Mother and Son

The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Alexander Sokurov

REVIEWED: 03-23-98

In Russia, director Alexander Sokurov is hailed as the filmmaking heir to Andrei Tarkovsky, since he wears proudly the mantle of high modernism in his pure, rigorous, loftily ambitious exercises in visual-aural cinema. For some Westerners, however, his films are maddeningly slow and self-conscious, the most rarefied, decadent, overripe kind of "genius" elitist art. The arguments can only continue with Mother & Son, the "breakthrough" Sokurov feature that has American distribution.

As always, there's minimal dialogue, and narrative is frozen. In a mountain cabin, a mother (Gudrun Geyer) lies dying. Her devoted adult son (Alexei Ananishnov) tries to bring comfort to her final moments. In his arms, he carries his mother into nature for their last walks together. Despairing, he takes a walk alone onto mountain paths. That's all.

Expect a flushed-out story and you'll be frustrated. Agree to be transported into a cloistered netherworld of mountains-and-valleys greenery and Sokurov's film is something else! It's an extraordinary trip to a terrain of hushed mystery bobbing below your consciousness. Using anamorphic camera lenses in groundbreaking ways, Sokurov creates one of the most painterly features of all times. Mother & Son has been compared to the 19th-century German Romantic works of Caspar David Friedrich. Closer to home there's an amazing affinity to the misty forests of Boston artist Robert Ferrandini, whose ethereal landscapes are at the Naga Gallery, on Newbury Street, through March 28.

--Gerald Peary

Film Vault Suggested Links
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La Promesse

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