A Documentary Marvel

Just found one of my favourite documentaries of all time online. It’s here https://vimeo.com/307839240 posted up for free by the director, Pawel Pawlikowski.

It’s a beautiful piece of work: wry, comedic, beautifully filmed and edited with a cast of characters ever more rich and strange. Broadcast in 1991 (!) with narration by Bernard Hill.

Its central comedy derives from the contrast between its impassive and slightly glum central character (who happens to be a great grandson of Fydor Dostoyevsky) as he lurches through a series of ludicrous social encounters with high falutin’ and deeply serious literary types, religious maniacs, deluded aristocrats with Tsarist ambitions and crazed White Russian monarchists. All he really wants to do is to raise enough cash to buy a secondhand Mercs. But like many masterfully told “small” stories, it tells us a lot about the decline of the Soviet Union.

It’s wonderful: watch it if you can. It’s nearly 30 years old but you won’t see camerawork with that fluidity and freedom – or editing with such brio – on any current doc. It’s quite unlike anything you’ll see on TV currently which makes me a little melancholy but there we go.