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Окраина 1933
Description: Outskirts is an internationally renowned masterpiece of early sound cinema. In a remote Russian village during Globe Fight I, colourful and nuanced characters experience divided loyalties: family loyalty vs. private desire, nationalism vs. transcendent humanism.
Released: 24 Sep 1933 Director: Boris Barnet Writers: Konstantin Finn (short story), Boris Barnet (screenplay), Konstantin Finn (screenplay) Actors: Aleksandr Chistyakov, Sergey Komarov, Yelena Kuzmina, Nikolay Bogolyubov Genres: Drama, War
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Окраина Reviews:

I first heard of Boris Barnet at the Telluride Movie Festival in the mid-80s-- a rather dour intro by the historian Ian Christie was odd prepararation for two absolutely delicious silent comedies, The Woman With a Hatbox (starring Anna Sten, whom Sam Goldwyn would fail to create into the next Garbo) and The House on Trubnaya Street. Outskirts is Barnet's first sound film, and a darker work, though not as it is often described, purely a serious one.The setting is the year 1914, first in a total backwater (we never know exactly where this city is, or if it's attached to something bigger, it's one city out of a thousand in Tsarist Russia) and then, as fight breaks out, at the front as well. The plot is simply a series of episodes, initially comic though increasingly grim, depicting the ordinary folk. Though fight is here and the nice Soviet revolution is coming, the film seems to offer tiny more than a sardonic Russian shrug toward such events, the folks much more interested in love and clowning around. Like some another early Soviet talkies, Barnet makes a virtue of primitive Soviet sound technique by using sound expressionistically; the difference between this and a movie like Pudovkin's Deserter is that Barnet often uses sound to blow a raspberry at whatever grandiose thing is supposed to be happening.This vaguely avant-garde aspect has led a several critics like Jonathan Rosenbaum to call Outskirts an unknown masterpiece of cinema, but it's a tiny too rough and awkwardly place together for the name to fit comfortably. And more to the point, a Soviet masterpiece is something grand and auspicious, and this is a very various type of film, closer in spirit to some of Godard's playful and absurdist early films, or to the casual working stiff's cynicism of 1960s Eastern European movies like Menzel's Larks on a String, which mocked the pretensions and promises of Soviet society but were attentive not to receive too specific lest the censor's hand come ruining down. (Actually in both situations the hand came down anyway; Larks on a String was shelved for 20 years, and Barnet apparently got in problem for Okraina, though by mid-30s Soviet standards he got off lightly and at least continued to work for other 25 years before committing suicide in the Brezhnev era.)


It's hard for me to judge Rivette's statement about Boris Barnet having been the best of Soviet filmmakers after Eisenstein ; I definitely prefer his works to Eisenstein's or let's tell Pudovkin's.Even in our postmodern days, Barnet's hybrid of social realism, satire, romance, category movie, musical and slapstick may be named eccentric. Rich, dynamic mise en stage is quintessential of this masterpiece condemnation of militarism, nationalism (and capitalism). It consists of two distinct parts, the first, pre-war one mixing realism with bizarre humour, the second delivering photos of fight rare in their docu-like naturalism far from Eisensteinian pathos.The transfer on Mr. Bongo's newest release seems quite nice ; regrettably no extras were taken from the original Ruscico version./To any reader of this interested in Barnet I would like to suggest other gem by this filmmaker - funny, charming and moving "Dom na Trubnoy" ("The House on Trubnaya Street"). It was recently released in France, with Russian intertitles and French subs (the film is a silent one)./


Introduction: Kuleshov was a genius, and most of his students are worth getting to know about.Barnet was really the most inconspicuous of Kuleshov's cycle, everytime quite apart from cinematic polemics raging at the time. He looked like a large lunkhead when we first see him as a cowboy in Kuleshov's Mr. West from '24. His first stab at directing assigned by his mentor, as I read, was a long serial on Fritz Lang zone about spies and counter-spies and international intrigue, except humorous and whimsical. He made other two silent comedies, one of which I've seen, very delicate and sweet-natured class conflict, almost dainty blood.Now this, about happenings leading up to the Revolution of '17 and so by nature more sombre and reflective. Eisenstein and Pudovkin had turned out rigorously-driven paeans for the 10 year anniversary, Barnet's is something else altogether.It is comedy about neighbors and brothers who are too stubborn to embrace real feelings, searing drama in the next beat about these mutual feelings sublimated in the heavy conflict of war. It bleeds and you laugh with a laughter that is sadness.It is plain fun to watch for the duration. There is sound but nowhere near as radical test as in Dezertir from that same year. Barnet was a much more gentle soul, eventually took his own life - the storyline goes - because he should no longer deliver art on the lvl he aspired to.It's all in the ending here, a real apotheosis of cinematic expression and one of the greatest moments in 30's film, truly far-reaching stuff. You have to do the work though, it's not laid out in the open, submerged further afield where censors wouldn't have the imagination to apprehend him.Two brothers have gone to war, the father receives news from the trenches that one has died, the young, rash one. Meanwhile a German POW has returned in his place; the same age, also a shoe-maker, a worker, and finds love in captivity the young brother was denied in an early stage on the same bench. The brother dead for a dubious cause has been surreally transmuted back home into a narrative that actually turns vindictive, cruel, anxious - the German POW is summarily beaten by Russians, persecuted. Barnet's coup is that these scenes depict a Revolution under foot, a valiant cause in communist lore.Meanwhile the older brother is still at the front fighting the war. We hardly ever see the German enemy, it's mostly exhausted troops futilely storming desolate no man's land. He calls off the bloodshed, single-handedly walking in the firing range and is summarily arrested by Russians as a traitor. The last news he hears is that the Winter Palace has been stormed. His response, on the threshold of consciousness: "what a rush!".Barnet had Kuleshov's movies to draw from on how to outwit the censors, but he outdoes even his mentor here in his ability to envision a multi-dimensional fabric.



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