The Ubuweb Experimental Video Project: 19. Igor and Gleb Aleinikov's I'm Cold, So What? (1987)
I should've known I'd run into a language barrier at some point. A great many films on Ubuweb hail from out of the Anglosphere -- just have a look at the artist index, all Holmqvists, Wojnarowiczes, Richters, Terayamas and Duchamps -- and most seem to have English subtitles, but sometimes, especially in the budgets of the experimental, there just ain't the resources for that. The Aleinikov brothers' I'm Cold, So What? would seem to be an example: it's shot in 8mm, it's got no sync sound and its titles are hand-drawn. Whaddaya want?
Though I can't claim to have missed nothing by my inability to read or understand anything spoken or written in the film, my enjoyment remains. The piece presents a series of bizarre tableaux, many involving cinematic voyeurism, blurring of the living-dead borderline and a healthy amount of stabbing, of oneself and of others. A catatonic fellow gets costumed as a ghoul; a literal tree-hugger, ecstatic in his arboreal embrace, gets stabbed; a bespectacled fellow with a Bolex-y camera goes around documenting it all.
The soundtrack begins as a monologue by one male Russian-speaking voice and becomes a dialogue when a female's, also, unfortunately, talkin' Russian, enters the mix. As far as actual linguistic comprehension, I've got pretty much nothin'. I know that nyet means no, and the man says it to the woman every so often, as if to cut down her erroneous conjectures. Several times, the man says a word that sounds like a cognate for "cinematography." The pair's tones and cadences suggest the man is explaining something complicated and the woman, not fully understanding, is popping in with questions and propositions. Can any Russian-speakers verify this?
Words aside, I found myself surprised by the goofy humor on display in the visuals. More than once, I thought of student videos I've watched from the past 20, 25 years. Then I realized something: this pretty much is a student video from 25 years ago! 23, anyway. The muddy black-and-white image and stern voices laid over it make the film feel as if it's much older than it really is. In reality, these are teens and/or twentysomethings from the 80s dicking around, shooting film, having fun and composing strange, striking imagery. It's foreign, sure, but not in every way it seems to be.