Thursday, 16 March 2017

Why are European countries lining up for the new Zvyagintsev film?

Andrey Zvyagintsev, creator of the critically acclaimed Leviathan, said his new film, Loveless, set a sales record at the Berlin film market, and was bought for release by all major European countries. 

"In Berlin, deals were signed with companies from the U.K., Spain, Denmark and Finland. Rights for all European territories have been sold. What remains is to close several deals with companies from Asia and Latin America," said producer Alexander Rodnyansky at the end of the film market.

Distributors, however, have not seen a single frame of this new film by the Russian winner of the Cannes and Venice film festivals. This is because Loveless is not ready yet, and it's not clear whether Zvyagintsev will complete it by the second half of May - its world premiere is expected to be in the main competition at the Cannes Film Festival.

To clarify the situation, RBTH caught up with Zvyagintsev, who told us how the idea for his new film came about and why he's anxious about the result.

After the success of Leviathan you were going to make a big film about World War II. But you're now making a completely different movie, aren’t you?

A minor correction: I was planning a film about the War even before Leviathan. It's a long-standing idea, with a written script, and I'm ready to start filming it at any time. Unfortunately, not everything depends on my desire because the project is expensive – we're talking about $15-$18 million. It will be extremely difficult for the producer to recoup that sort of money. So, I don't yet know if this film will happen in the near future.

So what is your new film about?

It's the story of a family living through serious moments in their life, as the husband and wife split. I'd like this film to be compared to Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage. Practically throughout the whole six episodes, 45 minutes each, all you see on screen are just the two actors - Josephson and Ullmann. And you can’t tear yourself away from the screen.

His characters are people who think and talk. She, as was fashionable in the 1960s, keeps a diary and reads out excerpts from it. Those scenes show that intelligence, the ability to analyze, civility and refinement cannot prevent a terrible catastrophe.

The idea for Loveless grew from this, and I will be honest with you - I have long been partial to that film by Bergman. Oleg Negin, who writes the scripts for all my films, discussed with me the idea of examining a marriage crisis when people who have been married for 10-12 years cannot go on living together. In the script there's an event that dispels the tangle of contradictions between the characters - their child goes missing.

At what production stage is Loveless currently?

Filming was supposed to be completed by spring 2017. Alas, Moscow weather interfered. The film takes place in Moscow, when it's warm, and so we need grass and leaves on the trees. We started filming in August and were hoping to finish by November, but it started snowing in the middle of October and the snow has remained since. So, we had to halt shooting, and we're now waiting for April in order to finish filming everything that needs to be completed.

Unfortunately, all this creates certain difficulties, and that's why I started editing even though I had never done so before the completion of filming. I always edit my films sequentially - from the first scene to the last. Since editing determines the rhythm of a film, and rhythm is the musical form of a film, I think it's a mistake to suddenly launch into the 40th minute of a film and start editing it from there. But the circumstances are such that we're forced to make this mistake. It worries me, but I think we'll cope.

After your films, the Russian actors in them become famous internationally: Nadezhda Markina was nominated for a European Film Award for her role in Elena, while Elena Lyadova, the star of Leviathan, also became a well-known face. At the same time, you rarely cast actors who have worked with you before. Is this one of your principles as a director?

I never know who will star in my films. There has been just one exception: Oleg Negin and I knew that the role of the town mayor in Leviathan would be played by Roman Madyanov.

Sometimes, I deliberately do not want to work with an actor who has been in my film before, but then life suddenly interferes. Such was the case, for example, with Konstantin Lavronenko. He acted in my first film, The Return, which unexpectedly became an international festival hit, winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

That success, of course, put a lot of pressure on me, and I wanted to make sure that with my second film I'd not be accused of repeating myself. So for the main role in my next film, Banishment, I looked for a young actor since the character is supposed to be in his early 30s. But the longer I searched, the clearer it became to me that my prejudice against Lavronenko was groundless, and when I finally invited him for an audition, it all came together - it was his part. Yet, it so happens that apart from Kostya there is just one more person whom I have cast in a big role more than once. 

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Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Russian Filmmakers Advocate "Matilda" by Uchitel

Image result for "Matilda" by Uchitel

Rumors and scandals are brewing around Alexei Uchitel's new feature film "Matilda". Orthodox Christian activists and some deputies of the State Duma clamour against the film director's interpretation of historical events.

The filmmakers have been accused of denigrating the image of Nicholas II and insulting the feelings of believers. Representatives of the Russian cinema have stood up for the colleagues and written an open letter that speaks out against the return of censorship in culture. Filmmakers have declared that they want to live in a secular state, and demanded authorities at all levels to comply with the constitution.

