Are you a cinephile? Do you love those films that aspire to capital-a Art, with their slow, slow pans across vast barren fields of human misery? Then try to contain your excitement, because the UW Cinematheque is about to start one of the most demanding series in its illustrious history. Elegies in Light: The Cinema of Aleksander Sokurov will swallow four of your next five Saturday nights, if you allow it to. And why shouldn't you? Sokurov, who, spiritually and esthetically, has taken over where Andrei Tarkovsky left off, is generally considered one of the most uncompromising directors in the world. "A prolonged act of mourning" is how one critic has described his films, which include features, documentaries and shorter works. Sad to say, not even Sokurov's fellow countrymen were allowed to attend the funeral during the 1980s; his films were banned in the Soviet Union because government censors couldn't figure out what the hell they were about. Did I mention that Susan Sontag's a big fan?
And maybe you'll be one, too, after watching such no-nonsense fare as Mother and Son (Oct. 26), which involves the latter tending to the former during the last hours of her life, or Second Circle (Nov. 9), which involves a son getting his father from his death bed to his grave amid a spider's web of bureaucratic red tape. Cheery, no? To say that Sokurov wallows in what the Russians call chernukha ' darkness, in a word ' is to ignore the astringency of his style, which favors extremely long takes and a screen that's less a window onto the world than a window onto the soul. It's also to ignore his funny bone, which supposedly comes out in this week's Moloch (Saturday, Oct. 19, 7:30 p.m. at 4070 Vilas Hall), which I haven't seen. A farcical look at Adolf Hitler, it features the title character relaxing during a weekend in the mountains of Bavaria, and highlights include Der FÃhrer taking a dump in the snow and chasing Eva Braun around in his underwear. Or so I've read. If that is what happens, maybe I'm a cinephile after all.