FILM / The Last Detail

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The Independent Culture
FIRST a belated rave - for a masterpiece which, though it opened here less than a month ago, has already disappeared from circulation. I refer to Vitali Kanevski's Don't Move, Die and Rise Again - a sulphurous account of two adolescents scratching a hellish existence from the rubble of post-war Russia - that was all but ignored by this country's critics. Every opinion is subjective, to be sure, and mine may be wrong, but the film made an enormous impact at the 1990 Cannes Festival and subsequently throughout Europe. I can only trust that in Britain its hour will come. This time around, it died, it didn't move - perhaps it will rise again.

At any rate, the 'detail' which concerns me here is that it was shot in black-and- white. There is no longer anything very novel about black-and-white photography in the cinema (which seems a perversely anachronistic way of putting it), and it can lay claim to as many shades and ideologies as colour. It may be nostalgic in origin (Broadway Danny Rose), poetic (Rumble Fish), cinephilic (The Wings of Desire) or pseudo-archival (Zelig). It may represent, on a director's part, the itch to make an instantaneously 'old movie' (as with Scorsese's Raging Bull) or else an ersatz 'foreign film' (as with Tom Kalin's Swoon). Or it may embody a chic ideal of Post-Modern flash and flair (as in all those current black- and-white TV commercials).

Yet authentic black-and- white photography is, alas, a lost art, and in almost every B-movie of the Thirties or Forties there can be found a warmth and subtlety of tonal values far in advance of anything achievable today.

Which is why the grainy, sandpapery, rigorously unstylish black-and-white of Don't Move, Die and Rise Again is such a revelation. Made under gruelling conditions even as the Soviet Union was coming apart at the seams, the film simply had no choice in the matter: it had to be shot in black- and-white. And such is its integrity, such is its sheer contrariness, it makes one believe, uniquely in the contemporary cinema, that colour photography has not yet been invented.

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