I AM CUBA (1964, Mikhail Kalatozov)
One of the most insanely long and exciting shots I’ve seen is from the beginning of I am Cuba, a lushly lyrical fever dream of a movie. (Two movies have felt like fever dreams to me, this and Coraline – how’s that for a spectrum?) This shot literally goes to unexpected places, and just seems to thematically fit in perfectly with what’s happening in the scene – like some voyeur wandering around with a handheld Bolex camera (come to think of it, the whole movie feels like that.) Made as communist propaganda in the 60’s, this film, and especially this shot, must have nonetheless played well to the Don Draper set.
Like Tarkovsky’s work, you can get lost in Kalatozov’s powerful, timeless visuals, if nothing else. I think the wide angle lens creates a dream-like, hallucinatory vibe (consistent throughout the movie) that — coupled with the amazing photography of the whole film — casts a real spell if you’re the patient type.
Check it out starting at 2:10 below. Though how gorgeous, transporting, dreamy, and Terrence Malick-y is the very opening of this clip?
Thanks to pal & filmmaker Mika Johnson for introducing me to this movie last year.