Monday, 27 December 2010

The Museum of the East in Moscow

The rain came to Moscow on Christmas day, melting the snow briefly before freezing into sheets of ice as smooth as glass on the streets and pavements. The trees turned into glass like sculptures as the water expanded into a transparent  coat of thick ice, covering the branches in a brittle quick-silvery casing.  Some trees have collapsed with the sheer weight of the ice. Many will struggle to recover when the ice melts having been denied oxygen for so long, unable to breath. No one remembers such a phenomena in Moscow and I certainly for all my years here cannot recall seeing such a thing, so beautiful and yet so damaging.
Natasha spent four days tending her exhibition of Ikebana at  the Moscow State Museum of the east in association with a Japanese artist who makes collage paintings with flower and plant material. I had to be there on hand as it were for emergencies and moral support.
The operator and director Slava Sachkov came to the exhibition with his wife Olga. A friend for many years in Moscow and camera operator on the film "Mayakovsky" and"Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde", he had just returned from Vietnam for the ninth time. He is lecturing at a film school in Saigon and in seems to be single-handed helping to revive the Vietnamese film industry or so it seems to me. He stayed for a few hours and he talked about his work there and some of the visit he made to Hanoi. 
With time on my hands after Slava and Olga left, I wondered around the Museums labyrinth  halls. The collection is  is housed in the remains of a pre revolutionary classical building which had previously been the home of the Lunin family, whose most famous son Mikhail was a soldier, a poet and one of the leaders of the Decembrist movement. Its ornate pillared halls with 6 meter ceilings still retain their imperial grandeur of those far off days. I wandered alone most of the time through the muted interiors which house the different collections: The Iranian collection of paintings and cloths, swords and armour and costumes, the inheritance from another empire: the Chinese gallery with its scrolls and hundreds of sculpted  ornaments and figures made from ivory, jade and other rare stone material. Two galleries are devoted to Japanese art. In one hall there is a row of beautiful engravings on one side and   a series of calligraphy scrolls on the other wall. The centre piece in a huge glass case is a metre high ivory eagle in pose with wings outstretched as if to take flight.
As I walked by the mute exhibits, I tried to imagine if the pre revolutionary inhabitants ever imagined that their home would one day house a museum. The ghostly silence of each hall seemed to suggest they had not anticipated such a fate but were nonetheless content that the house was still standing and of benefit  to the thousands of visitors who pass through these halls to witness Russia's intimate connection to the East.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Moscow - Winter in monochrome

Moscow - Winter in monochrome

Moscow winters tend to become very monochrome in every sense of the word. When you stare out of the window everything looks like a black and white Japanese painting, all misty swirls and opaque brushstrokes. Today is one such day.  The steam pouring out from the tall chimneys of  electric power stations around Moscow adds a misty mystery to the atmosphere as the vapour drifts in copious clouds across the horizon. I'm not sure what long periods of such conditions do to the human psyche - perhaps I'm better off not knowing, especially after fifteen years as a resident.
To go out in -10 with a freezing wind blowing billowing snow off the north east or where ever, is not a pleasant prospect and most sane people avoid it. So what to do. No problem. Firstly I am writing this new blog. This I hope will be an occasional series of pieces or chronicles about a film makers life in Moscow and occasionally just the life of a simple human being who happens to live in Moscow.
Generally however the perspective will be from film making because that is what I do - make films in Russia and from time to time in other places as well - Japan for instance in 2009. As yet I am not sure exactly what shape this blog will take and how the content will develop but it is likely to have a more personal tone with simple and maybe even mundane reflections. However as the artist and photographer Alexander Rodchenko once wrote. "Our task in photography is to make the extraordinary appear mundane and the mundane appear extraordinary".  Such a philosophy can unearth unexpected and rich deposits of knowledge and insight. So taking this as my starting point, off we go.

