From the Tsars to the Stars

Film

Sputnik went up 50 years ago, effectively beginning the space age, but the Russian love for the cosmos goes back much further—all the way to sci-fi films of the silent era. This weekend retrospective series (through August 12) highlights nine features inspired by the fervent Soviet desire to dominate the galaxy, beginning with Cosmic Voyage (1936), about a maverick moon traveler who just won’t play by the rules. Later that evening (11 p.m.) is the American drive-in bastardization Battle Beyond the Sun (1963), re-cut by Francis Ford Coppola—using a pseudonym, no wonder—from the original Russian Heaven’s Call, a voyage-to-Mars flick made four years earlier in which the Reds come to the aid of some stranded American astronauts (this was the period of the Khrushchev Thaw, after all). And if you want to see the original, Heaven’s Call screens on Sunday at 7 and 9:15 p.m. Later in the series are Tarkovsky’s Solaris, Amphibian Man (about a guy who’s half shark, half man, but naturally falls for a terrestrial girl), and the extremely funny mock-doc First on the Moon, one of my favorites from SIFF ’06, which argues that, à la Capricorn One, everything you believed about space travel is a lie!

 
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