Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Lenin as model for Pasolini's Christ?

Little did I know when I wrote the Lenin and Christ post some months ago that, apparently, this parallel had imagined not just by ironic pastiche sots artists of recent decades. According to a book by Fulvio Abate the Lenin Christ parallel goes further back than that. Moreover, the artist in question was not just any artist but none other than Pier Paolo Pasolini who, according to Laura Betti, made Lenin the model of the Christ in his film. This is surely one of the most weirdly suggestive readings of Pasolini's Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo that I have come across and one of the most strange transfigurations of Lenin in modern culture.

A small annotation of Pasolini's film for Senses of Cinema by Pasquale Iannone puts the Lenin parallel to Christ like this:

More than the physical performance of the young Catalan, it is the booming, forceful voice of Salerno echoing across the weathered ancient landscape that is key to Pasolini’s representation of Christ as a revolutionary, as a masterful orator and communicator of ideas. In this sense, Pasolini was inspired by the figure of Lenin and the cult of personality which is, in essence, a “divinisation”. Essentially however, The Gospel According to Matthew is an attempt by the director to identify himself with the figure of Christ, a revolutionary who accepts that his lifelong work, his relentless non-conformity, will inevitably lead to his death.

Curiously another Lenin-modelled Christ may well be found in an as yet unpublished play on the life of Christ for the Taganka theatre by Soviet philosopher, Evald Ilyenkov.

Pasolini's Russia is a topic that has been explored by an Italian scholar Francesca Tuscano who wrote in her book 'La Russia nella poesia di Pier Paolo Pasolini', of Pasolini's strange happiness of rediscovering the peasant spirit of his native Casarsa on the banks of the Moscova during a visit by Pasolini to Moscow for the 1957 Festival of Youth.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Parajanov as Leninophile?

James Steffen in his The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov notes that "Like many Soviet intellectuals, at various points in his life (Parajanov) expressed admiration for Lenin, at least in public". Steffen notes a few Lenin-related snippets: about a collage entitled Soviet Union combining representations of Stalin and Lenin with a picture of the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus, or the montage sequence devoted to the day of Lenin's death in The Flower on the Stone (which Steffen believes to be Parajanov's work and not Slesarenko's). Steffen states that this ersatz-Vertov montage sequence associated with the anniversary of Lenin's death is "surely the most bizarre and gratuitous moment in all of Parajanov's films". In his Minsk 1971 speech, (which Steffen believes to be one of the major causes of his arrest), Parajanov denounced the recent Lenin Jubilee as 'a colossal failure'  saying that 'the least talented people made films about Lenin'.

These few traces of Parajanov's Leninophilia (or Leninophobia if you want to read them like that) can be added with a few more notes.

At a speech in a London Symposium on Parajanov a few years back the Ukrainian-Armenian film director Roman Balayan asserted that Parajanov was very much a Leninophile.

And here is Parajanov in his own words in an interview with Ron Holloway (in the same interview he damns both Stalin and Brezhnev):

I can't help it: I idolize Lenin. As a director, I have to admire his artistismus: his artistic impulses, his abilities as a speaker. His brain was magnificent, gigantic like that of a prophet. The world wasn't large enough for him. His artistismus once compelled him to climb onto an armoured car, as if it were a stage. He stood there like a monolith; he was a born actor. I appreciate artistismus, artistic talent. Politicians, friends, anyone can have talent.

Of course it is necessary to take what Parajanov said with a heavy pinch of salt. In any case Lenin could be said to have had (at least, posthumously) a habit of saving writers and artists from the NKVD whether by sheltering Aleksandr Wat or simply saving an exhibition from certain closure.

In retrospect it's a real shame that Parajanov never got to shoot one of those Lenin films. The Lenin trilogy of Sergei Yutkevich, that other Soviet dandy, would surely have an unbeatable rival today if that had happened.

As Parajanov would often repeat: Communism is the power of the Soviets plus Parajanovication'!

Friday, 8 May 2015

Lenin in an Orthodox Cassock

Near a Saint Petersburg metro station Narvskaya appeared a piece of graffiti indication the complete ideological mess that is all too present inside the Russian collective unconscious. Andrei Chatsky's 'Lenin in a cassock' was intended to highlight this. As he stated:

there's no way of describing the contemporary condition of the collective unconscious in Russia. In the heads of the ordinary man there is a wild cocktail which includes illusions about the greatness of the Soviet past, the god chosen destiny of the Russians and the sacred nature of Orthodoxy.

And yet clashes and inconsistencies between these various conceptions don't seem to bother many people. Lenin in an Orthodox cassock seems, therefore, a sign of the times levelling out all past contradictions and building up some absurd concocted world where all the incompatibles will fit in with each other. The graffiti appeared nearby another one with a television box and the symbol of the First Channel stating 'April 1st for 365 days'.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Lenin as disco trash ("Lenin was a zombie").

I have not yet researched how many Lenin-themed rock bands there are but I'm pretty sure there are not a huge number of disco-trash bands named after Vladimir Ilyich. Here's one of them entitled Lenin was a zombie. They have 250 likes on their Facebook page but almost ten times as many followers on the vkontakte site (the Russian equivalent).

Here's a couple of images and links:

seems that this is the lead singer of 'Lenin was a zombie' Joe Nat.
and the for those who want to hear what the group sounds like, here is a sampler: