Lisa, at once volatile and passive, uncertain and assured, is a young Soviet émigré afloat in Manhattan. Although he has many cares himself, Roy, a super, attempts to rescue Lisa by finding her a flat. But the Lower East Side apartment he offers is hardly a refuge and not Roy’s to give. Lisa must deal with the resident landlord, Atkins, a fringe artist, who is quite a womanizer. Every tentative move either Lisa or Roy makes toward each other is circumscribed by others, by social attitudes and by a city that is alluring, menacing, and disturbingly there.
Edgy and emotionally complex, <i>Black and White</i> is a most unusual film. Boris Frumin, its writer/director, was one of the Soviet Union’s most promising young filmmakers when he left Russia over thirteen years ago after shooting but not editing his third film, <i>Errors of Youth</i>. Frumin, like Lisa, arrived in the United States as an émigré. Denied access to his films, Frumin landed barely able to speak English and without any professional “calling cards.” Today he is a tenured instructor in the Department of Film and Television at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and with perestroika now operational, Frumin was asked to finish <i>Errors of Youth</i> at Lenfilm. The international critical response to <i>Errors</i> was good, and Lenfilm offered its postproduction facilities to Frumin for his next project, his fourth film and first American feature. So <i>Black and White</i>, this quintessentially rude, independent New York production, was edited in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg.
Except for the female lead, Elena Shevchenko, the fine cast is American, the language is English, and the film was shot entirely on location. <i>Black and White</i> is a nocturnal love story suffused with the melancholy and anxiety of not belonging, and full of the sad understanding of what it means to be a stranger.
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