The historical film by Alexei Uchitel tells about the famous ballerina of the Mariinsky Theatre - Matilda Kshesinskaia - and her complicated and ambiguous relationship with Nicholas II. The film director points out in an interview that the Orthodox community is eager to impose its own ideas on the society.

RiC

Saturday, 21 January 2017

The 5 most anticipated Russian movies in 2017

1. Paradise

This is the story of Helmut, a senior SS officer, who arrives at a concentration camp to investigate corruption allegations. There he runs into the love of his youth, an aristocratic Russian émigré named Olga who has been incarcerated for joining the French Resistance and harboring Jewish children in her house during the Nazi occupation of France.

2. Anna Karenina: The Vronsky Story

As the title suggests, Shakhnazarov’s adaptation provides a male perspective on this classic story, with Count Vronsky at the center of the movie. Here Vronsky is not depicted in his traditional role of the shrewd seducer, but rather is portrayed as a complex and multifaceted character. Anna Karenina: The Vronsky Story. Source: Kinopoisk.ru


This big screen adaptation of the classic Russian novel by Leo Tolstoy comes from prominent Russian filmmaker Karen Shakhnazarov, who is best known internationally for The Assassin of the Tsar starring Malcolm McDowell.

3. Journey to China: The Mystery of Iron Mask

Directed by Oleg Stepchenko, this sequel to the 2014 film Viy (which was based on the novel by Nikolai Gogol) was initially set to hit the screens in 2016. However, the deadline was pushed back when the project’s Chinese partners, who apparently had unconditional faith in the film’s potential for success, insisted that the script be revised and the budget increased.

4. Guardians

The authors describe this film as the Russian answer to Marvel Animation's Avengers trilogy. The script for this comic movie about Soviet people with superpowers was written on the fly as it was already being shot. A team of Soviet superheroes (including a bear-man named Ursus) rescue the country and the world as a whole from the threat of apocalypse.

5. Arrhythmia Boris Khlebnikov is regarded as one of the most significant Russian directors of the 2000s. He gained worldwide recognition for his movies Koktebel and A Long and Happy Life, which won acclaim at a variety of international film festivals. In 2013, Khlebnikov suddenly switched his focus to working on television. This is his first major movie in recent years, meaning that 2017 will mark Khlebnikov's return to the big screen. Read more >>>

Monday, 12 December 2016

Sergey Mikaelian: Love by Request - Влюблен по собственному желанию (1982)

Lovers on their own stills

Director: Sergey Mikaelyan
Writers: Sergey Mikaelyan, Aleksandr Vasinsky
Stars: Oleg Yankovskiy, Evgeniya Glushenko, Vsevolod Shilovskiy

Awards :
Best actress Yevgeniya GLUSHENKO , Berlin International Film Festival : Berlinale, Berlin (Germany), 1983
Premier prix et prix du meilleur travail des acteurs au Festival de l'Union soviétique, 1983
Prix du meilleur travail des acteurs au Festival de Berlin, 1983

Lovers of their own accord (1982)

Two people: Igor, an ex-athlete aimlessly living and chasing rubles to get drunk and Vera, an ugly duck librarian, try to find their luck by planning to fall in love with each other based on 'psychological conditioning'.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Pavel Lungin: Queen of Spades - Дама пик (2016)

Queen of Spades

Director: Pavel Lungin
Cast:Kseniya Rappoport, Ivan Yankovskiy,Igor Mirkurbanov

Opera diva Sophia Meyer after years of exile returned to Russia. The singer intends to put the "Queen of Spades" by Tchaikovsky on the stage, where he once made its debut. The play, no doubt, will be an event of the season, and all the actors posing wake up famous. About fame and money dreams of a young singer of opera troupe Andrew, and "Queen of Spades" for him the chance to achieve the desired. He is ready to do anything to get the role of Germany, and it realizes Sophia, who left for the role of the Countess. Opera diva begins a brutal game that will play all the participants involved.

An operatic thriller about the staging of an opera in contemporary Moscow, The Queen of Spades feels at times almost like a Russian-language remake of Darren Aronofsky’s lurid ballet-themed psychodrama Black Swan. Director Pavel Lungin co-wrote the screenplay with David Seidler, who earned an Oscar for The King’s Speech. They borrow their title, key characters and selective plot elements from two related sources: Alexander Pushkin’s supernatural short story, first published in 1834, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s 1890 opera of the same name.

Peak Lady (2016)

A film festival regular and one-time best director prize-winner in Cannes, Lungin has penned librettos for operas and orchestral pieces before. His musical passion clearly shines through during the film’s operatic sequences, which are staged with great panache and energy. Premiering this week in the main competition strand at Black Nights Film Festival in Tallinn, The Queen of Spades is hardly subtle, but its juicy combination of technical polish, bloodthirsty action and lusty romantic melodrama could well lure a curious niche audience globally. Its next scheduled festival stopover is next month in Macau.

