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Old January 19th, 2003, 06:48 AM   #16
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The movie was shot on the Thompson (Philips?) Viper camera. And the video signal was output to a backpack mounted HardDisk. I find the idea of a movie made in one shot silly, just a publicity stunt IMO.
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Old January 19th, 2003, 11:46 AM   #17
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American Cinematographer, Jan. 2003:

"As for the camera, Buttner initially hoped to use the Thompson Viper, but there were no downcoverters that could provide a PAL signal for his Steadicam monitor, so he instead chose a Sony HDW-F900."

I'm curious why he didn't use the head-only version as I erroneously guessed. Why carry around the recorder portion if you aren't using it?

I've heard largely good reviews about the film.
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Old January 19th, 2003, 11:59 AM   #18
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"I find the idea of a movie made in one shot silly, just a publicity stunt IMO."

Well, that remark is a bit shortsighted. Many filmmakers (amongst whom Alfred Hitchcock) have experimented with single-shot films, but never before was the technology sufficient to pull it off.

To suggest that a director like Sokurov would create an almost impossible situation like staging an entire film to be shot in a single take - and probably without having even seen the film - just as a publicity stunt is plain stupid. As if there's no possible dramatic justification for an approach like that.

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Old January 20th, 2003, 10:03 AM   #19
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Have you seen the film? I think the use of the one-shot isn't a gimmick. It is part of the theme of the film which is continuity in history.
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Old January 30th, 2003, 07:16 PM   #20
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for ken tanaka

I just came across this thread and saw that a month ago you were looking for a place in Chicago to see it. I think it starts at the Music Box this week (in case you didn't already know).
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Old February 1st, 2003, 12:26 AM   #21
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Hey, thanks very much for the tip! I'm going to try to catch it up there!
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Old February 15th, 2003, 07:54 PM   #22
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2 out of 5 stars

Saw the film earlier tonight at the Cleveland Cinematheque. Though the film wasn't shown on digital projection, the one-shot effect wasn't completely ruined by the projector changeovers.

It had its moments, but all in all I can't say that much for the film. I simply can't imagine 300 years of Russian history to be so lacking in action. Example (spoiler warning): In the section where the Persian ambassadors visit the Russian court to present their formal apology, you thought perhaps something more interesting than a bunch of costumes standing around might happen. I kept waiting for the assassination attempt to commence. But no--as with almost every scene, the narrator and his black-clad companion were promptly dispatched by an ornery suit.

I was also irked by the narrator's constant, fussy exhortations not to bother the characters they encountered, and Europe's insistance on bothering a selection of them only for the purpose of womanizing.

My Russian history is rusty, and so though I recognized the obvious historical characters (Peter, Catherine, Anastasia), there were some things I didn't get. Who was Europe supposed to be, and what was the significance of his vaccilating opinion on the opulence of the Tsars? What was the deal with his intimidating the non-Catholic boy at the portrait of Peter and Paul? Why did he call attention to their hands? So many of his comments just seemed like space-fillers, to keep you (and the camera) distracted long enough while the PAs in the next room made sure everything was set for the next segment.

The conceit of the one-shot film isn't all that impressive to me; tableaus as large and complicated as those in Russian Ark were common in the early days of television when it was all done live... and I noticed a number of small mistakes and one shot in particular where an actress looks right into the camera. (Inexplicably, this shot was one of the ones chosen for the trailer...) I suppose you might argue that it's excusable, since the camera wasn't some free-floating spectre, but rather the singular perspective of the narrating character, but if that were the case, then why is the narrator only addressed by Europe, and not by anyone else the whole movie through?

I hope that marble the blind woman was fingering was a mock-up made for the film. Never touch marbles!

Anastasia's playmates are my favorite part of the film.

I only counted two orchestras.

