), each a memorial to his comrades killed during the war and in which Ravel served in as an ambulance driver. The Ravel piece literally resonates in Marker’s Tombeau : it is personal (a memorial to friends), historical (a memorial to the war), an ‘arrangement’ that consists of diverse material some of which is a citation to and memorial/remaking of earlier
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Worksheet 10 - Worksheet ten Part two: Soviet Cinema: Le...

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