Friday, 18 September 2015

Andrei Konchalovsky: 'Forget freedom – wars and plagues make the best art'

Andrei Konchalovsky has only just checked in when I meet him, but he has already commandeered the best seat in the lounge of the Connaught, one of London's swankiest hotels. The 76-year-old Russian director, who in the 1980s enjoyed a productive but brief spell in the Hollywood spotlight, is evidently used to getting his own way.

Konchalovsky is here because two Chekhov productions he directed at Moscow's Mossovet theatre – Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters – are about to open in the West End as part of the Anglo-Russian year of culture. This may not be the most propitious moment for such a cultural exchange, but he is unfazed. "It's nothing new for me," he says. "Just a normal tug of war between west and east."

The year of culture is supposed to be about bringing Russia and the UK together, but Konchalovsky doesn't buy the line that art can heal political differences. "It can help politics when politics are ready to be changed," he says. "Not before. Sometimes a film can make a revolution if a revolution is ready to be made." They are, he says, different worlds that operate on different timescales. "Artists are trying to discover what life is about. Politicians already know." Or think they know.


'Tango & Cash (pictured), like every real Hollywood film, is a film for people who cannot read', says its director Andrei Konchalovsky. Photograph: Warner Bros/Sportsphoto/Allstar

Born into a cultured family in 1937 (his father was a writer who penned the Soviet national anthem), Konchalovsky trained as a pianist before embarking on a directing career in the Soviet Union. He collaborated with Russian film giant Andrei Tarkovsky and co-scripted Andrei Rublev – Tarkovsky's 1966 epic about the 15th-century painter, hailed by some as the best arthouse movie ever – before establishing himself as a director in his own right. He then wowed Hollywood with Runaway Train, Duet for One and Shy People, before hitting the buffers at the end of the 1980s with Tango & Cash and Homer and Eddie.

He is one of those rare directors, like Ingmar Bergman and Patrice Chéreau, who moves easily between film, theatre and opera. What does he think the big differences are? "Theatre you can enjoy if you are blind," he says. "Cinema you can enjoy if you are deaf. That's why there were great silent movies. The more I work in theatre and opera, the more I understand how different they are from cinema. That's why I'm doing it. I'm trying to explore something that is completely foreign for film-makers. Critics often write, 'We see Konchalovsky's cinematic vision in theatre.' It's ridiculous, it's rubbish. You express yourself completely differently." In opera, at least, you can express yourself more cinematically, I suggest. "No," he says emphatically. "Opera is much closer to circus than to cinema."

The cosmopolitan, much-married Konchalovsky (his fifth wife, actor and TV presenter Julia Vysotskaya, stars in his two Russian-language Chekhov productions) has a talent for aphorisms, even in what must be his third language after Russian and French. He stresses his European-ness, unlike his younger brother and fellow director Nikita Mikhalkov, whose 1994 film Burnt By the Sun, about a Red Army officer caught up in Stalin's Great Purge, won the foreign language Oscar. Mikhalkov is overtly political, a Russian nationalist and a strong supporter of Putin, while Konchalovsky is a natural rebel, a believer in art for art's sake.

"The basis for all my activities is curiosity," he says, adding that he has just shot a film "for myself without money" and found he was still learning. "Only now do I start to understand a little more about film-making. Only when you start to work for yourself, and in solitude, do you learn certain secrets. Otherwise you have to fulfil expectations." He is dismissive of commercial movie-making. "The market moves towards entertainment, but art is closer to contemplation."

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Sunday, 13 September 2015

Francophonie by Alexander Sokurov was Sell-Out at the Venice Film Festival

The new film Francophonie by the famous Russian director Alexander Sokurov attracted a capacity crowd at the Venice Film Festival.

The house was full during the film screening and after the final credits the audience thanked the film director with long ovations. Alexander Sokurov has every chance to win the Golden Lion at the 72nd Venice Film Festival currently being held from 2 to 12 September 2015.

Francophonie tells the story of how the staff of Louvre tried to preserve the museum values collected from around the world. The feature film is substantiated with episodes of documentary newsreels. Alexander Sokurov personally speaks as the offscrren story-teller emphasizing that art is higher than politics and any war.

Alexander Sokurov does not represent Russia at the festival, since the film was financed by the French and German investors.


