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Title: Aesthetics, innovation, and the politics of film-production at Lenfil'm, 1961-1991
Author: Graham, Alexander William
ISNI:       0000 0004 9352 7230
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis examines the relationship between Lenfil ́m film-studio and the Soviet Party-state apparatus in the context of successive reformist projects and shifting repertory strategies pursued by filmmakers and executives. Drawing upon archival records, cinema-historical scholarship, professional testimonies, and feature-films, it demonstrates a studio-specific approach to the institutional relations that shaped late-Soviet cinema as an artistic process, an industry, and a political sphere. In 1961, significant reorganizations of production at Lenfil ́m assured an unprecedented devolution of executive responsibilities – commissioning, development, shoot-supervision – to new, cineaste-led production-units. These artistic cohorts were afforded sufficient license to shape their professional profiles around distinctive repertory policies, which reflected the artistic interests of their filmmakers, but were also compelled to adapt these proposals to the thematic categories fixed by late-Soviet cinema’s central administrative structures. This thesis asks how Lenfil ́m cineastes negotiated ideological screening and pursued aesthetical innovation in filmmaking, towards which the administrative system was consistently suspicious or outright hostile. It then considers how the studio’s repertory profile changed in response to resurgent official orthodoxies in the 1970s, only to incorporate renewed privileging of art-cinema into this response by the end of that decade. In the 1980s, with perestroika, attempts at democratization and market-focused reform found these production-units to be the irreducible professional nuclei of late-Soviet cinema. Their structures, artistic identities, and decision-making prerogatives persisted beyond all practicality of adherence to an inflexible administrative system and a collapsing film-distribution network. Through production-histories, analysis of Communist Party policies, and detailed examinations of the reforms that modified studio-structures, this thesis argues that the final three decades of the USSR saw filmmakers and studio-level administrators develop heterogenous repertory innovations, despite the crudeness of official ideological oversight. Lenfil ́m became the bastion of late-Soviet auteurism within an industrial system that ought, by its own measure, to have precluded this possibility.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available