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there is always something (why I shoot film)

There are maybe ten shots left on the roll. Outside the metro, a collection of pigeons sit on minuscule ledges above two old men. They talk as all old men do, with operatic waves of their hands, sour expressions, belly laughs, eventually scratching their chins as they stare off at nothing in particular. I am pretending to take pictures of something near them, then swing across when they are not looking to shoot a few frames. At one point I surrender to the afternoon and move on.

And now, the courtyard that leads to the film lab. A great old building rests here, a school of architecture where students mill around dressed in black sucking on cigarettes with giant portfolios tucked under their arms. A young man approaches me. I am ready to tell him I have no idea what he is saying, but he wants to know where the film lab is. I jut my chin, telling him the door is just beyond a few bushes. He nods his thanks.

There are screens set up in a jagged line, sheathed in filthy white plastic to …

Queen Lubov


It is almost three in the morning. The computer hums, chugging away. I am refining a greenscreen matte, coaxing the edge until it disappears, until the character meshes with the scene as if they are just one story.  In this episode, animated snow is falling in great drifting loops. A giant woman stands above the buildings, looking down on the city with a mysterious expression on her face. It is not the first time I have cast Sasha as an enigmatic femme fatale. She makes playing Lubov look all too easy, strutting in heels, tilting her chin up, flipping her hair.

I reach the end of the sequence, and a satisfied hush takes over the room. I sip some cold amaro, bitter and cold and syrupy. Sleep comes quickly.

The next day, there are planes flying low above the clouds. They are seeding, dumping chemicals to keep it from raining on the parades tomorrow - the 9th of May, when the Russians defeated the Nazis in the "great patriotic war". Victory day, complete with tanks and uniforms, jets shrieking overhead, music pounding, crowds waving flags, children hoisted on shoulders.

But now snow begins to fall outside the windows, and I think of the snow I watched all night in the computer, making the flakes bigger or smaller, disappearing when they got too close, slowing them down, wafting them from side to side. Here, they are real, outside the balcony and soon they are falling in great uncontrollable splotches, dark clumps flying past the kitchen as I warm up leftovers and make couscous. E is laughing, playing Christmas music and cracking jokes to her friends.

I watch the snow falling, somehow the best tv show ever. Trees green and wet are bending in the wind. The windows fog up. Drops slide past me, slow wet trickles that fall nine stories onto parked cars and those fresh stripes of paint on the road. This is Spring in Moscow, more surreal than any imagination.




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