Friday, 17 December 2010

16th December 2010 - Every Cloud

Out in Moscow on a cold December morning trying to pick up medicine for the flu which everyone here is suffering from. 9.30 AM on VDNX, the Moscow region  a district which served as an exhibition centre for the technological, scientific and cultural achievements of the USSR. Each republic had its own building in the complex which stretched across tens of acres. It was a kind of showcase for everything the USSR felt proud of. It was built during the Stalin period and added to in the Brezhniev era. Now it is a vast market place for selling and exhibiting the newest capitalist products from the west.
I can never seem to get my bearings when when I exit from the metro on VDNX. Fortunately Natasha had given me good directions and I exited from the metro entrance into the wintry, misty sunlit expanse that is Moscow. As Natasha had promised the raised highway was on my right and the hilly open ground topped by an orthodox church was on my left. It was the church which attracted my attention, its reddish brick exterior and onion domes were not unlike any other church of comparable size and character which can be found in Russia. However it was bathed in winter sunlight which descended through the misty cloud cover, revealing it in an ephemeral light which was only dimly reflected up from the snow covered expanse of ground which surrounds the church. My reaction was immediate and clear. This scene would fit neatly into the Stanislavsky film"Stanislavsky and Russian Theatre". I made a mental note to myself to return on a similar day with similar weather conditions and film the scene. It has since been added to the list of locations for the film.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Light at the end of the tunnel. Film updates

Autumn - Moscow. The dark evenings come earlier and earlier with every passing day. Coming to the end of the edit on The Japanese Garden - Landscape and Meaning. Still not entirely happy with the title. However I don't want anything to prosaic which might be misleading. Writing something which will introduce the film as a kind of announcement of release. Work has piled up behind this film including The Stanislavsky Documentary film "Stanislavsky and the Metamorphosis of Russian Theatre" and some related writing projects which I am working on. There is no other way however to make progress otherwise the quality of the film suffers if you try and rush things. Today manged to get to grips with and complete some computer graphics and effects which have been giving me difficulties. I feel like I haven't been out for days although this is not true. The feeling with this film is that I have been ensconced in a long tunnel neither looking right or left and despite the pleasure and experience I have derived from this film I really want to get it finished and move forward with other projects.

I tried to contact the Utsunumiyo Museum in  Japan with regard to selling the film "Alexander Rodchenko and the Russian Avant-garde" as part of their exhibition "Alexander Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova". Its was difficult to negotiate with them but I will ask Akira Suzuki to help with the negotiations.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

TAB Event - Aleksandr Rodchenko + Varvara Stepanova "Visions of Constructivism"

TAB Event - Aleksandr Rodchenko + Varvara Stepanova "Visions of Constructivism"

Starts in 4 days
At Utsunomiya Museum of Art
Media: Graphics, Painting
On display are 170 works by Aleksandr Rodchenko from the collection of the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.
[Image: Aleksandr Rodchenko (1924, 1965) collection of the Pushkin Museum]


From 2010-09-19 To 2010-11-07

Website (Japanese) (venue's website)


Adults ¥800, University & High School Students ¥600, Junior High and Elementary School Students ¥400

Venue Hours

From 9:30 To 17:00
Closed on Mondays
Note:On a Public Holiday Monday, the museum is open but closed on the following Tuesday.


Navitime (Japanese)
Yahoo (Japanese)


25 minutes by bus from West exit at the JR Utsunomiya station or 20 minutes by taxi from the JR Utsunomiya station.


1077 Nagaoka-cho, Utsunomiya-shi, Tochigi-ken 320-0004
Phone: 028-643-0100 Fax: 028-643-0895
When you visit, why not mention you found this event on Tokyo Art Beat?

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Thoughts from St Petersburg

Just returned from St Petersburg for 24 hours shooting an interview for a private client. Excellent footage. The last time I was in St Petersburg was 1993 on the film Grushko. We were there slightly longer (3-4 months) at that time. Now the whole atmosphere has changed. Much more lively and open although a lot less stressful than Moscow. Travelled up on the new high speed express railway. Fantastic experience, better than air travel. Everything went well just a shame couldn't stay longer.

Revisiting St Petersburg after all this time and essentially returning as a film maker whereas before I was working on somebody else's production, has given me food for thought. The question that is exercising me the most is marketing my films - those which are already complete and those which will be available over the coming months. For instance I am putting the finishing touches to "The Japanese Garden - Art, Landscape and Meaning". A film, which as its title suggests, will explore the artistic and philosophical meaning of Japanese gardens. As  soon as this is ready I will be straight onto another project which is also in post production "Stanislavsky and the Metamorphosis of Russian Theatre. The problem I am finding is coordination of the marketing of this material across the Internet. It really is a full time activity in itself but an absolutely key component of film making and is becoming more so. I have a number of sites and blogs etc across social networks and need to draw them together into some kind of coherent strategy or at least align them along some strategy which I actually don't have as yet.

