The following correspondence is reproduced here with the kind permission of the author.
From : Richard Malloy
To : Nostalghia.com [via DVDBeaver]
Date : Sat, 8 Mar 2003 19:55:49 -0500
Subject: New "RUBLEV" print
I saw the 10:30am screening of "ANDREI RUBLEV" at the MFA today--a
nice time of the day for an epic film, particularly since the DVD is
usually a wee hours experience for me. It was extra special as Vida
Johnson was present to introduce the movie, and stayed afterward for a
discussion unfortunately truncated in deference to the afternoon
screening of "THE SACRIFICE".
How to rate the print? It's evidently struck from the very same print
that the Criterion transfer was derived from--or of the same
lineage--as the same tell-tale defects cropped up. I was a bit
letdown at first considering the many speckles and blotches and
rattling in the gate and overall soft title cards--not as good as the
Criterion transfer? The entire opening sequence was fairly rough
going, with an annoyingly loud "flutter" accompanying the soundtrack,
nearly a loud buzz that would have driven me nuts had it not soon
after faded away (during the Jester's song, or just before, I
But this was blown up on a fairly large screen. Not enormous like a
megaplex, but no dinky rolldown affair. The MFA screening room is
fairly impressive, better than the Brattle or Coolidge IMO. I suppose
I should mention it was packed, as well. Not entirely sold-out, but
it drew a far bigger crowd than I'm used to seeing. Anyway...
projected large, I was seeing detail and information that I'd never
previously noticed. This wasn't so bad, after all.
While the screen was occasionally swarmed with speckles throughout,
and though the same defects as present on the Criterion disc were
present here (dropped frames as the monks walk along the riverside
after leaving the tavern: check! Splotch attack after Foma leaves to
accept his own commission: check!), there began to occur rather long
sequences that seemed an improvement over the Criterion transfer, an
improvement in definition and detail which I couldn't help but think
might be even more pronounced when translated to the small screen and
after a bit of digital scrubbing. But most sequences seemed not too
different from the DVD. As Andrei joins the St. John's Eve revelers,
it's still murky, indistinct, only the brightest details easily
apparent... but again, projected LARGE. An experience quite a bit
more impressive than the disc.
"The Bell" was the sequence probably in the most impressive overall
condition. Very good shadow detail, excellent sense of texture, and
one can really peer well into the distance of those long, long shots
across the meadows and hilltops. The final montage of Rublev's work
focusing on the Trinity is less saturated than on the Criterion disc,
the reds and blues, golds and ambers, not quite as pronounced. The
final shot of the grazing horses is also more monochromatic than on
the Criterion disc, but not black-and-white as on the Ruscico.
Vida Johnson spoke briefly, though we all wanted to go longer. She
was an animated personality, clearly happy to be there and very
interested in talking about the film. She started by noting the
animal cruelty issues, evidently expecting some questions about that,
explaining that the cow was covered in asbestos and the horse was on
his way to the rendering plant. If anyone was expecting a row over
it, it didn't materialize. No further comment. A few questions.
Someone suggested that Tarkovsky's fascination with paganism seemed to
presage ecofeminism and earth goddess worship (uh-oh!). Professor
Johnson noted that Tarkovsky said late in his life that he preferred
the shorter version, which she characterized as containing fewer
instances of cruelty and violence and elliptical asides, but which in
her opinion did not diminish the film. I suggested that some of the
cuts seemed less justifiable, particularly those of a more prudish
nature (the bare-assed Jester's punchline, nudity during the pagan
revelries, etc.), as well as the truncated tracking shots, 360degree
pans, etc., which did seem to diminish the film for me if only in the
sense that it was less typically Tarkovskyan. Did she think he'd
merely come to terms with something that might have been well beyond
his control? She never answered that, specifically, but was very
interested in following the thought, conceding on the one hand that
she was less familiar with the longer cut, but also noting the 360-pan
in "Nostalghia" and the ultimate, long-take Tarkovsky tracking shot in
"The Sacrifice" ("which many of you are here to see in a few moments")
and becoming even more animated and exuberant than before. She was
cooking, things were getting interesting... but after another
question, one of those in the audience who'd just arrived for "THE
SACRIFICE" asked if we could continue the discussion after the film.
And that finally broke it up.
Looking forward to "MIRROR".
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