Andrei Tarkovsky’s Voyage in Time: A Portrait of the Filmmaker in Exile

By 1982 Andrei Tarkovsky's battles with Soviet censors had reached the point where he could no longer work in his native country. This rarely seen documentary shows the great Russian filmmaker treading unfamiliar ground as he travels across southern Italy in search of locations for his first film in exile, Nostalghia.

Voyage in Time (Tiempo di Viaggio) is less about the Italian countryside than Tarkovsky's inner landscape, as he struggles to express his views on filmmaking and art to Tonino Guerra, his co-writer on Nostalghia. Guerra, who died earlier this year, was a legendary Italian screenwriter. He collaborated with Michelangelo Antonioni on many of his greatest films, including L'Avventura, La Notte, and Blow-Up, and with Federico Fellini on several of his later films, including Amarcord. The 63-minute film was produced for Italian television and completed in 1983, the same year as Nostalghia, with Tarkovsky and Guerra sharing the directing credit. Voyage in Time has been added to our collection of Free Tarkovsky Films Online.

Note: If you don't automatically see subtitles, click CC at the bottom of the YouTube window.

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Wim Wenders Creates Ads to Sell Beer (Stella Artois), Pasta (Barilla), and More Beer (Carling)

Few would call Wim Wenders, the auteur behind Paris, TexasWings of Desire, The Buena Vista Social Club, and last year's documentary Pina, a "commercial" director. Yet he has, now and again, put in time as a director of commercials — advertisements, that is, for beer, food, and cameras. His personal hymn to Leica's craftsmanship aside ("As a boy," he narrates, "I looked at my father's Leica like a sacred object"), these spots don't immediately betray the identity of the man at the helm. Even if you've seen many of Wenders' feature films, you might not guess that he made these commercials if you just happened upon them; you would, though, feel their difference in sensibility from the ads surrounding them. The Stella Artois clip above includes several attention-drawing television tropes like a picturesque European coast, fast cars and motorcycles, vintage musical instruments, alcohol, and femininity, but it approaches them in a nonstandard way — one that, consequentially, actually stands a chance of drawing your attention.

"There's a certain amount of objects that men like a lot," says Wenders in a short documentary on the making of the commercial, "and they like them so much that they give them their girlfriends' names." We see first a motorcycle named Sophie, then a convertible named Victoria, then a guitar named Valerie, then a beer — Stella. We never see any actual women, or, for that matter, any men; just places and things. Wenders imbues the sequence with humanity through the camera's gaze, and the behind-the-scenes footage shows it as no easy task, requiring take after precisely lit take shot with cameras mounted on elaborate mechanical arms that look more expensive than the treasured objects themselves. (It also requires the director to issue instructions in no fewer than three languages, though I understand that as business as usual on a Wenders set.) For an entirely different perspective on beer, watch his spot for Carling that involves bicycling over a waterfall. For a more epic take on the relationship between mankind and machinery, watch what he put together for food conglomerate Barilla's 125th anniversary.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

The Strawberry Fields Forever Demos: The Making of a Beatles Classic (1966)

In 1966, John Lennon found himself in Almería, Spain working on Richard Lester's film, How I Won the War. Between shots, he began writing Strawberry Fields Forever, a song Lennon later called "psychoanalysis set to music" and "one of the few true songs I ever wrote." Although the song became one of the Beatles' most refined and intricate recordings, it started off simply, with Lennon trying out lyrics and chords on his acoustic guitar, then recording solo demos upon his return to England. Listen above.

Once the Beatles started recording the song in November, 1966, the band spent at least 45 hours, spaced over a month, working through new versions. Around and around they went, tweaking, polishing, recording new takes, trying to get it right. Eventually the song, as we know it, came together when George Martin, the Beatles' producer, pulled off the "Big Edit," a technological feat that involved speeding up one recording and slowing down another and fusing them into the song we know today. (Amazingly, the two tracks were recorded in different keys and tempos.) Strawberry Fields Forever was released as a double A-side single in February 1967 along with Penny Lane, and it was accompanied by a promotional film, a precursor to music videos we know and love today. You can watch it below.

