Moscow Elegy (1988)

Run Time - 90 min.  |  
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Alexander Sokurov made this biography of filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky during the final years of the Russian master's life, when he was living in exile in Western Europe. Completed shortly after Tarkovsky's death in 1986, the movie eschews by-the-numbers portraiture, opting for a more ruminative approach that evinces its subject's influence. Sokurov flits back and forth between scenes of contemporary Moscow and of Tarkovsky directing his last two pictures, Nostalghia and The Sacrifice. Using footage of Tarkovsky at work and play, Sokurov assembles a touching scrapbook of a stateless artist, forced to live in exile to continue working. (After leaving the U.S.S.R. to film Nostalghia in 1982, Tarkovsky was soon told by Soviet officials that he would no longer be allowed to make movies if he returned home.) Moscow Elegy also features generous excerpts from both Nostalghia and The Sacrifice, and priceless clips of Tarkosky's turn in front of the camera in the 1963 film The Gates of Ilyich. Infused with personal feeling, Sokurov's paean to his mentor is a heartfelt document that devotees of both filmmakers will not want to miss.