Catriona Kelly (University of Oxford)
Catriona Kelly is Professor of Russian at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of New College. She has published many books and articles on Russian history and culture, including St. Petersburg: Shadows of the Past (Yale University Press, 2014), which was shortlisted for the Pushkin Russian Book Prize. She is currently completing Soviet Art House, a study of the Lenfilm studio from the early 1960s to the 1980s.
Soviet cinema is universally regarded as one of the world’s great film traditions, but it is mainly the movies from the 1920s and the 1930s that are familiar to Western audiences. By and large, too, we know film history in terms of famous directors (from Eisenstein to Tarkovsky), but have little awareness of the studio culture that shaped film production. Catriona Kelly’s lecture, based on extensive work with Soviet archives and oral history, uses the history of one of the USSR’s most important studios, Lenfilm in Leningrad, to explore how studios as well as film artists had their own ‘handwriting’. Rather than simply making up a further line of bureaucratic obstruction, they provided film artists with material and psychological support, and were highly individual and in some respects successful working environments for a variety of artists, including set painters and costume designers as well as the famous names at the top of the credits. The lecture gives particular attention to the ways in which Lenfil’m nurtured (while also sometimes coercing and even bullying) young filmmakers in the Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras, a period at which the radical expansion of the film industry led to a mass recruitment drive and brought in new generations of young people whose views and ambitions were often very different from those of the established ‘masters’ who had dominated movie production in the Stalin era.