For many decades, Evgeni Bauer's films were buried in the Soviet archives declared too "cosmopolitan" and bizarre for the puritanical Soviet regime. But with the fall of the Iron Curtain, Bauer's work has risen like a glorious phoenix out of the ashes of time.
Twilight of a Woman's Soul (1913), Bauer's first surviving film, tells the story of a society woman who kills her rapist and in its aftermath must make a new life for herself when her husband leaves her. After Death (1915), adapted from a story by Ivan Turgenev, explores one of Bauer's favorite themes: the psychological hold of the dead over the living. In The Dying Swan (1916), an artist obsessed with the idea of capturing death on canvas becomes fixated on a mute ballerina.
After Death and The Dying Swan star Vera Karalli, the legendary ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet and Serge Diaghilev's Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo. Karalli's colleague, the great Alexander Gorsky, choreographed the dances in many of Bauer's movies including these two films. Restored by the Russian state archive Gosfilmofond and featuring brilliant new scores commissioned by the British Film Institute, Mad Love is a must-have collection for all lovers of film. Watching these extraordinary films is the cinematic equivalent of peering into the Tsar's magnificent Fabergé Eggs. Bonus Feature: Documentary on Bauer by film scholar Yuri Tsivian, Stills Gallery.
- 37-minute Documentary film essay on Evgeni Bauer
- Stills Gallery
- DVD-ROM Press Kit
GreenCine New Releases Spotlight: December, 2003
Who, or what, is Evgeni Bauer, you ask? "One of the unknown greats of the [silent] era," according to film critic J. Hoberman, "[whose] lush morbid melodramas are distinguished by a feverish psychological intensity." A leading figure of pre-Soviet Russian cinema, and trained in the fine arts, Bauer made films only over the course of five years before he died at the age of 52 in an accident. As one scholar wrote, he had the eyes of Vermeer, the technique of D.W. Griffith, and the macabre feel of Edgar Allan Poe; and his influence spans as far as today, in filmmakers such as Guy Maddin and fellow countryman Aleksandr Sokurov(Russian Ark, Mother and Son).
And yet, due to his untimely death and the course of history to follow him, Bauer's body of work remains relatively obscure on these shores. Hopefully, Mad Love: The Films of Evgeni Bauer, a new DVD from Milestone, will rectify that situation. Among the works included on this treasure: The Dying Swan, a melodrama that seems to suggest Bauer was a fan of Oscar Wilde, is as creepy and fresh today as it must have been back in 1917 (where it surely must have raised a few eyebrows in disdain); Twilight of a Woman's Soul has a plot that would please Griffith -- an upper class woman helps out a poor man and goes farther than expected, with the affair later affecting her marriage -- reflecting the Russian mood at the time, but it is the filmmaker's experimentation with light and design that captivates today; the film After Death, with its eerily prescient title, is similarly melodramatic in the grand Russian literary tradition (it was based on an Ivan Turgenev story). The DVD also features an illuminating 37 documentary on the filmmaker, which will make the viewer even more wistful about what else could have come from such a fascinating artist. Mesmerizing stuff.--by Craig Phillips