Based on the life and work of the Russian film director Alexander Medvedkin (1900-1989), THE LAST BOLSHEVIK is a tribute from one filmmaker to another. An archeological expedition into film history that reveals new cinematic treasures, the film prompts a reflection on the relation between art and politics in the former Soviet Union.
The film captures the commitment, energy, struggles, illusions and disillusions of a believing but never naïve Bolshevik. From Medvedkin's classic 1934 satire Happiness, and the 'film train' which he directed in the 1930s, to his sardonic comedies and bitter war newsreels, Chris Marker draws a panorama of the artistic, political, and moral universe of a life and a country, bringing it right up to date with his own vision of Russia today.
An intricate work with many levels and layers, The Last Bolshevik is also a distillation of the art and beliefs of one of the greatest documentarians of our time, Chris Marker, who has revolutionized documentary as his near-contemporary Jean-Luc Godard transformed film fiction, crossing boundaries and mixing genres.
“This is one of the most important, illuminating and thoroughly enjoyable DVD releases of the year.” —Michael Wilmington, TheDailyPage.com
2001 DoubleTake Documentary Film Festival
“Regular readers of my movie reviews must know by now that I can’t stand hype, particularly when it involves the latest Hollywood blockbuster. But I would be remiss not to describe the two DVD package released under the title “The Last Bolshevik” as the event of the decade, at least for the small sector of the universe that still takes the idea of socialism seriously.” —Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist
“Eloquent and mordantly witty in its poetic writing, beautiful and often painterly in its images, this is as moving and as provocative in many respects as Marker’s Sans Soleil. Not to be missed.” —Jonathan Rosenbaum, The Chicago Reader
“A worthy addition to the collection of any serious film buff or any student of Russian history.” —Bob Ham, DVD Corner
"Marker puts voice-over narration and interviews into a jazzy, contrapuntal relation to his bold visual assemblies; his montage moves on waves of thought and feeling."—The New Yorker
"THE LAST BOLSHEVIK [is] the most haunting, corrosive, and thoughtful exploration of the train wreck we called the 20th century."—Howard Hampton, Artforum
"One of the major essays of Chris Marker--which automatically makes this one of the key works of our time--this remarkable video (1993) is provisionally about his friend and mentor, the late Soviet filmmaker Alexander Medvedkin (1900-1989), in the form of six video "letters" sent to him posthumously. More profoundly, this is about the history of Soviet cinema and the Soviet Union itself, about what it meant to be a communist, about what these things mean now.... Eloquent and mordantly witty in its poetic writing, beautiful and often painterly in its images, this is as moving and as provocative in many respects as Marker's Sans soleil (1982), which places it very high indeed. Not to be missed."—Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
"Chris Marker, the most poetic and original of documentarists, paints a picture of Medvedkin and the extraordinary era in which he lived that is the best kind of history, illustrating the general with the particularThe Last Bolshevik [is] not only an invaluable document about the century but also a deeply personal attempt to make some sense of it."—Derek Malcolm, The Guardian
"This is no conventional trudge through clips, photos, and talking heads: Marker sometimes juggles his imagery like a poet, philosopher, or clown, but always like a complete filmmaker. As Medvedkin's bizarre life is untangled, from his birth in 1900 through the October Revolution, civil war and Stalin to his death on the crest of perestroika, an entire century and ideology comes under Marker's quizzical gaze."—The Times
"Extraordinary! Marker puts voice-over narration and interviews into a jazzy, contrapuntal relation to his bold visual assemblies; his montage moves on waves of thought and feeling, mixing wild propaganda with gritty pathos."—New Yorker
"Absolutely fascinating, because Medvedkin's movies were extraordinarily audacious and groundbreaking and Marker is a first-class filmmaker."—Midweek
"Should be required viewing for any young would-be documentary-maker."—The Daily Telegraph
"Chris Marker's 'The Last Bolshevik' is a great film that almost no one has seen."—Pauline Kael
Click here for the Chicago Reader's review.