Revue -- Film Review

Benjamin Walker
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13:  Actor Benjamin Walker attends the "Bloody Bloody Jackson" opening night after party at Brasserie 8 1/2 on October 13, 2010 in New York City.

Part vaudeville show, part political Passing Parade, "Revue" neatly captures the oppressive nature of government-sanctioned art in Khrushchev-era Russia.

Using only well-edited clips of archival footage, director Sergei Loznitsa says more in "Revue" about 20th century art and politics in the Soviet Union than any talking head or narrated documentary ever could.

As he accomplished in "Blockade," Loznitsa lets the material speak for itself. In seven sections, he compiles and interweaves a rich collection of movie fragments, educational films, newsreel footage and excerpts from concerts and plays. Although no onscreen titles or dates are offered, it becomes clear that this cinematic time capsule starts following the death of Stalin (in 1953) and covers the period Nikita Khrushchev gained power (into the 1960s).

"Revue" includes strictly black-and-white footage, and only bits and pieces indicate the artistic worth of the filmmaking or the performances. But the choice to show only monochromatic and often dull work drives home the point that art (and artists) suffer when the creative forces are governed or censored by bureaucratic and political rule.

The only real drawback to "Revue" also is one of its strengths -- the lack of onscreen information. Ideally, one must be somewhat familiar with this period of history to understand and appreciate the sounds and images. Yet, the effect should be transfixing even to the uninitiated.

Production: Icarus Films present a Ma.Ja.De Filmproduktion and St. Petersburg Studio of Documentary Films release
Director-editor: Sergei Loznitsa
Producers: Vyacheslav Telnov, Heino Deickert
Running time: 82 minutes