The Scarlet Sail of Paris
(Alyi parus Parizha)

Directed by Marlen Khutsiev.
France, 1971, DCP, color, 81 min.
Russian with English subtitles.

Khutsiev's first foray into non-fiction, a made-for-TV documentary commemorating the 100th anniversary of The Paris Commune, has been all but relegated to obscurity—perhaps not even screened once in the last twenty years. Something of an oddity in the director's body of work, The Scarlet Sail still addresses his major thematic preoccupations as it contemplates the present through the prism of the past, and relives, quite viscerally, the tragedy of WWII, peering intently into the faces of young people. In climbing up Monmartre, the "hill of fighters and heroes" that birthed the Commune, to meet such famed French communists as Jacques Duclos, Georges Soria and Auguste Gillot, the film functions, simultaneously, as historical essay, alternative city guide, and, at least partially, exercise in propaganda. What I find most riveting is Khutsiev's view of Paris, his inquisitive and unabashedly admiring gaze that remains, in essence, bookish and eager for utopian vision. Never before has the French capital looked so much like the capital of socialism.

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