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Russian Jewish Cinema Program: Room and a Half

The memoirs of anyone living in the USSR from the 1940s to the 1970s would make for fascinating viewing, but when the reminiscences are Joseph Brodsky’s, the result takes on a trenchant lyricism, careening from the jubilantly triumphant to the profoundly melancholic. Using the Nobel Prize-winning poet’s biography as starting point, famed Russian animator Andrey Khrzhanovsky offers a richly imagined blend of fiction and fact, dazzlingly assembled from an array of animated, archival and dramatic images. Reveling equally in Brodsky’s poetry and life, the story winds from recounting a charmed youth despite material challenges—like comically cramped quarters shared with doting parents—to imagining Brodsky’s proposed anonymous return from exile in 1972. Khrzhanovsky’s surrealistic overlaying of Brodsky’s trial transcript with images of anthropomorphized animals, an airborne marching orchestra and Russian soldiers gleefully destroying Culture is defiantly fitting: Brodsky was always as much icon as man, and the tender-hearted egoist would have wanted nothing less.

*Room and a Half is in Russian with English subtitles

Directed by Andrey Khrzhanovsky
(130min, Russia, 2009)

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