Here's a sure-fire way to turn your kids into Reagan-spouting anti-Communists: make them sit through a few hours of Soviet films (where boy meets tractor, falls in love) without the capitalist pleasures of popcorn and Cokes.
Not only will they snap to salute the flag and begin to grasp the immense wonderment of a society blessed with Golden Arches every block, they'll never gripe again the next time you trot them off to the latest Disney G-rated.
That bit of free folk wisdom comes from one Bill Blackwell, 33, an amateur Dr. Spock when he is not busy teaching a film history course at American University. But, he says, an evening spent viewing Soviet films does not have to compete with Chinese water torture. For true film history buffs interested in seeing a culture through the eyes of film-makers producing properties for the state, such an outing can be "very liberating."
"The edges are rougher than the Hollywood stuff," says Blackwell, "and there is blatant manipulation, which is inevitable when artists are forced to work for the aims of the state. But many Hollywood films were political, too. Soviet films can make us look at our own movies in different ways."
For those interested in acquiring a different way of viewing the Hollywood genre - and an appreciation of what artists can accomplish against great odds - the upcoming Soviet film retrospective beginning Sunday at the American Film Institute is recommended. The two-part series (Oct. 2-Nov. 4 and Nov. 20-Dec. 15) begins on the 60th anniversary of the Russian Revolution and spans a half century of Soviet filmmaking.
The program begins with Sergei Eisenstein's "October" (1927, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Revolution), a classic the director based on American John Reed's "Ten Days That Shook The World." "October" - along with Kozintsey & Trauberg's "New Babylon," Dovzhenkos's "Ivan and Vertov's "Three Songs of Lenin" - comes from the late-silent, early-sound years.
After Stalin stamped out the creative fires of Russian artists, the poet-Stalin thaw (57-60) brought such films as "The Cranes Are Flying," "Ballad of a Soldier," "the Clear Sky" and "Fate of Man," all to be shown over the next weeks.
A number of earlier works have been screened before; but many current films are seeing their U.S. debut. Some offer surprising glimpses - frank and often funny - into life in the U.S.S.R. Live organ by Ray Brubacher accompanies the silent films; the others are in Russian with English subtitles.