Thursday, 2 July 2015

Andrey Proshkin: Orleans - Орлеан (2015)

Director: Andrey Proshkin
Writer: Yuriy Arabov
Stars: Nikolai Karpenko, Vitaliy Khaev, Artyom Kobzev,Yelena Lyadova,

Orleans (2015)

Orleans is a sonorous name of a dusty concrete backwater Russian town; it should come as no surprise, though, as there are villages scattered across Russia that are called, for example, Paris (such a village exists in practically every region, and there’s indeed Orleans in the Altai mountains). The name “Orleans” is more widely known as part of “New Orleans”, because of the 2005 hurricane that looked like an almost Biblical punishment – which corresponds to apocalyptic ending of Andrei Proshkin’s film. One can’t help thinking of Babylon (“Alas! alas! that great city, Babylon, that mighty city”); covered in ashes Sodom and Gomorrah (there are ashes in “Orleans” too, although of a different origin) go without saying. An almost Biblical – or anti-Biblical – story is closely intertwined here with the esthetics of poor apartment blocks, dilapidated hospitals and police stations – basically, with everything that stopped being mere decorations and became part of the very language of the new Russian cinema.

The thing our “new wave” representatives have in common is not only this language but also the idea that absurd, grotesque and buffoonery correspond to the Russian reality, and there’s no need to look for boring, realistic plot to express the “Zeitgeist”, hits its very nerve. Aleksey Balabanov became one of the pioneers who created the bridge between what esthetes tend to call “trash” – and stylistically opposite films that convey the same message. In this context it becomes especially symbolic that Executor in “Orleans” is played by Viktor Sukhorukov – one of Balabanov’s favourite actors. Another person who “made” “Orleans” is Oleg Yagodin. He can certainly be called this year’s discovery of the Russian cinema. However, he’s already quite well-known as a theatre actor, and in 2009 the French newspaper “Le Monde” called Yagodin “an actor who Luchino Visconti would have kidnapped without thinking twice to film him in his “The Damned” if the two had been contemporaries”. However, Yagodin was “kidnapped” much later – and brought straight to the town Orleans, where his character, a doctor, together with his fellow losers, a cop and a hairdresser, becomes an object of particular interest of a prophet, who might as well be Antichrist or personified conscience. Read more >>>

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Filming of Kharms Biopic Completed in St. Petersburg

Shooting of a feature film about the famous Russian writer and poet Daniil Kharms has been completed in St. Petersburg.

The film director is Ivan Bolotnikov, a successor of the renowned Alexey Hermann Sr. The leading role is played by the Polish actor Wojciech Urbanski. Lithuanian actors (Aisti Dirjute and Darius Gumauskas) and Russian actors (Nadezhda Tolubeeva, Alexander Bashirov, and Yury Itskov) also take part in the movie.

The film shooting proceeded for 22 days. Within that period the film crew managed to finish shooting scenes in St. Petersburg and Kronstadt.

The biopic Kharms will premiere this autumn, and its going on wide release in winter will be timed to the
110th anniversary since the birthday of Daniil Kharms.

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Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Alexander Kott: Test - Испытание (2014)

Испытание (2014)

Director: Alexander Kott
Cast: Elena An, Danila Rassomakhin, Karim Pakachakov, Narinman Bekbulatov-Areshev

Awards :

Best music Aleksey AIGY , Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Moscow (Russia), 2015 Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Moscow (Russia), 2015 First prize Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Sochi (Russia), 2014 Best Cinematography Levan KAPANADZE , Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Sochi (Russia), 2014 Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics Prize Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Sochi (Russia), 2014 Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics Diploma Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Sochi (Russia), 2014 Special Prize Middle East International Film Festival : MEIFF, Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), 2014 Special mention Honfleur Russian Film Festival, Honfleur (France), 2014 First prize International Human Rights Film Festival, Moscow (Russia), 2014

Testing (2014)

Young hearts go nuclear in Alexander Kott's mannered but quietly affecting Test (Ispytanie), set in an utterly remote corner of the USSR at the dawn of the H-bomb age. Elevated by a luminous performance from newcomer Elena An and Levan Kapanadze's crisply poetic cinematography, this wordless, subtle fable of teenage passions has made an explosive start to its festival career and appeals as an accessibly exotic Russian export. Adventurous distributors in receptive territories will be keen to check it out, although the lack of dialogue may be as much of a hindrance as a help.

