Jolly Cinema > 18:40


Aleksandra Chochlova
Piano accompaniment by

Antonio Coppola

The name of Alexandra Khokhlova (1897-1985) has been associated with that of Lev Kuleshov since their meeting in 1919. According to the title of their dual biography, their work together spans “50 years of cinema” (50 let v kino, Iskusstvo, Moscow 1975). Granddaughter of Pavel Tretyakov, founder of the gallery that bears his name, Khokhlova was part of artistic circles since early childhood, became an actress in 1916, and shared Kuleshov’s career with only one interruption. Since the essays by Eisenstein and Viktor Shklovsky, which were largely dedicated to her fundamental originality as an actress, little attention has been devoted to the rest of her work, and her brief career as a film director from 1929 to 1931 has been ignored. After the failure of Zhurnalistka (The Journalist), a film that Kuleshov built around a modern woman character (named after her), Khokhlova’s appearance on screen was tacitly but strictly forbidden. The official reason was that she was “ugly and skinny”. “For the second year in a row, Khokhlova is out of work. And for a second year Kuleshov is not filming”, her admirer Eisenstein objected. “The idea of a woman-master, of an artist equal in rights, is not given recognition” (Kak ni stranno – o Khokhlovoi, “Kino”, 30 March 1926, then However Odd – Khokhlova!, in Selected Works: Writings, 1922-1934, vol. 1, Tauris, London- New York 2010). Shklovsky suggested to Khokhlova that she should direct Delo s zastezhkami. After that she was offered Sasha, based on an original screenplay, which she would film in Leningrad. “At the time,” she wrote in her autobiography, “a woman film director was a rare thing, so the union asked me if I would like the whole crew (assistants, coworkers) of Sasha to be women. I had to answer that I wasn’t particularly delighted to have men on my team, but it all depended on which men and women, and that I only experienced social difference in regards to men once a year, on 8 March, and that other days I let both men and women work with equal rights”. After the documentary Igrushki (Toys), considered lost today, she went back to Kuleshov. She was an assistant on Gorizont (Horizon), and actress and assistant on Velikiy uteshitel (The Great Consoler). She stayed with him for the rest of his life, working as a ‘second director’ or ‘co-director’ in his last fiction films (from 1940 to 1944), and like him she returned to teaching. After Kuleshov’s death in 1970 she took care of the publication of his works.

Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz 


Tuesday 25/08/2020


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

It was Shklovsky who gave Khokhlova the idea of a programme composed of newsreels about Gorky’s return to Moscow and three adaptations of his short stories. Only one of them was made, Delo s zastezhkami, a religious satire published in 1896 with four characters: three hoboes and an old bigot. The writer approved of Khokhlova’s script. It was a difficult shoot, mainly using exteriors, and “marked by the search for the autumn sun” (Khokhlova, 50 let v kino). She applied Kuleshov’s preparatory methods. “When I delivered the film, one of the executives asked me where I found real tramps for the film”, said Khokhlova. “I had to admit that one of the tramps was Kuleshov’s very active actor and production designer Galadzhev and the other two were students at the GTK” (the Moscow Film School that later became VGIK). She put them opposite an experienced stage actress who played the role of the bigot. According to Ana Olenina (Aleksandra Khokhlova, Women Film Pioneers Project, Columbia University, New York 2014): “Kuleshov’s lessons in analytical editing and the rhetorical power of montage is there in a scene that creates an ironic perspective on the matron: multiple shots of her zealously kissing relics in church, are intercut with images of tired workers waiting outside. A sarcastic title card comments ‘The lady is accumulating sanctitude.’ In another scene, Khokhlova’s montage juxtaposes an angry conversation between the matron and her workers with shots of a boiling pot of jam, the steaming liquid becoming a metaphor for escalating tension, as a boiling kettle works in Po zakonu (By the Law)”.

Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz

Cast and Credits

[An Affair of the Clasps]. Sog.: dal racconto omonimo di Maksim Gor’kij. Scen.: Aleksandra Chochlova. F.: Michail Vladimirskij. Scgf.: Arnold Vajsfel’d. Int.: Galina Ivanovskaja (la vecchia), A. Bavrin (Miška, barbone), Pëtr Galadžev (Sen’ka, barbone). Prod.: Sovkino Moskva. DCP. Bn.


Film Notes

A simple story set in the years when country dwellers were pouring into the city, with a hint of a crime film. Sasha, a young peasant woman, arrives in town pregnant. One police officer takes her under his protection, but another denounces her as the wife of a detainee accused of having murdered the village teacher. The film’s ending is lost but easy to assume: a flashback shows that the husband is innocent and reveals the real killer. The film was made at Belgoskino, a small studio in Leningrad. “To study the militia’s character and its mechanisms”, Khokhlova spent time in a police station, observing arrest procedures, witnessing a prisoner having a seizure, from which she drew inspiration for a memorable episode with Liudmila Semionova (Chertogo koleso/The Devil’s Wheel, Tretya meshchanskaya/Bed and Sofa). It seems that the heroine comes out of her inertia in this moment of female solidarity, as she does when she befriends the police officer’s wife. In her memoirs, Khokhlova seems to be mainly concerned with her actors. She had studied with Stanislavski and his creative principles seem to oppose the expressive acting style developed by Kuleshov (decomposition and mechanisation of gestures and movements), of which she had been the most notable practitioner: “I was above all trying to make people look real, not like actors. So I was pleased when they thought that my leading actress was a cleaning lady, and they asked me why was I taking her with me, when she was an actual actress who had studied at the GTK”. On the other hand, the editing style is Kuleshov’s, and the cast combines members of the collective – Andrei Fayt, Galadzhev – and actors from different backgrounds.

Irène Bonnaud and Bernard Eisenschitz          

Cast and Credits

Scen.: Oleg Leonidov, Lev Kulešov, Aleksandra Chochlova. F.: Naum Naumov- Straž. Scgf.: V. Pokrovskij. Int.: Marija Sapožnikova (Saša), P. Il’in (Kotov, suo marito), Andrej Fajt (Pepel’nik), Pëtr Galadžev (Ivan Semënovič), Daniil Vvedenskij (Smirenin), Ljudmila Semënova (donna arrestata), Leonid Kmit. Prod.: Belgoskino Leningrad. 35mm. Bn.