Thursday, February 12, 2015

Moscow Clad in Snow (1908)

Black and White Footage Accompanied by
In the Steppes of Central Asia
an orchestral tone poem by
Alexander Borodin (1833-1887)

A Short Elegant Documentary


  1. Great find, FT!

    In the Steppes of Central Asia is a perfect accompaniment to this wonderful footage.

  2. That's a beautiful short. The cinematographer went on to film Able Gance's "Napoleon".

    The score was grafted on much later but fits really well.
    That scene of the sleighs navigating the intersection is pure poetry.

    1908, cinema was becoming a creative narrative medium and works
    were being produced that really haven't lost any of their beauty to advancing technology.

    These city scenes evolved into the great cityscape features:

    Vigo - A propos de Nice
    Ruttmann - Berlin: Symphony of a Great City
    Vertov - Man with a Movie Camera

    Tremendous editing in all of them but they don't have the charm that is present in this short.


  3. I'm so glad you appreciate it, Ducky. I first encountered this during a bout with insomnia several years ago on Classic Arts Showcase, and found it touching and memorably beautiful. Finally -- after being reminded of it the other day at Farmer's Letters by footage from turn-of-the-century Berlin (possibly the Ruttman you mentioned?) -- I hunted for it on YouTube and found two versions -- this with the Borodin, which I agree suits it admirably, the other where some joker, who thought he knew better, removed the sound track and replaced it with some rather indifferent recordings of Russia Folk songs. A desecration in my opinion, event though I realize the silent film and the Borodin were "married" late in life.

    My only negative criticism of the editing is that the music is cut off abruptly in mid phrase -- another kind of desecration. It mars the beauty of he whole.

    Don't you just love the scene where the vendors are selling strings of mushrooms with fish displayed hanging from hooks?

    I agree about the beauty seen in the heavy city traffic involving horse-drawn sleighs.

    I agree also with Dame Myra Hess, who professed a hatred for machinery. How much more beautiful the world must have been before the invasion of all that NOISE and the TOXIC FUMES of Industrial Pollution took over!

    I wish I could experience the stillness of a cityscape like this portrait of pre-Revolutionary Moscow clad in snow just once!

  4. A simpler time. Contrast that with this 1906 San Francisco movie.

    1. We were more advanced in he use of motorized transportation then, but aside from that -- and the vast difference in the background music chosen by the film editor ;-) -- the two cities -- Moscow and San Francisco -- show remarkable similarities in basic character.

      My grandpa was already thirty-six years old when this film was made, and many of my relatives were born before 1900, so I have had genuine contact with the now-distant past. In fact, those city streets -- especially San Francisco -- look exactly like many of the streets I was very familiar with in New York City as a child. The major difference is in the way women dressed, and the style of automobiles. When I was very young, however, the red trolley cars still ran on tracks embedded in cobblestone streets in New York, and there were sill a few horse-drawn vehicles to be found.

      Life may have been "simpler" but it was also much harder. My grandmothers and my great aunts were each worth a least TEN of today's "liberated" women roped together. And I'm to tell you that it was these poor, downtrodden slaves to child-bearing and dull domestic duty who invariably ruled the roost. They also gave the family most of the joy and conviviality we experienced in each other's nearly-constant company.

      I often wish they were still here, so I could do a better job of thanking them for the wonderful contributions they made to my existence, but I know they'd just laugh, and say, "Nonsense, child! I only did what needed to be done."

  5. Replies
    1. And a Happy St. Bimbo's Day to you to!

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