Films That Came in From the Cold War

Foreign-language films (unless they’re dubbed, or crowd-pleasers like the sweet but schmaltzy Cinema Paradiso) have enormous difficulty finding distributors in this country. At best they flit by in film festivals or three-day runs in art houses. To judge by recent festivals in Toronto, Los Angeles, and Seattle, the seismic changes in Europe are going to shake the film worlds of both East and West. East European filmmakers have every reason to feel exultant not only about the growth of artistic freedom in their countries but about the possibilities for co-production and financing from the West. (They also have reason to fear being ousted from the box office by a flood of Hollywood movies, not to mention the “Hollywoodization" of their films through the influx of American capital.) Among those artists whose films have been picked up for distribution here is Russian director Pavel Lounguine, who won the award for best director at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for his first feature, Taxi Blues, a Franco-Soviet collaboration released by Marin Karmitz. This hyperactive but riveting film, about an explosively ambivalent relationship between a brutal yet vulnerable Moscow cab driver and an alcoholic, intellectual Jewish saxophonist, will undo any preconceptions about lumbering social realism in Soviet film.