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Foreign Films > Wings (Larissa Shepitko, 1966)

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message 1: by Phillip (last edited Nov 20, 2008 02:11AM) (new)

Phillip | 10722 comments Includes a small spattering of SPOILERS

Larissa Shepitko is a director I wish more people would discover. She was born in Ukraine in the midst of the second world war, abandoned by her mother and forced by her father to raise her younger siblings and left home at 16 to study at the State Institute of Cinematography in Moscow.

Shepitko made Wings (her first film) upon her graduation from film school and died tragically in a car crash at age forty, having only completed four outstanding films. She showed tremendous promise, as did several of her film-school comrades (Tarkovsky and KIimov, to name a few); so it is all the more unfortunate that only a few films remain to remember her.

Anyone viewing Wings will see the enormous talent she wielded right out of the gate. Shepitko chose stage actress Maya Bulgakova to play the role of Nadezhda Stepanovna, a once highly-decorated fighter pilot who at 42, is now principal at a boarding school in Moscow.

A fascinating character study emerges as we become famililar with the tedium of her daily life. Shepitko allows us deeper access to her psyche through the proliferation of memories and flashbacks. The camera floats through space in her reveries, recalling moments drifting high in the sky or diving upon an enemy plane. She finds herself stumbling into her daughter's wedding party, never having met her son-in-law (mistaking him for someone else). She experiences a plethora of Joycean epiphanies throughout, building toward an unexpected and open-ended finale that produces more questions than answers.

Bulgakova's performance ranges from an opening gambit of hard-nosed party promoter to crumbling mother in search of meaning in surroundings that could not but fail to challenge anyone with her illustrious past. Shepitko embeds her in everyday shots of crowds bustling Moscow's streets or dream-like images wandering rain-soaked avenues. Bulgakova reveals miracles with an encyclopedic range of emotion throughout.

For anyone that loves character-driven films, especially ones with strong women characters (I can guarantee you there's nothing like this in American cinema before 1966, nor long after), Wings is an important film by a burgeoning director taken from us before her time.

Wings is available on Criterion/Eclipse series DVD, along with Shepitko's final film, The Ascent (also highly recommended).

In Russian with English subtitles

message 2: by Tina (new)

Tina | 38 comments awesome

will look for it.

sounds like something gc would enjoy as well.

it can test his russian.

how DO you do it, phillip?!!

message 3: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10722 comments omg, i didn't realize you were tina, tina!

how's it going? we should hang out sometime over the holidays with folks....i'll write you off-list.

give my best to your iconic boyfriend.


message 4: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Thanks Phillip, I'll queue and view;)

message 5: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10722 comments thank you alex, these are both really fine films. i hope some folks check them out.

message 6: by M (new)

M (wwwgoodreadscomprofilem) Interesting review,Thanks, Phillip. I'll view and discover Larissa Shepitko.

message 7: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Another great recommendation from our film guru! I would have missed this one if not for Phillip, thanks bro:)

KRYLYA (Larisa Shepitko, 1966, Soviet Union) Nadezhda has become an anachronism, an old colorless photograph displayed as museum exhibit, to be gawked at and superficially honored while grounded forever. Though she was a fighter ace during the Great Patriotic War, her exploits still applauded, she is still a single woman in Patriarchal society, given only genial approval and denied the basic rights extended to lesser men. As a school principle, she lives a humdrum life of post-war readjustment, a single woman who never married and is not allowed to enter a restaurant unescorted, while one of her expelled male students is offered this intrinsic right. This feminist split from male entitlement is the dichotomy is at the heart of the film; the rights of women trampled beneath the boots of a sole-less Socialism where the dead male hero is more acclaimed than the living Nadezhda. Director Larisa Shepitko gloriously frames the sharp beauty of her protagonist and seems to question her sexuality: in one scene, Nadezhda dances with another woman in a spasm of spontaneity that temporarily frees her from this human bondage, while men leer ominously through a glass darkly. She is awkward in social settings, unsure of her role and boundaries, often being more aggressive and stern than her male counterparts. She had adopted a daughter but has no Motherly instinct, unable to emotionally or intellectually relate: she believed that raising a little girl will help her to assimilate but it only brings the pain of distance and regrets. Shepitko lets her heroine drift amid the clouds, the vaporous rapture embracing her like a lover before dissipating into memory. She was in love once and we experience her trauma through flashbacks with desperate freeze-frames, as he was killed in action…and she helpless and isolated, watching from the cockpit of her own plane. Nadezhda is denied the privilege to fly again simply because she’s a woman and she often drifts back to the airfield to speak with her comrades. Finally, she claws her way into an aircraft and the students gather around, playfully pushing her like a child in a toy car, cheering for her last “flight”. This grim and debasing metaphor almost ends in the dark tomb of a hanger…before she takes control of the metal coffin and soars towards the heavens and her salvation. (B+)

message 8: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10722 comments Alex,

Great review, you really dug into the character and offered us a fine exploration of this unusual cinematic persona. Well done! I'm glad you found it, and that you seem to have enjoyed it greatly.

message 9: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments I liked it so much that I moved THE ASCENT to the top of my queue; it's the only other Shepitko film available from Netflix.

message 10: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10722 comments the ascent is a more "mature" film, and highly recommended. it has some really unforgettable scenes, especially the end.

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