Russian Ark – a film review

Russian Ark is a stunning film released in 2002 and directed by Alexander Sokurov.

The film was shot is one continuous 96-minute Steadicam camera shot in the Winter Palace of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

Russian Ark is meticulous in its details, taking us on a two-kilometer trek over three centuries of Russian history.

The film is narrated by two narrators – one visible and one invisible. The invisible narrator implies he may have died and been transported here (via a time machine?) for reasons unknown to him.

The interactions between the two and their insights and observations drive the story – for example they both agree that Russians are lacking in originality but great at copying Italian style – they agree this palace is a better St. Peter’s than St. Peter’s in Rome.


The visible narrator (I will call him “the Guide”) who the camera follows, is a real eccentric and aesthete – he appears to be a 19-century French traveler who also arrived here for reasons unknown even to himself and is suddenly fluent in Russian.

This guy is funny, cultured, artistic and charming. He acknowledges a comment about his great hair but telling us that, of course – artists always have fantastic hair.

The visible narrator

The Guide has been here before, so he recognizes some of the works of art from his era, but he also needs to make sense of all the changes in the rooms and what he has been told happened up to the present time, e.g. all the Russians who died in WW II, which he finds inconceivable.
So we discover each new person and work of art through his eyes.

The Guide is sometimes, and sometimes not, seen by people pursuing various activities in the museum (setting up a banquet, viewing art, etc.)

ciega russian ark

Throughout Russian Ark, the camera and narrators guide us through the various rooms of the museum – each room contains various characters from different periods of Russian history – from Tsar Nicholas to Catherine the Great to modern-day tourists appreciating the paintings.

The cinematography and the story-boarding has been meticulously planned, each room has a distinct lens filter/hue which captures its mood.

This must have taken ages to coordinate and navigate all the aspects of making this epic: the government approvals/bureaucracy, the actors, costumes – and again this is all one one take – no edits.

The film concludes in grand Tolstoy-esque style with a luxurious and prolonged ball with lots of dancing, drink and food.

Russian Ark is much more than one continuous camera shot – perceptive commentary on the Russian soul, hundreds of actors who never strike a false note, stunning art, and thousands of period-authentic costumes.

And a compelling reason to visit The Hermitage in St. Petersburg for yourself.

Waiting for Altima

Sitting here


for Altima

30,000-mile $€£¥ tune up


you started as a bluebird/leopard chrysalis


into altimaness



TV, snacks, coffee, a showroom showdown of Altimas

The polite formal discourse of commerce

Black leather chairs

A kid singing to herself

In her own universe

Leafing through tomes on Common Wood Nymphs.

Walking down the wind tunnel street

Ducati motorcycle in the strip mall window

Dylan 63.

The singing kid is gone now

The radio plays on

Endless 60s hits

Jumpin Jack Flash

Josh: call on 009



the solar constant is

a measure of. . . .


this story

is almost


before it’s begun


those warriors went to China

came back to the samurais

boiled it for centuries


put their packs on

brought it to san francisco

minneapolis and paris

where it’s needed

or where

water flows

sat down

wind howling through tangled hand branch(es)


have you

almost forgotten this right now


finished reading


will it ever be thought

of again?

it will pop back once or twice about two weeks from now and then in 2037



what is it

don’t look for it

let it ramble up to you



where it is holds


a mirror to

where you are

buy a lifestyle

forget it?

make the most of 30 seconds

alive again

millions of

impressions bang

for the buck


sunlight strolling through the window

onto the cushion


i can feel my heart beating

a super bowl

do you wish you were still in the game?


let it



into the field

. . . flux (station to station) density


Londinium – Croft Way – a poem


Take the Finchley Road to Croft Way

Ramble through Kidderpore Avenue

Westfield – live in the seasons

full cycle

Welcome to the Garden of Eden my friends

Frognal Way, Church Row, see the leaning headstones

note your mortality

A nod to Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson on the way

Holly Walk

to the High Street

The Wells Tavern in the sun, 30 Well Walk , 1849

Post to Elm Row


Highest point
in London
Hampsead Observatory – Cooke refracting lenses
see the stars
Notable member:  Heinz ‘Great Egg Race’ Wolff

Did my ancestors get to Lower Terrace, Whitestone Pond?

in 1066 AD with Willam the Conqueror

Did they go to Hampstead Heath?

How was The Battle of Hastings?

Can you hear me DI Alex Drake?

Looking for

Elevator Up

Hampstead tube

King’s Cross


Platform 9 3/4

find The Tune


next to The Water Rats

Globe Thames audio for audience

Her Majesty’s Keys at the Tower

Parliament Hill – scan the town


silver rain was falling down upon the morphing ground of London Town

Abbey Road studio 2

The red chairs of the fabs are still used

St. John’s Wood

In ancient times . . .

London: you cost too much what happened to you?

Are you still

a conglomeration

millions of tiny neighborhoods on a medieval grid?

1003px-Baku-London_flightAre you still

a small village

a giant swarm

A hive

A nurturing or a spitting out

Did you welcome Freud to Swiss Cottage in 1938 before The Blitz?

Listen for your greats – David Jones

Blake, Turner

Sherlock Holmes

Shakespeare, Declan MacManus, Richard Thompson

Ashes to Ashes – laced with clues to your past

Are your secrets lurking in my DNA?


The internal life of San Francisco

beep beep bop let me connect you….

pine street traffic always up and up


hills and mountains and hayes street alamo square

music through the night

tascam 4-tracking the city with morale

jumping pubs of the lower haight – toronado and mad dog in the fog

golden gate havana 3am and mr robyn lunchtime concerts in the park and

the through the panhandle to green apple books we go

on a mission to peralta music with flam and lavoie

to an isreali percussion soundtrack

raves and transworld teachers, teaching russians english on russian hill

learning chinese in the kitchen

hyde street studios (there’s sandy pearlman) interning cataloging microphones and saw the masters for robyn’s eye

tai chi with sifu wong

loma prieta earthquake shake

warehouse artist oakland space

music in the air

sf state

when you said to me, i am not so old . . .

and flying kung fu films and fangs

and babes in toyland at the i-beam

jazz legend don cherry lives in my hood he’s waiting patiently next to his bike for the atm

and he played a toy trumpet in a club on divisidero

as did robyn hitchcock sing and play guitar on his birthday

van the man leading the band valiantly at the masonic auditorium

scale it down at cafe du nord

dna lounge and tom verlaine and julian cope at boz’s slim’s

and clouds and rain and fog and mist


and lion dancing chow fun chinatown.

no car and take the bus and tram no problem

now i go back try to remember some things

and reinvent others

cafes and streets and people moving through


the Warfield last waltz and new waltzes by The The and The Mats

waiting for liftoff by dreaming harder

north beach and city lights the beating heart of the city.


new memories uber the hills

and hardly strictly music and greeeeeeeen


acres of space to where i am now and

union square’s heart beats on and on and on