October 5, 2020


The first thing that struck me about Barnet was his way of working on a script. He had to re-do every script completely. If the script was good, even if he liked it, Barnet felt somehow uncomfortable and awkward. So that the script would be his own, it was necessary to rewrite it. From cover to cover. And Barnet did rewrite them.

For that matter, no he didn't rewrite them. That was a completely different work. With huge scissors he cut and clipped the script, tearing it apart into individual pieces, sequences and shots. These pieces he rearranged, reinserted, wrote something in, threw something out, and finally glued them together in a an infinitely long scroll. If he had to find a certain place, he would spread the scroll out on the floor and crawl along it on all fours.

I laughed out loud when I first saw Barnet doing that. At first he didn't think it funny and got mad. Then he told me, kindheartedly and with humor: "Every man should make at least one discovery. Well, this is my discovery. A script must be spliced into one roll, like a film. Then I can see what comes after what."

For that matter, when shooting started the scroll was calmly left at home. Something completely different was shot.

A man of tremendous imagination, Boris was all the time dreaming up something new. What had been written yesterday seemed uninteresting to him today. Sometimes his touches were really brilliant. But it often happened that sequences didn't hang together and the improvisation ruined the basic plot.

I met Barnet when he was getting ready to shoot OUTSKIRTS. He immediately offered me the only female role, Maria. I read the script and was very amused. I was 21, but Maria in the script was a long-faded old maid.

"You must be joking?"' I said to Barnet.
"Not at all."
"But she's really an old maid!"
"Well, somehow..."
"I can play her, only just the opposite."
"What do you mean, 'just the opposite'?"
''Well, everything written about Maria in the script—just the opposite of that. Not old, and not a maid, but a funny small-town girl, pigeon-toed, a know-it-all, a "Manka" rather than a 'Maria.' And I'll think up her dress myself."

Barnet's ability to work was unbelievable. He could shoot and edit for days without coming out of the studio. After several such days and nights he could go straight from the set to some social gathering, drink, tell jokes, be the life of the party, and after the party dunk his head in cold water and return to the studio as if nothing had happened, going on editing or shooting all night.

He was a strange, surprising man. Infinitely kind and cordial with everyone who came into any contact with him. In extremely freezing weather he could rip off his he scarf and gloves to wrap up some child who happened along the way. He could turn his pockets inside out and give away everything, right down to his last coin, to the first person who came along, if the latter complained about having a hard time. But with his friends . . . with his friends he was completely different. His life was filled with an endless stream of people gliding by. People were drawn to him, his charm warmed them. But they didn't become close friends. Perhaps he was protecting himself, keeping a distance. Perhaps he valued solitude. He had a multitude of acquaintances and was equally cordial, nice and interesting with all of them—a wonderful talker, a wonderful drinking companion . . . but he had no true friends.

And probably he needed them, He needed the shoulder of a comrade to lean on. He accomplished very much. He could have accomplished much more, with his strength and talent.

Sputnik Kinofestivalia (Moscow), No. 4 
July 8, 1967