Nostalgia ★★★★★

The most beautiful film I have ever seen is also the most underrated work by one of cinema’s greatest masters. While tending to be overshadowed by his more linear works (Solaris, Stalker, Andrei Rublev), it is the one that has made me weep the most copiously, on the sole basis that its images are of such an arresting beauty and the emotions it radiates are nearly indescribable. Along with his epic paragon The Mirror, it is the most personal, and hence of the greatest potency. It is about a traveling Russian poet in Italy who finds himself alienated by memories of his homeland. In 1983, Tarkovsky was in the exact situation. The film he made is called “Nostalgia,” fittingly, for it is so largely about the comfort, sadness, and fleeting clarity of memory. The lead character is named Andrei like Tarkovsky himself. He is one of the quietest, least revealing, and yet most evocative protagonists of the movies. His feelings are entirely determined by the movie. Often he’ll take a walk in silence, lie on his bed in an attempt to dream, or suddenly be trapped in a colorless flashback of frighteningly surreality. Because through stylistic clues the film makes itself generally clear as to what is occurring on the screen, it is the easiest to follow when assessed on a spectrum of Tarkovsky’s narrative-less personal films. But this technique still never deteriorates its mysterious intrigue. This will always be a strange work which denies entry to those who do not wish for it, because its pace is so particular to the experience of the film even though its allegory is so transparent. Yes, Andrei’s relationship with the translator represents his relationship with Italy. So he’s being exact in his analogy. Yes, Andrei walks back and forth at the bottom of a pool for 9 minutes trying to light a candle. Where the fuck else do you need to be? Committing yourself to a film means being patient. It is about exploring a film, not intellectualizing it, because words make experiences ascetic and films are about impassioned states of consciousness. Whether they be cerebral, visceral, or purely visual they are nevertheless works of cinema if they summon at least one of these sensations. Nostalgia is a work of cinema. Truly. In a way, you might say, purely. It is not a sermon. It leaves us with more to chew on than we can consume in the space of a single viewing. But it must be seen, and be welcomed. Any work of art must be handled this way, because no work of art ever comes to you. You must come to it.

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