Star of the scene

This series is devoted to episode actresses. This is no play – the women portrayed here are taken from the card index of the Lenfilm Studios, they earn money by appearing on screen. They have already reached an age when a serious career in cinema or TV is out of the question; many of them do not appear to be too successful in private life. One could expect here a certainly predetermined cliche – something like Vertinski’s “small actresses”: “and even playing maids they perform queens”… However nothing of the sort is present in these pictures, no spectacular scenery: the women are shown in the midst of everyday life, burdened by problems that have little connection to their profession. They often look very nervous. Some of them, however, attempt to “act”: recite a text or try on a dress from a theatrical wardrobe. But they are not testing for some part. It is a test for life itself – to try to live in a new way, to change the monotonous decor, “to feel the difference”… Alas, the test leads to nothing: Esipovich, representing the dressing scene, shows, with an air of penetrating sobriety, something which cannot be hidden by any drapery – veins on the legs, inevitable symptoms of aging…

And also barely perceptible features, which explain the absence of a successful career – a comical affectation of the posture, a certain lack of skill. At the same time, this series is full of warmth. In a way, it reminds me of Soviet “women” films of the seventies and eighties – “In love according to my own desire”, etc. Everything was false there, visually dull and emotionally inaccurate, – everything, except the sincere therapeutic note. The directors and the actresses did, in fact, sympathize with their heroines, oppressed with miserable Soviet existence, who finally seems to get a chance to meet their non-drinking prince. In Esipovich’s series, everything is more sober and merciless – even the flower that is reproduced in each shot every time looks silly in some new way. But hope (including the prince) is not lost: someone can and must knock at the door. The therapeutic note – Hope itself – is not manifested either visually or thematically. It rests with the feeling of patience that Esipovich demonstrates towards her sitters, with the time invested into their being. True that if it was not for the hope, then the game would have little sense…ить.

Alexander Borovsky

Head of the department of contemporary art State Russian Museum