After decades in self-imposed exile, legendary soprano Sofia Meyer (Kseniya Rappoport) returns to Moscow to rebuild her reputation by directing and starring in The Queen of Spades, the Tchaikovsky opera which made her famous. To help realize her grand schemes, she recruits wealthy oligarchs, shady gangsters and her grudgingly cooperative twentysomething niece Lisa (Mariya Kurdenovich). Sofia also sees potential in Lisa’s broodingly intense boyfriend Andrey (Ivan Yankovsiy), an amateur tenor who has idolized the diva all his life.

Peak Lady (2016)

Gifted with the freakish ability to shatter glass with his powerful voice ever since he was pushed into a frozen lake as a child, the obsessive Andrey slowly insinuates his way into the playing the male lead in The Queen of Spades. A Machiavellian manipulator with a heart of ice, Sofia initiates her young disciple into a glamorous late-night shadow world of illegal high-stakes casinos, where he soon develops a gambling addiction and unwisely makes Faustian deals with brutal gangland godfathers. Sofia then seduces Andrey in full view of Lisa, creating an explosive sexual tension which reaches its murderous crescendo when all three are onstage during the climactic opera scenes.

The Queen of Spades has a kind of fruity, oversaturated, borderline-camp mania that feels all too Russian at first. The opening act will test viewer endurance with its soapy emotional dynamics and broad-bush archetypes, especially Sofia, a cackling femme fatale who appears to be channeling Cruella de Vil. But Lungin is no amateur, and the torrid tone starts making more sense as the story evolves beyond realism into something more artfully stylized. Recurring flashbacks to Andrey’s nightmarish plunge into the icy lake and a scene involving the jealous Lisa smashing up a gallery of mannequins are strong visual set-pieces.

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Saturday, 10 December 2016

Alexey Krasovsky: Collector - Коллектор (2016)

Collector stills

Director: Alexey Krasovsky
Cast:Konstantin Khabenskiy, Polina Agureeva (voice), Valentina Lukashchuk (voice), Kseniya Buravskaya

Awards : 
Best actor Konstantin KHABENSKY , Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Sochi (Russia), 2016 
Best Cinematography Denis FIRSTOV , Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Sochi (Russia), 2016 
Prix du Conseil Régional de Normandie, meilleur premier film Honfleur Russian Film Festival, Honfleur (France), 2016 
Prix François Chalais du meilleur scénario Honfleur Russian Film Festival, Honfleur (France), 2016 

A lithe and lean one-man show, “Collector” is a crackling little high-wire act only sent tumbling to earth by its very final one-twist-too-many. Up to that point, it’s a kicky pleasure, a triumph of sharp scripting, shooting, editing, and acting over the obvious limits of time and resources. A canny first film from Russian director Alexei Krasovskiy, it was shot in one single week, almost entirely in one single location, with just one single actor, so it’s a pretty singular achievement all round. And to deliver a credible genre-inflected thriller in that mold takes not just a gapless, unflagging screenplay, but inventive camerawork and a massive central performance, to keep us all from fidgeting in our seats. But that’s exactly what Krasovskiy brings with “Collector,” a movie that makes no claims to being high art, but should be admired for its artfulness nonetheless.

'Collector' Review

And speaking of artful, our main character here is quite the dodger, a fast-talking, quick thinking, utterly amoral Muscovite debt collector, and the largely autonomous star operator in his company (“I make more money in a day than your whole department does in a month,” he snarls to his boss at one point). Artur (Konstantin Khabenskiy) is a master manipulator, a flawless liar, and apparently a heartless bastard, impervious to threats or entreaties, certain there is no sob story he hasn’t heard a million times before, and none that he has ever fully believed. Artur is not just good at his evil job, he enjoys it, relishing the inevitable capitulation of his victims as a lion does its kill.

Yet this is a subtler, more psychological method of debt collection than the old kicking doors and cracking skulls model that more readily springs to mind as the cinematic archetype. From atop a modern high-rise, in a sleekly furnished office with a plate glass window overlooking a terrace and the lights of the metropolis beyond, Artur gets even the most incorrigible creditors to cough up using no implement more threatening than a telephone receiver.

We always hear both sides of the conversation, and that, along with the conceit of assistant Liza (Polina Agureeva) and security guard Evgeny (Kirill Pletnyov) talking to him from adjacent rooms, we get the impression of a film a great deal more populous that it really is — similar to the trick that the nearest touchpoint, Steven Knight’s “Locke,” managed to pull off. And the dialogue is so crisply written and gamely performed that we get a sense of them all as people anyway. 

