Magazine article The New Yorker

Boxing Day

Magazine article The New Yorker

Boxing Day

Article excerpt

Late 2009 saw the release of some exceptional DVD boxed sets that deserve mention before the arrival of the new year's crop.

The Soviet director and actor Boris Barnet's warmhearted, clear-eyed comic sensibility is showcased in the 1926 serial "Miss Mend" (Flicker Alley), which he co-directed with Fedor Ozep. Responding to the popularity of American movies in the early Bolshevik era, Barnet and Ozep adapted a 1923 faux-American novel written in Russia and turned its agitprop setup into what is surely one of the earliest movie-referential movies. The story concerns a typist in a cork factory, a single mother, who becomes class-conscious upon seeing the police brutally repress a strike. Meanwhile, three antic journalists (including Barnet) who are sent to cover the strike befriend the heroine, who is rescued from danger by none other than the heir to the firm. When the diabolical Chiche, the head of a vast capitalist conspiracy, plots colossal acts of anti-Soviet terrorism, the cast of characters heads to Leningrad to stop him. The wild complications are set off by references to everything from the Keystone Kops and German Expressionist masterworks to Eisenstein's "Potemkin"; with their whiz-bang gags and over-the-top reversals, Barnet and Ozep send up genre conventions even as they honor them.

Jonathan Nossiter's ten-part documentary series "Mondovino" (Kino), from 2004, treats the world of winemaking as an exemplary battleground in the conflict between globalization and local tradition. …

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