RIP Parallel Cinema | The Reaper

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RIP Parallel Cinema

Yevgeny Yufit, the anarchic brain behind the ‘Parallel Cinema’ movement, has died aged 55.

Parallel Cinema was a 1980s underground movement in the former USSR. It deliberately defied movie-making conventions and ‘good taste’, usually featuring death in some fashion. Its style quickly earned it the name Necrorealism.

Its apparent random mayhem was, however a deliberate poke in the eye for state-sponsored – and heavily censored – Russian cinema.

Yufit was born in what was then called Leningrad and had largely disappeared from view in the past few years, although his black-and-white movies have an intense cult following.

Because  the state controlled all aspects of movie-making, Yufit produced films with friends, with no money and basic equipment: his first 16mm shorts were in grainy black-and-white, with no recorded sound.

In 1985 he set up Russia’s first independent film studio, Mzhalala Film.

Russian police confiscated one of their first films. But after watching s bit of it – a sequence of the director’s friends wrestling in a rubbish dump – they returned it without charge, on the basis that it was “too idiotic” to be a threat to the state.

In 1985 Mzhalala Film released Woodcutter, a good example of Yufit’s anarchic absurdism. This 8 minute 14 second short starts with a man showing a set of disturbing objects and images in a room, before descending into total madness. To a Dadaist cacophony of sound a man is seen falling from an apartment balcony into a debris-filled courtyard;  an chalked up inter-title says that he continued “to function well”.

A group of brawling figures in a forest first hang this high-functioning corpse from a tree, and then put him in the path of an oncoming train.

It ends with an old woman shaking her head, as in disbelief.

Picture source: Dziga Vertov via Wikimedia