L.A., A SERIES OF
Having become an exporter of Russian culture, former rock star Stas Namin is sponsoring a showcase of his homeland's cinema.
By HENRY TURNER
Special to The Times
Stas Namin is something of a Russian phenomenon — businessman, filmmaker, music and television producer, photographer — and those are just his sidelines. In the '70s and '80s, he was one of 's biggest rock stars; his group Flowers sold 60 million records.
Branded a dissident by Soviet authorities, he was forbidden to leave until perestroika. Later he toured the world, playing with Frank Zappa, Bon Jovi and Kenny Loggins, and collaborating on an album with Keith Richards. In his latest incarnation, he's become an impresario-exporter of Russian culture, and in that role he's sponsoring a major exhibition of Russian film in
Los Angeles. The L.A. Exhibition of Russian Cinema starts today and runs through April 24 at the ArcLight Cinemas. Co-sponsored by the Russian Ministry of Culture, the American Film Institute, Seven Arts Productions and Paramount Classics, the festival showcases classics by Sergei Eisenstein and others as well as works by lesser-known directors. Namin is a sturdy man with a salt and-pepper beard, his hair tied in a ponytail. His lineage reads like a checklist for a comrade to the manner born. His great-uncle designed the MIG fighter plane; his paternal grandfather was a top politico from 1923 to 1976; his father and uncles were air force pilots. But Namin came under the influence of the hippie movement as it bled from the into in the late "60s. He took up guitar. "I didn't get into rock 'n' roll to rebel against my background," he says. "I wanted a free lifestyle."
He still records (his recent CD, "Kama Sutra," is a soulful thrash of his blues-metal style) and performs at odd moments. "Richard Gere visited me in
Moscow. We went to a club, and everybody was telling me to play, so I got up and jammed for a while." But his present focus is his Moscow-based
Center, the main conduit for the Russian State Archive, containing a century's worth of priceless works of art, cinema and music.
Popularizing Russian cinema is Namin's priority. "Americans are somewhat familiar with Russian music, painting and writing. But fewer know Russian cinema. My idea is to bring to
Hollywood what I call the Russian Hermitage of films."
The Exhibition of Russian Cinema's opening-night gala features the premiere of Andrei Konchalovsky's "House of Fools." Also on view will be a gallery of Eisenstein's exquisite drawings, production stills of directors at work, and vintage movie posters. Directors Peter Bogdanovich and William Friedkin, among other celebrities, are scheduled to present films.
Namin says that Russian cinema reached its pinnacle under communism. "When life is difficult, art is revolutionary. But now, with freedom, we don't have directors comparable to Eisenstein and [Andrei] Tarkovsky."
Tarkovsky's. "Andrei Rublev" will be presented in its original form, with 20 minutes of additional footage. "We're also bringing "The Mirror.' This is a very deep film, subjective and personal to Tarkovsky's life," Namin says. Namin is particularly enthusiastic about director Sergei Parajanov. Breaking from tradition, he created a style called "film paintings." "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors" is a visually innovative riot of colors and images inspired by Carpathian folklore. "The Legend of Suram Fortress" uses a complex structure and expression-istic decor to tell a tale of ancient Georgian warriors. Among the films rarely seen by American audiences is "Menage a Trois," inspired by the lives of Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and his lover Lilya Brik. "He was in love with Lilya Brik, who was married, and they lived — Mayakovsky, Brik and her husband, Osip—in one apartment for many years during Stalin's time."
The festival also features favorites of Russian audiences, such as the wartime romances "Ballad of Soldiers" and "The Cranes Are Flying," both Palme d'Or winners at the Cannes Film Festival, and "Diamond Arm," a farce about two goofballs stumbling around
Moscow in search of a cache of jewels. "It's full of second meanings to the jokes," Namin explains. Namin plans for the festival to travel. "We have an offer from the Guggenheim. The festival will tour major cities, and then
Europe and ." Along with the series at the Arc-Light, Namin is bringing a special Young Filmmakers Forum to the
School. "These are five works by new filmmakers in , all of them very young and fashionable. Who knows? Maybe there will be a Tarkovsky among them."
Top Russian rock acts will perform on opening night. Will Namin join them? "If I get drunk enough, 111 play!"