The Village Detective: A Song Cycle

Director Bill Morrison / 2021 / USA

Bill Morrison (Dawson City: Frozen in Time, MIFF 2017) revisits lesser-known chapters of Soviet film history in this hypnotic fever dream that melds art and archive.

In the summer of 2016, an Icelandic fisherman made an unexpected catch: four reels of 35mm containing an incomplete print of a beloved Soviet-era comedy. That film from 1969, The Village Detective, starred Mikhail Zharov, a prolific actor whose career spanned 70 titles across Russia’s Soviet period. Finding his interest beyond piqued, Morrison uses this discovery – which had no intrinsic archival value, since well-preserved prints of the film are in existence – as a starting point to investigate Zharov’s life and career as well as lost and forgotten episodes of this rich national cinema.

Like all of Morrison’s film essays, The Village Detective: A Song Cycle gains much of its mesmerising impact from its score; here, Morrison collaborates with Oscar-nominated and Pulitzer Prize–winning composer David Lang (Wildlife, MIFF 2018). And with the waterlogged prints making the footage appear almost otherworldly, what results is a visually stunning insight into the tense mythologies of Soviet cinema through the remarkable filmography of one of its leading men.

“With all of the beautiful decayed visuals that we can expect from a Morrison film, The Village Detective sees his practice evolve into something that sees the celluloid he uses as an object of interest … Fantastic.” – Flip Screen

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