Review: ‘The Star Dreamer’

The first but, it is hoped, not last documentary on Russian sci-fi cinema pioneer Pavel Klushantsev, Danish featurette has a fascinating subject to which it only does partial justice, while providing too narrow a glimpse at his screen career. Worthwhile for clips from Klushantsev's major works. Fantasy-oriented fest and tube programmers should take note.

The first but, it is hoped, not last documentary on Russian sci-fi cinema pioneer Pavel Klushantsev, Danish featurette “The Star Dreamer” has a fascinating subject to which it only does partial justice, overselling the victim-of-Soviet-bureaucracy angle while providing too narrow a glimpse at his screen career. Still, it’s worthwhile for the clips from Klushantsev’s major works. Fantasy-oriented fest and tube programmers should take note.

Klushantsev (who died in 1999, and is seen in limited interview footage here) was a work-absorbed loner whose fear of the secret police led him to fantasize about future utopian societies — an interest apt once he moved from cameraman to helming the 1958 semi-docu “Road to the Stars.” Widely seen in the wake of Sputnik’s launch, featurette imagined successful space travel via ingenious f/x (dissected here by Pavel’s fan and correspondent Robert Skotak, the visual effects supervisor for “Terminator 2,” “Aliens” etc.). Followup feature “Planet of Storms” (1962) was also a hit. But ever-fickle USSR culture watchdogs soon put him out of favor, thwarting projects and ending his career by 1972. What’s here is interesting, but slick docu’s overview is too spotty to be fully satisfying.

The Star Dreamer

Denmark

Production

A Vesterholt Film and TV production in association with ARTE France, f for film, Bayerischer Rundfunk, AVRO Television and Dansmark Radio. Produced by Sonja Vesterholt. Executive producer, Margarita Seguy. Directed, written by Sonja Vesterholt, Mads Baastup.

Crew

Camera (color, DigiBeta), Sergey Dubrovsky; editors, Jeff McBride, Mahi Rahgozar; music, Gennadij Bantschikov. Reviewed at Mill Valley Film Festival, Oct. 6, 2003. Running time: 54 MIN.
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