One of the highlights of the Locarno Soviet retrospective, Marlen Khutsiev’s “July Rain” has lost none of its radical modernity. Often described as the Soviet version of an Antonioni film, pic follows 28-year-old Lena (Evgeniya Uralova, who bears a vague resemblance to Monica Vitti) through a kind of existential crisis, as she realizes her relationship with perfect boyfriend Volodya (Aleksandr Belyavsky) is empty and their friends are superficial fools.
The film captures a moment in time when Soviet life was radically changing, when the joyful camaraderie was turning into modern solitude and emptiness. The images, lensed by German Lavrov in striking B&W, often contrast with the soundtrack, as in the long opening dolly through the streets of Moscow to the accompaniment of radio music.
Made shortly before the Soviet invasion of Prague in 1968, it is in many ways a prophetic work forecasting the end of the dream of collectivism. This is in notable contrast to Khutsiev’s previous film, “I Am Twenty,” which propounded socialism with a human face.
“Twenty” was violently attacked by Khrushchev, but won a prize at Venice in a cut version. “July Rain” was also invited to Venice, but the authorities refused to send it. It received a very limited release.