One idea I have had for the release of "The Japanese Garden - Art, Landscape and Meaning" is to simultaneously publish an e-book in monthly instalments, recounting the 2 three month shoots in Japan which went into the making of the film. This I think will help promote the film, provide background information to the subject as well as adding an extra dimension to the whole project.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Chekhov Country - Hot and hardly visible

Returned from the Russian countryside after almost three weeks. Not exactly a place of Chekhovian atmospheres and  moods. Such things are hard to find nowadays in the Russian countryside but with wild fires billowing in the hot summer wind and temperatures of up to 40 degrees, those lazy dreaming Russian summers seem like a thing of the long distant past. Which is something  Chekhov was already hinting at in The Cherry Orchard. We left Moscow as the heat started to become unbearable and headed out to a an old soviet style holiday rest complex. It was built as a Pioneer camp for soviet school children but has been converted into  a kind of holiday complex for adults. There we escaped the worst of the smog and smoke from the fires.  I took the main computer with me and was able to get a considerable amount of work done especially on the Stanislavsky Film "Stanislavsky and the Metamorphosis of Russian Theatre". The script is more or less fleshed out and ready for recording. I have a good narrator in mind, James Langton, an English actor who lives in New York. He has just completed the narration for the other film I have in post production "The Japanese Garden - Art, Landscape and Meaning". The title may appear elsewhere under a different variation until I can settle on a version that I am happy with. James delivered the final text with the corrections I had requested and I can now start to complete the film. Excellent narrator of text and I am very happy with the result. I will work on "Stanislavsky and Metamorphosis" parallel with the Japanese film. Now back in Moscow and coping with the unendurable heat.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Moscow Streets - Prelude to a film series.

In order to understand what its like to film in Moscow or just be in Moscow, on the streets, squares and boulevards, one needs to get a feel of the atmosphere in Moscow in those early days of 1995. Its very different now, garishly neon lit cityscape's which have displaced the dark dusty streets and yards which existed at that time. It was said that up to perestroika you could walk from one end of Moscow to another without having to cross a road. You simply moved form one courtyard to another. I would walk around Moscow for days on end sometimes as I had little else to do in that early time when I hardly knew anybody. The winter dust of early March blew around my cheeks and filled my nose with a fine stinging compound, thick in its icy consistency. The snow had all melted away but the cold air contained the eroded particles from a city that was busily fending off decay as best it could and as it still does, although now the resources are more adequate for building glass and stone monsters which are rising sheer into the Moscow skies. I walked back from a trip to the supermarket "Three Fat Men" with a miserable depressive gait, absorbing the sight of yellow and cracked masonry and dull chipped black railings of the low buildings which had been unable to endure the winter and seemed to sag under layer upon layer of winter silt left behind by the melted snow. The grey and heavy weather added to the muted atmosphere. No clouds overhead, simply a misty canopy, more like rising steam than clouds. But in all this was Moscow's heavy beauty which could bear down on ones consciousness like a cruel mistress. However this benumbing beauty was only one facet of the whole edifice, and I can show you other facets. For the time being it was all I could see and feel and it left me with an aching wonder at the enormity of the grinding vision which was opening up before me seeming to surround me with a phantasmagorical landscape of sweet deterioration which I loved all the more for its air of decay and bleakness. This was not the dream of most of Moscow's residents. They aspired to other visions of Moscow, lighter and gentler but at that time, wrapped in its post perestroika mantel, it was the reality for most of the inhabitants of Moscow and for me.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Interview with Michael Craig guest speaker on Voice of Russia discussing the 32nd Moscow Film Festival

Guest Speaker → The best Moscow Film Festival ever, the 32nd

Estelle Winters

Click on picture or link below to listen

On June 24th Michael Craig was interviewed,discussing the 32nd Moscow Film Festival on Radio Voice of Russia with Estelle Winters, as well as his own film, "Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde" which is being shown as part of the exhibition "100 Years of Performance" at the Garage gallery in Moscow.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

