It is warm and somewhat humid in Washington. There is no rain. But yesterday, I went to see a 1966 Soviet film, “July Rain”, at the National Gallery.
The film is sort of the Soviet Version of French new wave cinema. That means the following: it was shot in black and white, it deals with personal relationships, it appears to be attempting to make important psychological points, and the plot is both secondary and totally unintelligible.
As best I could tell, Lena, a very stylish and attractive 27 year old living with her mother (and absent, but soon to die, father) in Moscow has a boyfriend who works for the establishment and is writing a paper on pollution of spring water, which he believes is important both for his career and for the correction of a public policy fiasco in the city. She helps him (he looks like he will mature into becoming Cary Grant), and they have a wonderful relationship, but they don’t talk about marriage (to the dismay of family and friends). They have a circle of acquaintances with whom they socialize, talking about intellectual subjects as Russians tend to do in theater and film, listening to one of the group singing songs (he was actually a well known Russian counter-culture singer, or as counter culture as you could get there), going on picnics, and being generally morose. When Lena’s father dies, her boyfriend (Volodya) disappears from her life for a while, but she is caught in a July rainstorm and Zhenya (a Russian Sir Walter Raleigh) gives her his coat to cover her head. They develop a relationship that seems more telephonic than anything else, but she runs into Volodya, and they decide to go to the beach, which they do. He then sort-of proposes, and she tells him that he is filled with good qualities, but she cannot marry him and the film ends. Sort of meaningless at all levels.
But there is a reason to see the film. And those are the scenes of Moscow. Normal scenes, rush hour, people walking the streets of downtown, restaurants, construction sites, subway stations. Makes the city look like an urban paradise. Of course, it is July. And, except for the one scene, there is no rain.