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Old April 5th, 2003, 02:17 AM   #23
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now playing in Vancouver

Vancouverrites, 'The Russian Ark' is now at the Fifth Avenue.
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Old April 5th, 2003, 07:19 PM   #24
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Let us know what you think about it, Keith.
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Old April 5th, 2003, 08:35 PM   #25
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Oh I saw it months ago and thought it was wondrous. Here is what I wrote back then:

THE RUSSIAN ARK: One of the most mind boggling films I've ever seen. Okay, everyone knows about the 82 minute steadicam feat, but it's what goes in front of the camera that is the major task. This was a massive undertaking to plan and carry out. Think about it. What looks like thousands of extras, a dozen major settings with constant dialogue, lighting all the way through this huge set, troopers marching through their paces, a court reception, and a twenty minute ball and grand procession filled with five hundred extras in meticulous costumes, recognizable characters zipping in and out of each setting and it is not boring. I'm still collecting my thoughts about this film. It was a dream, a metaphysical documentary. Some will see this mostly as a technical feat and immediately this is what is notable but I believe that the technical feat was necessary thematically to the film which is an ode to the grand setting it paces through: the Hermitage. Why one shot, though? If the message is to convey that the Hermitage has been necessary to preserve the cultural treasures of Russia throughout the ages then having the single continuous shot to shot the continuity is necessary. Other continuous shots such as those employed by Hitchcock and Brian de Palma had their isolated benefits. Hitchcock wanted to show a progression of an engagement from meeting to murder. De Palma wanted to show a journey through a complicated world, opening it up spatially for the outsider, the audience. In the same way the Hermitage shows is a spy's journey through time as expressed by the different rooms in the museum. The fluid motion of the camera is necessary when the audience's device, the European spy who acts as a questioner, is taken away, wanders away. But the camera, eddies along, drawn like boat in a current. One audience member whispered that this was like the Pirates of the Carribean, a ridefilm. When the camera remains still it is quite a shock. When the final shot of the film settles on the mist of the river (the film is not without its digital effects) it's like the signal for the audience to get out of the carousel and stare back at where they've come from, shaking their heads.
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Old April 17th, 2003, 03:25 AM   #26
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Russian Ark is one of the most memorable movies. It will go into cinema history as one of the greatest accomplishments that others will be trying to copy. It was a promotional film for Russian cultural heritage and its place in Europe. The main character talks about Russia and Europe as two separate entities. The movie ends in demonstrating not only that Russia is a part of Europe but that it is at the top of the European culture.

There has never been a film like this, Everything was so authentic, as if you were there with the Tsar and his family; none of the phony Hollywood stuff.

The long continuous shot was amazing. It showed the Hermitage and its treasures, which are immense. Just like Paris’ Louver. Of course there were technical problems. The specular light reflections on the canvases. The actress, or the extra, that looked at the camera. Was that planned? No. Did it diminish the film value? No! It woke us to reality. It gave the film a different flavor for a moment.

It started slowly and darkly and it finished in a grand finale that was unequal in film history. None of the artificial stuff that Hollywood makes. Real to pseudo surreal to hypnotic; pretty to artistic; a tour d’ force through time; a lesson in history.

This film, together with other great works of art like Enemy at The Gates is made in cooperation with, or is financed by the Germans. Russians secretly sold them East Germany for many billions of dollars, plus Germans secretly agreed to bring Russia to Europe. It is part of a continuous and well planned scheme.

The choreography, the camera work, the naturalness, the sense of being inside the Hermitage and being a part of the story, until you wake up when an actress looks at you for a second.

It ended in this finale of European music, European dancing, European everything. St Petersburg, a.k.a. Leningrad is next to other European countries, far away from Moscow. The European culture from the era was omnipresent.

