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Ville zéro (La)

Film de fiction, U.R.S.S., 1988, de Karen Chakhnazarov, en couleur, sonore.

Production : Mosfilm (Unité Start), U.R.S.S., 1988

Durée : 103 minutes.

Version originale : russe

Sous-titres : français

Résumé :

"In Zero City (1989), by Karen Shakhnazarov, dystopia is conveyed in the form of a personal nightmare.The action is supposedly set in our days, with a few flashbacks in the retro style. But the emphasis in on the search for a breakthrough into the future, which does not seem to exist. Without being solemn, the film raises the ontological question: do we still exist ?

Zero City is a good combination of a popular genre – the thriller – with cultural clichés, political kitsch, ideological satire, and Kafkaesque surrealism. An engineer from a Moscow factory, Alexei Varakin, arrives in a provincial town on business. It is early morning and the town is deserted. Straight from the railroad station he goes to the office of his destination, and here he is greeted by a stern receptionist sittng at her typewriter with businesslike  importance. A normal situation by all standards, except for one detail: the receptionist is completely naked. Neither the woman nor the young executive that brings in some papers seem to pay any attention to this fact, and before Varakin can recover from the shock he is shown into the director's office. But even the director, when 'warned' about the strange occurrence, treats it with matter-of-fact indifference.The business conversation aggravates the hallucinatory atmosphere, with the director promising to refer  Varakin's complaints to their chief engineer who, as it soon turns out, has been dead for two years. But this is only tye beginning of Varakin's unsettling adventure. The narrative unfolds in the realm of the absurd, without however progressing, and the unhappy Moscovite eventually gets enmeshed in a plot involving murder (or was it suicide?), mistaken identity, and political intrigue. As he is forced to eat a cake in the effigy of his own head and, later  perform a dance at the local Elvis Club of rock-and-roll fans, the fear of being lost in a nightmarish world mounts together with the desperate need to escape. But the are no trains from the town's station, and the only existing highway ends abruptly in a thick wood. The hero is trapped, and not only physically. He is caught in a vicious circle of events that are beyond his understanding, and yet make perfect sense to the uncanny inhabitants of Zero City. 

But what kind of city is this, after all ? The viewer becomes progressively aware that this is a city without coordinates, a zero on the world map, existing only as a visual expression of Varakin"s inchoate fear. On the other hand, Varakin's predicament is absolutely real and, what is worse, it is shared by millions of Soviet citizens. The whole country, the film suggests, may very well end up in a big, round zero.Significant in this respect is the sequence of Varakin's visit to the Historical Museum. He is taken on a tour of an exhibition that looks like something between a diorama show and a waxworks. It is a journey through Russian-Soviet history; actually, a grotesque parody of it. Events and figures are placed in phony contexts, chronology is distorted by odd juxtapositions, and cheap embellishments-cum-hyperbolic-ornaments degrade history to the level of a fairground attraction. Stalin in a white uniform, surrounded by the symbols of his empire,is now a wax mannequin in the museu, but his ghost still lives in the soul of the town's public prosecutor, nostalgic for the law and order ot the good old days. This, however, is not the most ominous manifestation of the ghost's survival. More disturbing is the fact that Stalin left behind a trail of living dead – the entire town's population is a community of puppets with dead souls. They support perestroika and hail the latest trend of openness for th simple reason that this gives them the freedom to inaugurate the first rock-and-roll club in town. Obviously, in Zero City history is dead, and so is the collective memory of the past.In the end, the hero is left floating in a  small rowboat in the middle of a lake, shrouded in a thick fog. Because where there is no past there cannot be any future" [Tirée de : Anna LAWTON, Kinoglasnost. Soviet Cinema in our Time, Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 1992, 288 p. (p. 221-223), cette analyse semble être la plus pertinente sur ce film majeur de l'époque de la perestroïka].

Orientations bibliographiques :

Voir une section de l'émission "Kinopanorama" du 25/02/89 consacrée à ce film ; P. ČERNJAEV, "Gorod Zero", Sovetskij Êkran, n° 22, 1988, p. 12-13 ; A. ŠEMJAKIN, "Po tu storonu sdravogo smysla", Sovetskij Êkran, n° 16, 1989, p. 14-15 ;  B. BERMAN, "Zero City", Soviet Film, n° 5, 1989, p. 22-24 ; Martine GODET, " Le cinéma soviétique à l’heure de la perestroïka ", Vingtième siècle, n° 29, janvier-mars 1991, p. 85-89 ;  Peter SHEPOTINNIK, “With Perestroika, without Tarkovsky", in The Red Screen. Politics, Society, Art in Soviet Cinema, Anna Lawton éd., Londres-New York, Routledge, 1992, p. 331-339 ; Anna LAWTON, Kinoglasnost. Soviet Cinema in our Time, Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 1992, 288 p. (p. 221-223) ; Martine GODET, "Les paradoxes de la crise du cinéma ", L’État des nations de l’ancienne URSS, Paris, La Découverte, 1993, p. 417-418 ; Marcel MARTIN, Le cinéma soviétique de Khrouchtchev à Gorbatchev, Paris, L'Age d'Homme, 1993, 223 p. ; Svetlana BOYM, "Kitsch et nostalgies dans le cinéma post-soviétique", in K. Feigelson (dir.), Caméra politique. Cinéma et  stalinisme, P, Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2005, p. 137-148.

Sur le rock, qui est au cœur de l'intrigue : sur le rock : Ku_nir, Aleksandr, 1999 Сто магнитоальбомов советского рока. 1977-1991: 15 лет подпольной звукозаписи [100 albums magnéto du rock soviétique. 1977-1991 : 15 ans d’enregistrement clandestin], Moscou, Lean, Agraf. Publication Internet: http://www.rockanet.ru/100/index.phtml ; Smirnov, Il’ič, 1994, Время колокольчиков. Жизнь и смерть русского рока [Le temps des grelots : vie et mort du rock russe]. Moscou, INTO. Publication Internet : http://lib.ru/CULTURE/MUSIC/SMIRNOW/kolokolchiki.txt
_itinskij, Aleksandr. 1990. Путешествие рок-дилетанта [Voyage d'un rock-dilettante]. Leningrad, Lenizdat.
Cushman, Thomas. 1995. Notes from Underground: Rock Music Counterculture in Russia. New York, Albany.
Easton, Paul. 1989. « The Rock Music Community », dans Soviet Youth Culture. Ed. by Jim Riordan, Macmillan Press, p. 45-82.
Ramet, Sabrina Petra, Sergue_ Zamascikov, Robert Bird. 1994. “The Soviet Rock Scene”, dans : Rocking the State. Rock music and Politics in Eastern Europe and Russia. Ed. By Sabrina Petra Ramet. Westview Press, Boulder/St. Francisco/Oxford. 317 p.
Steinholt, Yngvar. 2005. Rock in the Reservation. Songs from the Leningrad Rock Club, 1981-1986. New York and Bergen, Mass Media Music Scholars’ Press.

Anna Zaytseva, "La légitimité du rock en URSS dans les années 1970-1980 : acteurs, logiques, institutions", Cahiers du Monde russe, 49/4, octobre-décembre 2008, p. 651-680 ;

Notice créée le 23 Avril 2007. Dernière modification le 18 Juin 2012.

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