Friday, August 17, 2007

Russian Notebook 2: Television Continued, Kultura

I'm currently in my father's home town, Rostov-on-the-Don, a hilly city built along the banks of a river in the South of Russia.

I watch television here on the Panasonic in the living room. It has a rabbit ear antenna. Usually I sit on the couch, which at night folds out into a bed. The apartment is on the fourth floor and the living room windows look out on one of the busiest intersections in the city. Across the street, there's an office whose windows are level with ours. I've recently noticed that a young woman who works in the office watches me when I play the living room piano. We keep the windows closed, so she can't tell that the piano is badly out of tune and that I can't play it very well.
In all, the television recieves 11 channels, though many of them are repeats. It recieves several I can't get in Moscow, including regional stations and MTV, whose modest local offices are a block up the street from our apartment.
The Panasonic does not get Kultura (Культура), which broadcasts Soviet films in the day time and symphonic concerts and foreign films in the evening (in the my first week, I saw an Oshima, a Moretti and a Jancso). The Soviet films are the real treasure--many of them pre-war, all of them in original aspect ratios, not just well-known pictures (next week brings The Mirror and Cranes Are Flying) but obscure and underrated ones as well. Musicals, lavish period films and war pictures are all shown without repeats and with minimal commercial interruptions. Silent films are not shown.
It's a challenge figuring out what the movies are at times without a steady Internet connection. There're plenty of television listings in the right-wing weeklies, but I'm little too embarassed to buy them or even be seen paging through one at a newstand. I keep a little red notebook into which I jot showtimes as they're advertised. I've turned into a serious television viewer, setting aside evening hours, looking forward to marathons, double-checking my daily Kultura itinerary.

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