The Moscow Garage and Meyerhold Film -Reprise

Excellent news about the film "Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde". The film has been selected as part of the "100 years of performance" in Moscow along with films by Yoko Ono and other film makers, which is being held at the Garage in Moscow. The exhibition is a 100 year history of theatre using film and video installations.The Garage is a new venue for modern art in Moscow. It is a converted bus garage which was designed by the grat Russian avant-garde architect and artist Konstantin Melnikov. The exhibition will run from June until September 2010. We filmed there some years ago for the film Architecture and the Russian Avant-garde. At that time it was still a working garage so it was interesting to see how they have converted the building for use as an art gallery. The model it seems to me is the Tate Modern in London but on a smaller scale. There are two other main exhibitions; Mark Rothko which has an excellent range of Rothko's work and also The Feast of Trimalchio by AES+F also a film/video installation on a grand scale. The exhibition was first featured in New York last year where "Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde" was shown. Gratifying to see it in my (now) home town of Moscow where I can get to see it myself. have a look at the excert below.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Stanslavsky Documentary Film - Copernicus Films - Update

Just back from the UK after accomplishing several important steps in the progress of this new documentary film about Stanislavsky of his life and work. The one major accomplishment was securing the interview with Jean Benedetti, one of the foremost international authorities on Stanislavsky, which will be included as part of the film. After a period of negotiation the interview took place with Jean Benedetti at the beginning of May 2010. Instrumental to this process was the help of Paul Fryer of the Rose Bruford College of acting and Andrew Eglinton also from Rose Bruford College and who runs The London Theatre Blog. Paul Fryer is also curator of The Stanislavsky Centre which houses one of the largest Stanislavsky archives outside of Russia and is a major resource for research into Stanislavsky. Andrew made sure that the logistics side of things were in place as well as playing a main role in the recording sessions which took place at Rose Bruford College and advice about archive material. On returning to Moscow the production will continue with more filming and locations in Moscow as well as negotiations for archive footage. Post production and editing for the film is planned for the middle of June and will continue throughout the summer.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Stanislavsky Film

On Monday in Moscow Copernicus Films managed to complete an important interview for the up and coming documentary film about Stanislavsky's life and work in theatre. Anatoly Smeliansky, the rector of the Moscow Arts Theatre School, kindly agreed to be interviewed and give his thoughts for a documentary film about the Russian theatre director Stansilavsky which will be released later in 2010. The film is in the final stages of pre production. Next week we will travel to the UK in order to record the voice over and a further interview with an eminent figure and writer on Stansilavsky in the English language. The film is being made with the cooperation of the Rose Bruford college of acting and the Stanislavsky Centre which is one of the largest archives of Stansilavsky outside of Russia. The Stansilavsky centre has made the archive available to Copernicus Films for use in the film.

If you wish to be kept up to date with the progress of this project subscribe below to the mailing list and receive a 30% discounted copy of the film "Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde" plus updates and other free downloads to be announced.

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Saturday, 6 February 2010

News about Copernicus Films work in progress

Its a long time since I have written anything here and I feel like I am letting people down and myself down so here is an update of what has been happening lately and what is likely to happen soon. Basically I have been continuing work on the two Japanese films in some earnest and have got them to a point where I will be able to go to the UK to record the voice overs. This will tie in with another project which I have been working on about Russian theatre. Its a completely new project which is taking up a great deal of time but I think it is worth it because it involves the collaboration of a well known acting college in London (More later). That will be coming up in April but at the moment I am still down to writing the script and researching the material. Arranging interviews is on the cards in the next few weeks or so. The film will require probably three interviews. I will also have to get some more archive material from the archive in Krasnogorsk which is a little way outside Moscow. It requires some tricky negotiation with the administration there but that's another story. In addition to all of that there is continuous editing going on with the two Japanese films.(I hope to have titles sometime soon so I can stop calling them "the two Japanese films". Talking about Japan, just to mention there was a superb conference this week for three days about Japanese culture and art here in Moscow. Eighteen speakers on a variety of subjects from mandalas, to contemporary Japanese art. Confirmed many of my researches and it added to my pool of knowledge about Japan.