the cremator (juraj herz, 1969)
geezer cinema/film fatales #158/african-american directors series: bessie (dee rees, 2015)

film fatales #157: wings (larisa shepitko, 1966)

Larisa Shepitko studied under Dovzhenko at a film institute in Moscow, where she completed her first feature film. Wings was her first film after finishing at the institute. It shows a confident command of the medium. She was 28 at the time. She only completed a few other features, most notably The Ascent, before dying in a car crash at the age of 41. She still goes more unrecognized than she deserves. I have her at #9 on my Women's Directors Top 25 list.

Wings is the story of a World War II Soviet fighter pilot named Nadezhda Petrukhina, who has become a school principal. She is good at her job, but her thoughts often turn back to the time she spent flying, and she is dissatisfied when she compares her previous life to her current one. Nadezhda is played by Maya Bulgakova, who does a remarkable job of presenting an accomplished woman who mostly keeps her dissatisfaction to herself. The contrast between the drab institutional surroundings at her job and the airy, high-flying images of her time as a pilot, emphasizes what Nadezhda has lost. That her memories include the death of her lover, a fellow pilot, cast a darkness on those memories, doesn't erase the freedom those images of being in the air represents. (The cinematographer was Igor Slabnevich.)

This is a quiet film that doesn't overstay its welcome (coming in at 85 minutes). The Ascent may be her masterpiece, but Wings is an important picture in its own right.


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