directors’ statement on "Two Highways" film

Nick Teplov

This film was commissioned by a producer who wanted to see a film portrait of Boris “Bob” Koshelokhov, the story of his unusual life on screen. The film was thus born from the tension between his vision and my desire to emphasize the work itself, to help the viewer understand the meaning of Bob’s Two Highways project.

Another director was originally asked by the producer to shoot the film. He shot all the episodes where Bob himself appears. I acted as a consultant during this phase. The producer and I realized that if we let the first director finish the job, we would end up with a fairly typical TV documentary. So I brought Alexander in: our task was to make an artistic statement using the material already shot.

Bob is my friend and, in some sense, my mentor. I photograph his works and help him maintain his archives. So it was logical for me to continue the work on this film. I asked Alexander to join me because as a director he is always eager to experiment.

Bob Koshelokhov is a unique figure. He is one of the few living artists whose imagination, creative energy, and audacity put him on a scale with the big names of the twentieth-century avant-garde.

Bob’s context is the whole world here and now. For him (as for the ancients), philosophy is not an academic discipline, but a practice, a way of life. Painting is a form of this philosophy. Once we have this in mind, we see that Bob’s biography is not a random collection of episodes. Creativity is not the processing of formal prototypes. Instead, it grows out of our “thrownness” in the here and now. But how do you show that in a film?

We wanted not only to retell Bob’s story, but to create a total cinematic image, an environment that would mirror his creative process so that the texture of a wall or the patterns made by clouds becomes a revelation for the viewer, as they are for Bob. We wanted to preserve the intensity with which Bob experiences the world, which he conveys via his original take on expressionism.

Bob’s project Two Highways is quite cinegenic all by itself. It is almost like an animated film. (The Petersburg animator Boris Kazakov had already explored this quality in the short he made with the pastels from the project, but we wanted to dig deeper into their content.) The project is also a journey—a journey through geographical and cultural space. Hence one of the central motifs in our film: the film itself as a journey, a journey through the most varied environments, a journey that happens simultaneously in different directions—horizontal, vertical, synchronic, diachronic.

In conclusion, my most important issue about this film is a collaboration with the artist himself: an attempt to transfer his art (the spirit of his art) to a new medium, an attempt to visually render the artist’s future project.

Alexander Markov

I still interpret the work of Boris “Bob” Koshelokhov via the work of Nick Teplov. The film would not have achieved the original form it did without Nick’s ideas and designs.

There are two main problems with films about artists. Either the works are absent and the viewer sees only the artist talking on screen, or there are way too many paintings in the film—close-ups, long shots, medium shots.

When an artwork enters the film frame, it forfeits its independence. It becomes an element of the story, an element that can and must be elaborated. If you don’t accept this rule right away, then what you’ll end up with is not a film about the artist and his work, but a TV program that resembles a slideshow for art connoisseurs.

Nick’s designs enabled us to weave Bob’s work into the dynamic structure of our film. His pastels and paintings began to speak; they became “cinegenic.” This, again, is the main difficulty in films about artists. The artwork is not obliged to be cinegenic: we view it in a different way than we view a film. Our gaze glides over its surface, but the surface itself is immobile. On the contrary, a film unfolds via the dialectic of montage, via the collision and juxtaposition of successive frames. It operates on the before/after principle.

Here we might recall the Alain Resnais documentary film Guernica (1950), in which he brought Picasso’s canvas to life by freeing it from its pictorial essence and making it cinegenic.

We wove Bob’s pictures into the story of his life as if they were the main narrators, not Bob himself. Bob’s monologue in the film is only the tip of the iceberg. The visual drift of the film is generated by the dynamic collision of Bob’s works (or fragments of his works), which for twenty-six minutes stop being artworks and become cinematic images and scenes.