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‘Luna Park’s’ Pavel Lungin Plans ‘Esau’ Adaptation, Gulag Epic

Image result for pavel lungin

Pavel Lungin (“Taxi Blues,” “Luna Park”), one of the key filmmakers of the new Russian cinema that emerged in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is currently developing two new projects: an English-language project based on Israeli writer Meir Shalev’s 1991 novel “Esau,” and a film about a Soviet gulag labor camp.

 “Esau’s” story is about two brothers. One left Israel and lives in the U.S. and then tries to rediscover his brother.

“Since I am Jewish, this story touches me a great deal,” Lungin explained at this week’s Marrakech Film Festival, which he attended for a country tribute to Russia.

He went on: “I think that Shalev is a wonderful writer. It doesn’t make sense to set this story in Russia. The question posed by the story is can you be Jewish when you’re living outside Israel and at the same time if you go to Israel, do you become Israeli rather than Jewish.”

The second film is a high-budget project about a gulag forced labor camp during the Stalin dictatorship.

“Stalinism had certain parallels with Ivan the Terrible. I want to make a film about how people lived in the gulag, how it was possible that innocent Russians could incarcerate each other. The guards and prisoners were innocent and had to survive in terrible conditions.”

Lunging said that he doesn’t want to base the story on better known accounts such as that by Solzhenitsyn, and is currently researching real-life stories and personal memoirs.

The key issue that interests him is the force of will of the survivors: “How can you survive, how can you find a reason to live in the midst of such suffering? he asked.

He went on: “The secret of survival. The power of love. The importance of human relations. I think that despite the awful suffering of the gulag, the ability to survive also revealed something profoundly optimistic in human nature. We are not beasts.”

Lungin’s most recent movie, “Queen of Spades,” a contemporary operatic thriller based on a short story written by Alexander Pushkin, was initially developed with David Seidler, screenwriter of “The King’s Speech,” and then by Steven Walsh, since Lunging initially planned to make the film in English. The movie had its world premiere at November’s Tallinn’s Black Nights Film Festival where it won the Audience Prize.

The story turns on a famous soprano singer who returns to Moscow after decades in self-imposed exile, and attempts to recapture her past glory by directing and starring in the Tchaikovsky opera of the same name that once made her famous.

The depiction of a casino-style world set against a high culture setting has been interpreted by some as a metaphor for modern Russia. Lungin explained that what attracted him to the original nineteenth century short story was that it’s about someone who doesn’t believe in justice and therefore either steals or plays cards to achieve success.

This outlook was very dear to Pushkin and is now returning to Russia after a more optimistic period in the late 20th century after the fall of Communism.

“My country has changed a lot in recent years,” said Lungin. “We don’t yet understand where it’s heading. People are now much more pessimistic. The great Russian empire, before the 1917 revolution, was like our grandmother, the Soviet Union was like our mother and the new Russia is a bit like a daughter. But she’s still in her adolescence and is working out who she is. Everyone is a bit confused.”

Lungin initially made his name with “Taxi Blues” and “Luna Park,” More recently, he has directed pictures with a strong religious and metaphysical dimension, including “The Island” and “Tsar.” He also shot several episodes of TV series “Rodina,” a Russian political thriller based on Israel’s “Hatufim” – the basis for the American TV series “Homeland.”

Like any period of adolescence, Russia is caught in a highly emotional state of mind. Lungin’s early films were made in a period of great change, where there was tremendous optimism throughout the whole world, the director said, adding that he was interested to show the new movements and new types of characters that were emerging.

Now “Russia isn’t dead, there continues to be debate, but the questions are now perhaps more metaphysical, as people try to work out Russia’s identity.”

Lungin said that this led him to films that worked at a more deeper personal level, exploring more spiritual aspects, such as “The Island” and “Tsar.”

“Tsar,” about Ivan the Terrible, was a metaphor for Joseph Stalin, although some think it depicts Putin, Lungin stated.

“I was interested in exploring the mania of the strong man, the moment when someone in power sees himself as God. Some powerful figures stop at a certain point. But other powerful people have no limit,” he commented.

Lungin believes that there is a long historic tendency in Russia for rulers to become an almost godlike figure. In modern Russia, there are some groups and advisers that are trying to push Putin in this direction and make him a kind of dictator figure, Lungin contended. But he said that he believes that Putin doesn’t want that.

His recent TV series “Rotina,” like the US series “Homeland,” also deals with issues of political skullduggery, but is set in 1999, which some critics said demonstrated cowardice to address problems in Russia under Putin.

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