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FASHION OF “NEP” PERIOD AND CULTURAL GUIDELINES OF GEORGIAN CINEMATOGRAPHY

OLIKO ZHGHENTI
Batumi Art Teaching University

The Cinematography of “NEP” (New Economic Policy) epoch (1921-1927), as the form of cultural memory, was rarely considered in the view of national identity. Therefore, it was hardly a subject of art historical research,
although development of national film production and determination of cultural identity within Soviet space is connected with the very “NEP”. The cinematography of the mentioned period was not yet ideologically structured, being only the phenomenon of mass culture. “NEP” was a temporary “warming”, a temporary compromise towards the liberalization and capitalism, after the cataclysms of revolutions and the civil war. A new social class – NEP-men (entrepreneur, tradesman and kulak) is an outsider and unreliable, harmful element for the Soviet Government. Within new Sovietized formation, it became actively involved in the process of private property restoration, investment of foreign capital and trade deals with foreign concessions. “NEP” enabled Europe and America to renew interrupted diplomatic dialogue with the Bolshevik country. The abovementioned is reflected in cultural policy of cinematography. The cinematography actively advertised the Bourgeois fashion, idolized the movie stars, contributed to the rehabilitation and romanticization of the prerevolutionary (Bourgeois) past, which became the guarantee for the establishment of transnational cultural space, new communication strategy and peaceful coexistence with the capitalist world. In parallel with the striving for national identity and cultural memory (traditions of Modernism) the cinematography tries to bypass the narrow Bolshevik Party regime, not to lag behind the globalization process. During the period of Georgian Democratic Republic (1918-1921), social-political and cultural process similar to “NEP” took place. This is the time, when self-realization of Russian Modernists and Avantgarde artists (who ran away from the Bolshevik chaos) starts. The film directors and actors (Perestian, Barski, BekNazarov and Makarov), who had joined the wave of immigration, despite Bolshevik annexation – from 1921 – actively continued the cultural policy, which had started in Democratic Republic. Their movies were oriented on the traditions of prerevolutionary cinema, Modernist culture and Bourgeois “values”. An artist was devoted to the “old” regime and he himself undertook “creative diktat” on repertory and genre structure of movies. An artist met requirements of “NEP-man”, his taste and cult of entertainment. NEP-man was a financial guarantee of the cinematography. The borders of cinematography genres were open – melodrama contains the components of psychological drama, detective story and chronicle of crime (Perestian’s “Three Lives” and “Knight of Our Country”); comedy contains elements of risky venture, Western, pamphlet and satire on the revolution (“Little Red Devils” and its serial production). A cinema is “the territory of entertainment” for the audience, tired from Bolshevik oppression, the place, where psychological trauma is forgotten, past memory is restored, the memory, which Bolshevik oppression was trying to delete and level and would actively continue to (by means of the same cinema) after the end of “NEP” (from 1929, during the 1930s). “NEP” cinematography, as a part of mass culture, was free from official ideology. The cinematography was still operating in accordance with the rules of commercial and entertainment art. NEP-man culture was strictly separated from the proletarian culture and, thus, represented counterculture. Fashion of NEP-man (radically different from the style of labourer and Young Communist League member) was a clear indicator of social stabilization. For the “proletarian culture” NEP-man was the philistine (enemy of the revolution), who cannot bare new social system, unclear to them and remained in the captivity of old capitalist system – he could not be turned into the servant of the new system. An object gains semiotic context in the cinematography – past is encoded in the object, past, which “captivates” the characters of the film. To follow the fashion in clothing (philistinism) is the instrument of NEP-man – the indication of material priority and social wealth. Physical or subconscious “return” to the “sweet life”, i.e. “the past”, striving for the marginalization, was firstly reflected in the culture of outwears and objects. The commission shops, popular during “the NEP”, were “the territories”, which preserved the memory of past (of the former aristocracy, i.e. people’s enemy). The object went under the possession of NEP-man, therefore, the notion of “crude materialism” and “philistinism” was established, always subjects of irony, pamphlet and grotesque in Soviet cinematography. A movie star canonized the NEP-man’s fashion. In the cinema, as counterculture of proletarian art, striving for identity is undertaken through reviving feminine sexuality, for example, tabloids and fashion for exotic, erotic and cheap novels (movies of Barski and BekNazarov). A movie star of NEP Period was bourgeois woman, with free morale and attributes of aristocracy. By idolizing a movie star, the cinema audience of NEP was opposing the attempt to turn them into the faceless mass, part of the group of labourer Komsomols.

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