I saw Gods and Generals recently. Great art production. But it had Hollywood written all over it, especially in characterization. It’s stamped Plain American Vanilla. The Russian Ark is stamped European. The method has its roots in Russia; a Russian scientist discovered TV. There is something mysterious about Russia and the Eastern Europe. You can see the differences of the Slavic, the Germanic, and the Roman nations. Have you see the movie Secret of Nicola Tesla with John Houston? If not, see it. It’s amazing. It shows the Slavic character. Bright, sensitive, proud, with proper mixture of healthy emotions and healthy reason.

As to CinaAlta, the quality was excellent. The ball was one of the greatest and best scenes shot in CineAlta. It shows a mature format. Now with the CinaAlta SR, who needs film. Maybe for some slow motion shots or shots with very bright highlights that cannot be controlled. And the SR camera has one full F-stop wider latitude than CineAlta. The last movie that showed the amazing quality of CinaAlta was Rodriguez’ Spy Kids II. It was produced in native 16:9. Great picture (I mean quality of the image).

The last Star Wars was letterboxed. Pretty poor quality by any standard. Since the Star Wars uses Cinemascope aspect ratio, it would make more sense to shoot the next film with the Viper, but Lucas already decided on CineAlta SR. Let’s see if he can match the Russian Arc ball scene in picture quality. I personally doubt it.

The age of HD has arrived. It will slowly replace everything – from NTSC/SD to film. Broadcast will become HDTV by a government order. It will replace NTSC as fast as color had replaced B/W. Viper, CineAlta SR – they mean the ability to see the actual shot quality in real time.

They colorize B/W film to make it sellable as a video. It works. What will you do with NTSC stuff with 4:3 aspect and poor resolution. There will be no way to convert it to HD with 16:9 aspect ratio. It will go the way of silent film. It will be slowly moving into museums and history books. It’s about time. I wouldn’t buy any new SD equipment, unless I would have some very special reason.

Russian Ark – an amazing art direction, an effective and hypnotic propaganda. Potempkin’s revolt was in St Petersburg. Russian Ark was shot in St. Petersburg. An amazing city with some of the most fascinating history. Realize that the city was practically destroyed by Germans and it took Russians several decades to rebuild everything from scratch, from photographs, etc.
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Old May 6th, 2003, 10:52 PM   #27
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"Russian Ark," shot in high definition by Russian director Alexander Sokurov (a protégé of Andre Tarkovsky), will be released digitally in select theaters in the United States due to a partnership between Wellspring, BMW Films and Microsoft. The movie, to be presented in the Microsoft Windows Media 9 format, was shot using a special hard drive that allowed Sokurov to shoot the movie in one single take, reports

"The film is a milestone in digital origination -- a genuine work of art that takes full advantage of new technology," said Wellspring President and CEO Al Cattabiani in a prepared statement. "Windows Media 9 Series will show it in all its glory. For Wellspring, this affirms our commitment to bringing world-class cinema to the widest possible audience, using every available tool."

The film's U.S. release has earned $1.6 million during its domestic theatrical run. It will screen in the digital format via the Cinema System from Digital Cinema Solutions at Landmark's Dobie Theater in Austin, The Esquire in Cincinnati, The Enzian Theater in Orlando, and Landmark's Chez Artiste in Denver.

Wellspring said that 35mm prints of the film will remain active as the film continues to roll-out around the country. It was shot by cinematographer Tilman Buettner with the Sony HDW-F900 camera.

Shot in a single take, "Russian Ark" covers Russian history as a narrator travels through Moscow's famous Hermitage.
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Old May 30th, 2003, 02:07 AM   #28
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yeah, saw that movie at last yesterday. Intersting experiment and really impressive setup, but.. Charles wrote earlier in one thread that he has doubts about need to make movie in one shot. Agree with Charles. IMHO 'russian ark' has drawbacks in tech quality. I saw russian language version, it had bad mistakes in actor's lip sync, seems like sound work was done in hurry. Same with picture effects. Think these things could be avoided when making movie in more conventional way.
Anyway, an outstanding camerajob from Tilmar Buetner.
Some interesting material about movie can be found at , also in english.

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