Andrei Tarkovsky made only seven feature films before his untimely death at the age of 54, but all of them are rightly considered masterworks. Over the next week, the American Cinematheque is playing five in its aptly titled “Ocean of Dreams” retrospective: the abstractly autobiographical The Mirror, which combines fragments of childhood memories and dreams with excerpts from his father's poetry; Andrei Rublev, a loose biography of the eponymous 15th-century icon painter; sci-fi benchmark Solaris, whose setting of a sentient ocean planet is one of the most symbolically rich in all of cinema; Nostalghia, the first film Tarkovsky made outside Russia; and the parable-like The Sacrifice, which he completed shortly before dying in 1986.
These works are, without exception, melancholy and deeply philosophical. They're also utterly beautiful and often enthralling, aided in no small part by Tarkovsky's unrivaled ability to focus on the here and now in a manner that suspends most filmic conventions of pacing and flow.
Questions of our place on this (or, in the case of Solaris, any other) world are constantly being pondered and, though concrete answers are scarce, catharsis is less so: Tarkovsky infused his work with a subdued hopefulness that frequently points toward something greater beyond the veil.
OCEAN OF DREAMS: THE VISIONARY CINEMA OF ANDREI TARKOVSKY | American Cinematheque at the Egyptian and Aero theaters | July 19-29 | americancinemathequecalendar.com