Picking up the top prize when premiering at Sochi's Kinotavr in June, the functionally-titled Test was named Best International Feature at Turkey's Golden Orange festival in Antalya four months later. Writer-director Kott, with more than half a dozen features under his belt since debuting in 2001, previously best known for wartime epic Fortress of War (2010), a.k.a. The Brest Fortress, set during the start of the Nazis' Operation Barbarossa in 1941.

Testing (2014)

Test takes place at the other end of the same decade, and for the overwhelming majority of its running-time presents a radically more serene and idyllic vision of the Soviet Union. Unspecified in the movie itself, the geographical setting can be deduced as somewhere near Semey in modern-day Kazakhstan, then known as Semipalatinsk — notorious as the site of the USSR's first nuclear test, in August 1949.

This backwater was selected by Stalin's henchman Beria as it was supposedly "uninhabited" — which would be news to farmer Tolgat (Karim Pakachakov) and his teenage daughter Dina (Elena An), who tend their flock in a windblown corner of the pan-flat steppe. Their harmonious relationship to nature and the film's bold visual approach are neatly encapsulated by the first post-credits sequence, in which Tolgat naps on the back of his flat-bed truck using a similarly somnolent sheep as a pillow, the scene initially presented from a distant angle, high above the dozing duo. Kott, his cinematographer Kapanadze and sound-designer Filipp Lamshin (whose contributions are especially critical given the absence of speech) instantly take us into the inner world of the observant, artistically-inclined Dina, whose delicate leaf-collages hint at a desire to explore horizons far beyond home. Her two smitten, spirited suitors represent forking paths in the map of destiny: she's semi-betrothed to local lad Kaisyn (Narinman Bekbulatov-Areshev), until fate happens to bring pop-eyed Max (Danila Rassomakhin), whose Caucasian blondness indicates he's not from these peri-Asian parts, into the picture.

Daniel Rassomahin

Test is essentially a simple tale, imaginatively told, with grace-notes of genuine transcendence and beauty studded throughout its brisk running-time. Kapanadze makes playful use of widescreen aspect-ratio, often framing his compositions with a pictorial precision that would have Wes Anderson sighing in appreciation. At times the arresting simplicity of the visuals seem to owe more to animation than conventional live-action cinema — the gymnastically hyperactive, grinning Max is especially cartoonish, in contrast to the more rounded presences of Dina and Tolgat, whose warm father-daughter bonds are amply conveyed without benefit of dialogue. Amid these gusty climes, perhaps even language has been blown away.

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Pavel Chukhrai to Film War Melodrama in Lithuania

Renowned Russian film director Pavel Chukhrai is shooting the war film The Stranger in Lithuania.

The film tells a love story unfolding in wartime. The leads are played by Rinal Mukhametov and Julia Peresild. Julia Peresild starred in the film Battle for Sevastopol, which has recently won a prize at the Beijing Film Festival. One of the key roles is performed by the People's Artist of Russia Sergey Garmash. Lithuanian and Italian actors are also involved in the film project.

The film events are set in Lithuania of the 1940s. Sabina Yeremeyeva, the producer of The Stranger pointed out: “The project is unique for the fact that it tackles upon psychological and love aspects known to practically every adult. All this is surrounded with evil and war, and against all the odds the main characters’ feelings overcome the evil”.


Monday, 18 May 2015

Sergey Mokritskiy: The Battle for Sevastopol - Битва за Севастополь (2015)

Battle for Sevastopol (2015)

Director: Sergey Mokritskiy
Cast: Yuliya Peresild, Evgeniy Tsyganov, Joan Blackham

'Battle for Sevastopol'

Story of a woman who changed the course of history  Falling in love with men who perished in devastating enemy fire, befriending Eleanor Roosevelt, delivering a landmark speech at a conference that influenced the outcome of World War II, constantly fighting in order to live and to love can a fragile woman handle all this ? This is the true story of Ludmila Pavlichenko, a legendary Soviet woman sniper. Soldiers went into combat carrying her name. Enemies hunted her. She saw death and suffering on the battlefield, but her hardest test was love, which war could take away from her