Think Reagan ended the Cold War? Or maybe Rocky IV? Perhaps they did. But Russkies certainly helped finish it off.
Russkies is a 1987 film about three boys in Florida (including Peter Billingsley and Joachin “Leaf” Phoenix) who find a stranded Russian sailor named Mischa. I was faintly aware of it during the 80s, but I never saw it. I’m not even sure I saw a trailer for it. And that’s really too bad because Russkies has all the classic elements of good 80s cinema. We have an “alien”, fish out of water character, enemies who become friends, unrequitable love (including a slow kiss while fireworks explode overhead), a bigoted opponent who comes in at just the wrong time, a daring plan to foil the powers that be, a couple of montages, wish fulfillment, and a finale in which everyone comes to understand each other. If you’ve been missing that unique feeling of glastnost and are looking for a way to get it back, you could do worse than Russkies.
I don’t know about you, but I always tend to think about the world prior World War II as being in black and white. Buildings, landscapes and clothing only came in two flavors: light and dark. That’s why it’s so stunning to come across early color photos that show a world every bit a brilliant as our own. These were shot in Czarist Russia just prior to World War I by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, who traveled the huge Russian Empire from one end to the other documenting its art, architecture, geography and people. One interesting aspect of his work is the surprising ethnic diversity of the Russian Empire of the time.
Prokudin-Gorskii used an ingenious process to capture the images in color that involved photographing his subjects three times in rapid succession through different-colored filters. They were meant to be displayed by a projector using similar filters.
The not-exactly true color images that resulted often had an amazing fairy tale quality.
You can browse Prokudin-Gorskii’s work and learn more about him and his photographic process at the Library of Congress.