Combustible Celluloid
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With: Anatoli Solonitsyn, Ivan Lapikov, Nikolai Grinko, Nikolai Sergeyev, Irma Raush
Written by: Andrei Tarkovsky, Andrei Konchalovsky
Directed by: Andrei Tarkovsky
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Russian with English subtitles
Running Time: 185
Date: 12/01/1966

Andrei Rublev (1966)

4 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev depicts the life of a 15th century icon painter (Anatoliy Solonitsyn) who finds his solitary work disrupted by the fluxing of the world. The movie's striking hot-air balloon and bell-making sequences alone are among the finest cinema ever made. A true visionary filmmaker, Tarkovsky (1932-1986) turns this, his second feature, into one of cinema's most vivid portrayals of the artistic process. More importantly, he uses the "biopic" formula only as a jumping-off point for something deeper.

The film was completed in 1966, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1969, showed commercially in Russia in 1971, and opened in the United States in 1973, hence the confusing jumble of dates that various sources list. Tarkovsky died in 1986, having completed only seven feature films. Co-writer Andrei Konchalovsky went on to his own, slightly less artistic directing career with films like Runaway Train (1985), Shy People (1987) and Tango and Cash (1989).

The Criterion Collection had previously released Andrei Rublev on DVD back in 1998, and in 2018 they have given us a restored, updated new edition on Blu-ray (and a new DVD as well). It includes two discs, with the preferred 183-minute cut, as well as a longer, 205-minute cut (not quite as brilliantly restored) that was initially suppressed by Russian authorities. Other extras include Tarkovsky's fine 43-minute student film The Steamroller and the Violin, which at one time had its own DVD release.

There are two documentaries about the making of the film, new interviews with actor Nikolai Burlyaev, cinematographer Vadim Yusov, and others, an interview with film scholar Robert Bird, a selected-scene commentary from the 1998 DVD featuring film scholar Vlada Petric, a video essay by filmmaker Daniel Raim, and a re-release trailer. The great film critic J. Hoberman provides a liner notes essay (which unfolds and reveals a mini-poster on the other side!).

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