When my sister and I were kids, my Dad went through a phase of showing us a lot of inappropriate movies. I don't mean racy inappropriate, I mean intellectually inappropriate. There was the time we watched La Strada, and I couldn't believe one movie could be so boring. To this day I remember how extremely bored I was during La Strada. I think there was a screening of 2001, which we actually kind of enjoyed, and then there was the time we saw THX-1138, and I was like "Dad, this is completely terrifying." Robert Duvall's bald head is forever seared into my memory.
It was during that time that I saw Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker. Somehow I was completely entranced by this movie, even though it is literally about people walking somewhere, and nothing else, for three hours. Also it's in Russian. But it was really beautiful, with its palette of grays turning eventually to dingy color. Every frame is perfectly composed, like a painting. Here are some stills:
Doesn't that look like a good movie? It is.
The whole thing came back to me when I saw a website that has pictures Tarkovsky took while running around Moscow in the '70s with a Polaroid. A Russian website has a scanned compilation of all the images, and they reflect the same ghostly, poetic aesthetic that I remember from the movie. There is an eerie stillness to them that feels lonely.
You can read more of the back story on these images, and see many more, on the blog Poemas del Rio Wang (in English and Spanish).