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Tarkovsky's 'Nostalghia' and (almost) every Ozu hit New York repertory

This week in New York City repertory, audiences can catch Andrei Tarkovsky's "Nostalghia" and nearly every single film by Yasujiro Ozu.

Oleg Yankovskiy (with dog) plays a brooding poet in Andrei Tarkovsky's "Nostalghia." Credit: BAMcinematek Oleg Yankovskiy (with dog) plays a brooding poet in Andrei Tarkovsky's "Nostalghia."
Credit: BAMcinematek

Andrei Tarkovsky's 'Nostalghia'

For a filmmaker known for slow and sometimes impenetrable work, Andrei Tarkovsky is relentlessly popular. Not many saw the faithfully sluggish remake of his “Solaris,” not even with George Clooney in the lead. But his films — including “Solaris,” plus “Andrei Rublev” and “Stalker” — are reliable repertory draws, packing houses with audiences willing to sit rapt in front of long, ponderous takes and mull over its naked philosophizing.

A new 35mm print of 1983's “Nostalghia," the Russian filmmaker’s sixth and penultimate film, is currently in a two-week run at Brooklyn’s BAMcinematek, which ends next Thursday. After “The Mirror,” it’s Tarkovsky’s most difficult piece: It’s largely plotless, and it saves its two most galvanizing set pieces for the end. The plot (if you will) concerns a brooding Russian poet tellingly named Andrei (Oleg Yankovskiy) who comes to Italy to research a composer, and soon gets caught up in the ravings of a lunatic (Erland Josephson) who thinks the modern world is rubbish.

The actions mirror the film’s making. Tarkovsky, too, had come to Italy from Russia, where filmmaking had, finally, become difficult for him. But he brought Russia with him. He’s possibly the only director to make Italy look miserable: It’s a film of decaying, disused old buildings, with water leaking through roofs or running through its floors. There’s a powerful sense of place, at once vivid and dreamlike, that triumphs over narrative. The critic J. Hoberman described it as “not so much a movie as a place to inhabit for two hours.”

At times he seems to be referencing himself, even mocking his reputation. “I’m tired of these sickeningly beautiful sights,” his doppelganger says early on, a nod to his films’ ability to find beauty in nature and man’s destruction of it. The climax, meanwhile, involves the carrying of a candle across a room — a scene that could be read as a joke if it wasn’t unexpectedly thrilling. “Nostalghia” also conveys his own anguish at the time. Made by a man of deep faith from a country that suppressed religion, it finds someone coming to a country that embraces God, only to find that he’s not there either.

If you go

"Nostalghia"
Through June 13
BAMcinematek
30 Lafayette Blvd.

Chishu Ryu plays a widowed father in Yasujiro Ozu's "Late Spring." Chishu Ryu plays a widowed father in Yasujiro Ozu's "Late Spring."

Ozu @ Film Forum

“Tokyo Story” regularly makes best-ever lists, but there’s far more to Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, even if the movies themselves are often almost the same. The filmmaker would often recycle and rework — and sometimes actually remake — certain stories, often about fathers and their too-close relationship with daughters. Ozu didn’t happen upon his mega-austere style till later in his long career. You have the chance to see what he was like early on in Film Forum’s heroic near-complete retro, which, starting Friday, eats up June and includes rarities in addition to established greats like “Late Spring,” “Early Summer” and “Floating Weeds.”

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