Nadia is perfect. Nadia is perfect. Nadia is perfect. Nadia never cries and never falls. Nadia is a covergirl. Nadia is a Hero of Socialist Labor. Nadia is very dangerous to her enemies. [more inside]
Most of us reading on the blue lived through at least a portion of it. Forty-plus years of tension between the world's two superpowers and their allies. That's right: The Cold War. Then, they made a documentary. Aired on CNN in 1998, and never released on DVD, the 24 episode, 20 hour series features tons of archival footage, along with many interviews with individuals directly involved at some of the highest levels. You might not be able to see it on DVD, but you can watch the full series on Youtube, starting with Part 1: Comrades (1917-1945).
To get one large point out of the way: In the new book, The Socialist Car: Automobility in the Eastern Bloc, several contributors rapidly acknowledge the oxymoron of the title as well as the practice of owning a car in the former Soviet Empire. The private automobile, that avatar of western individualism, is difficult to square with collectivist notions. And once its owners were at the wheel, these socialist automobiles were often difficult to reconcile with notions of mechanical reliability. More than one contemporary joke appears in the text; the introduction, for instance offers, “Why does a Trabant have a heated rear window? To keep your hands warm when pushing it.” All that aside, the collection of essays edited by Lewis Siegelbaum, is a fascinating look at automobile use, production, and urban planning behind the Iron Curtain. It reveals a system that, if far from socialist or egalitarian in origin, created a culture of automobile use distinct from the western world.
Eroica. Film director Andrzej Munk’s tragic death at age thirty-nine might have formed the plot for one of his own darkly sardonic works: a Polish Jew and an active resistance worker during the war, he was returning home from shooting his film Passenger at the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1961 when an oncoming truck struck his car. He left behind only four feature films, but his influence was prodigious. As one of the key figures of the postwar “Polish School” of filmmaking, along with Wajda and Kawalerowicz, he helped to shape a vision that broke with the official social realist optimism of Eastern-bloc dogma and cast a skeptical eye on official notions of heroism, nationalism, and life in the Stalinist-occupied state. Mentor to Roman Polanski and Jerzy Skolimowski, his influence can be felt even in the films of a later generation of Polish filmmakers — directors like Zanussi and Kieslowski. More inside.