This Week in New-York: Chagall-Malevich

CHAGALL-MALEVICH (Alexander Mitta, 2013)
Cinema Village
22 East 12th St. between University Pl. & Fifth Ave.
Opens Friday, June 12
212-924-3363
chagall-malevich.com
www.cinemavillage.com

For his first film in a dozen years, Russian writer-director Alexander Mitta tells the intriguing story of the little-known relationship between early modernist painter Marc Zakharovich Chagall and avant-garde Suprematist Kazimir Malevich. In 1917, Chagall (Leonid Bichevin), already a success in Paris, returns to his home in Vitebsk to marry his sweetheart, Bella Rosenfeld (Kristina Schneidermann), who is being wooed by their childhood friend, Naum (Semyon Shkalikov). Chagall initially wants to return to Paris with Bella and continue his burgeoning career, but with the onset of the Russian Revolution he decides that he will use the power of art to provide much-needed culture and creativity for the community, opening the Academy of Modern Art. Trouble ensues when he hires Malevich (Anatoliy Belyy) to teach there, as Malevich brings his own very different ideas about art and politics. Meanwhile, Naum, who is still in love with Bella, has become the Red Commissar, ruling Vitebsk with fear and violence. Made with the support of Chagall’s granddaughter, Meret Meyer Graber, a vice president of the Marc Chagall Committee, and inspired by his memoirs, Chagall-Malevich is a highly stylized, fanciful film, evoking the work of Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep); cinematographer Sergei Machilsky shot the movie in colors based on the paintings of Chagall and Malevich, set at sharp angles that can be both cool and disorienting. But Mitta’s (Lost in Siberia, My Friend, Kolka!) screenplay is far too sentimental and idealistic in its celebration of the brush over the gun. Chagall-Malevich might be beautiful to look at — Malevich’s bold geometric shapes are a wonderful foil for Chagall’s dreamscapes, and some of the more fantastical elements are rather funny — but the central plot is overly whimsical and often just plain silly, its palette lacking in subtlety and gradation. Chagall-Malevich opens June 12 at Cinema Village, with Schneidermann participating in a Q&A following the 7:30 show on Friday night.

This Week in New-York

Chagall-Malevich official page