Early Russian Cinema, Vol. 7: Evgeni Bauer
Directed by Evgeni Bauer
These three films by the magnificent and macabre Evgeni Bauer reveal the distinctive eroticism and dark melodrama of early Russian cinema.
A Child of the Big City (1914) traces heroine Mary's evolution from a poor, innocent seamstress to a monster of depravity and perfection. Her “rise” is paralleled by the fall of her admirer, Viktor, a gallant bourgeois who struggles to keep up with her desires. Film historian Miriam Hansen took note of this unusual variation on the melodrama genre: “Bauer’s contemporary urban and upper-class settings display male ruin and inadequacy as an effect of the real or imagined revenge of a powerful woman.”
The 1002nd Ruse (1915) once again skews from tradition in its telling of a husband's attempts to reign control of his spouse. He finds and takes advice from a book, leading to hilarious moments of faulty ruse after ruse, as his cunning wife outwits him without fail.
While these films may be considered oddball entries in his filmography, Daydreams (1915) is thought by many as Bauer’s enduring masterpiece. After a man loses his wife, he has a chance encounter with her near-identical counterpart, who turns out to be an actor at a local opera house. The tension in the plot, reminiscent of Western thrillers like Hitchcock’s Vertigo, reaches its climax in an extraordinary tracking shot unparalled for its time. Film archivist Paolo Cherchi Usai describes the film as “a masterful balance between subject technique and narrative development."