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The Alexander Medvedkin Reader

Filmmaker Alexander Medvedkin (1900–89), a contemporary of Sergei Eisenstein and Alexander Dovzhenko, is celebrated today for his unique form of “total” documentary cinema, which aimed to bridge the distance between film and life, as well as for his use of satire during a period when the Soviet authorities preferred that laughter be confined to narrowly prescribed channels. This collection of selected writings by Medvedkin is the first of its kind and reveals how his work is a crucial link in the history of documentary film.

Although he was a dedicated Communist, Medvedkin’s satirical approach and social critiques ultimately led to his suppression by the Soviet regime. State institutions held back or marginalized his work, and for many years, his films were assumed to have been lost or destroyed. These texts, many assembled for this volume by Medvedkin himself, document for the first time his considerable achievements, experiments in film and theater, and attempts to develop satire as a major Soviet film genre. Through scripts, letters, autobiographical writings, and more, we see a Medvedkin supported and admired by figures like Eisenstein, Dovzhenko, and Maxim Gorky.

360 pages | 10 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2016

Cinema and Modernity

Film Studies

History: European History

Literature and Literary Criticism: Dramatic Works, Slavic Languages

Media Studies


“This is a long-awaited book on the work and life of a major figure in Soviet film history. Touchingly, The Alexander Medvedkin Reader also includes evidence about its own making: correspondence between Medvedkin and Leyda. In this sense, the book is doubly valuable as a biography and as a cultural artifact.”

Yuri Tsivian, author of Early Cinema in Russia and Its Cultural Reception

Table of Contents

Note on Transliteration
On the Front Lines of War and Revolution
1.         Cavalry Days
2.         The Kino-Train: 294 Days on Wheels
3.         Soldiers Shooting Films
4.         A Little Log (1930)
5.         Stop Thief! (1930)
6.         Fruit and Vegetables (1930)
7.         A Cock and Bull Story (1931)
8.         Hey Fool, What a Fool You Are! (1931)
9.         Tit (1932)
10.       Look What Love Did! (1932)
11.       A Crazy Locomotive (1932)
12.       “The Unholy Force” (1966)
13.       “Gogol” (1941)
Satire—a Militant Art
14.       The Elation of Fighting (ca. 1985)
15.       Satire: An Assailant’s Weapon (ca. 1966)
16.       Bronze Monuments
17.       Springboards (ca. 1985)
18. Eisenstein on Medvedkin’s Chaplinesque Genius
19. Anatoli Lunacharsky, “Film Comedy and Satire” (excerpt)
20. Nikolai Izvolov, “Alexander Medvedkin and the Traditions of Russian Film”
CVs and Addenda
21.       First “Autobiography”: A Bolshevik’s CV
22.       Second “Autobiography”: A Filmmaker’s CV
23.       Marina Goldovskaia, Interviews with Medvedkin (excerpts)
24.       The Suppression of Happiness
25.       Color Film in Happiness
Remembrance and Revival
26.       The Kino-Train Filmography (trans. Jay Leyda)
27.       Surviving Kino-Train Films
28.       Nikita Lary, “History of The Alexander Medvedkin Reader
29.       Chris Marker, “The Last Bolshevik”


American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages: AATSEEL Book Awards

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