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Leni Riefenstahl Captures Jesse Owens Dashing Nazi Dreams at the 1936 Olympics

Jesse Owens, the son of a sharecropper and grandson of slaves, went to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and upset Hitler's visions of Aryan supremacy. He did it not once, but four times, winning gold medals in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, the long jump and the 4 x 100 meter relay. The first race was captured by the German filmmaker/propagandist Leni Riefenstahl in her famous film documenting the 1936 Games, Olympia. It's all queued up above and ready to go.

Now the cruel footnote to this story: after his four victories, Owens returned to the U.S. and immediately confronted the cold racist attitudes of his countrymen. There was no pause, no reprieve, even for an Olympic gold medalist. Later, he recalled:

When I came back to my native country, after all the stories about Hitler, I couldn't ride in the front of the bus. I had to go to the back door. I couldn't live where I wanted. I wasn't invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn't invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either.

New York City did hold a ticker-tape parade in his honor. But when he attended a reception at the Waldorf-Astoria, he was forced to ride the freight elevator. And he didn't make it to the White House until Eisenhower named him an "Ambassador of Sports" in 1955. FDR and Truman never bothered to extend an invitation to the Olympic hero. Stephen elaborates on all of this below:

Celebrate Harry Potter’s Birthday with Song. Daniel Radcliffe Sings Tom Lehrer’s Tune, The Elements.

Some child actors are unendearing, snarky types (think Selena Gomez or a young Dakota Fanning). Others, you root for because even if they're cloying they seem real (Haley Joel Osment comes to mind).

Daniel Radcliffe, who was most certainly a child when he was cast as Harry Potter at 11, may fall more into the second camp. He’s as hapless and earnest as Harry, and it turns out that he’s endearingly nerdier in real life than Harry himself could ever be.

Radcliffe, who celebrated his 23rd birthday this week, sealed his fate as a bit of an anorak when he appeared on the BBC’s Graham Norton Show and nervously sang Tom Lehrer’s song The Elements.

Maybe Radcliffe’s best subject at Hogwarts would have been potions. On television he admits to being a little nervous before launching into the homage to Lehrer, explaining that he’d stayed up all night trying to memorize the song. One of Lehrer’s classics, it actually sets the periodic table of elements to music. In the best versions, Lehrer accompanies himself on piano while reciting all of the chemical elements known at the time of writing (1959) to the tune of a Gilbert and Sullivan melody.

Harry Potter’s birthday is next week (July 31), the same day author J.K. Rowling celebrates hers. Perhaps Potter fans could cook up a birthday celebration for Potter involving a song about lawrencium, which was added to the periodic table two years after Lehrer wrote his song. As he cleverly noted himself at the end of the tune,

These are the only ones of which the news has come to Ha'vard,

And there may be many others, but they haven't been discavard

Good stuff. Worthy of the boy who survived.

Kate Rix is an Oakland-based freelance writer. See more of her work at katerixwriter.com.

Conan O’Brien Writes Chicago Blues Songs With School Kids

Here's a little something to end your week with a smile: Conan O'Brien improvising the blues with a group of first graders. The segment was taped in Chicago--home of the electric blues--during the Conan show's one-week stand there last month. O'Brien and his bandleader, Jimmy Vivino, brought their guitars to the Frances Xavier Warde elementary school on the city's Near West Side to investigate what a group of six- and seven-year-olds might be blue about. The result is the sad, sad, "No Chocolate Blues."

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Alexander Hamilton: Hip-Hop Hero at the White House Poetry Evening

Recently we brought you the story of the Alexander Hamilton-Aaron Burr duel, as told in a drunken stupor by Mark Gagliardi and starring Zombieland's Michael Cera as Hamilton. Now we have another unusual narrator of the life of America's first Treasury Secretary. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tony award-winning writer and star of the Broadway musical In the Heights, composed “The Hamilton Mixtape,” a song detailing the founding father’s rise from humble beginnings as (in the words of John Adams) “the bastard brat of a Scottish peddler,” to the upper echelons of the American Revolutionary government. Born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, Hamilton’s story is as bootstrap as they come, and Miranda took his version all the way to the top. In the video above, he performs “The Hamilton Mixtape” for Barack and Michelle Obama at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word, held on May 12, 2009.

To learn more about Alexander Hamilton, visit AllThingHamilton.com.

And check out Miranda's lyrics below the jump. (more…)

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