Tuesday, 19 December 2017

5 best Russian movies of 2017 you just have to watch

Listed below are five Russian films, ranging from Oscar nominees to a Disney fairytale, that took 2017 by storm, both nationally and, in some cases, internationally. The verdict? Unmissable, all of them.

Loveless, by Andrei Zvyagintsev

 The film, which has been shortlisted for the 2018 Golden Globes and submitted as Russia’s entry for next year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Picture, not to mention that it picked up the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, could be rightly seen as an international success of Russian art-house cinema. It portrays a child who finds himself psychologically abandoned and unwanted by his mother and father.

Director Andrei Zvyagintsev has been a favorite of European cineastes since the release of his first film, The Return, which received a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2003. Zvyagintsev’s subsequent films have all been nominated or awarded at major European and U.S. festivals — The Banishment (2007), nominated for Cannes’ Palme d’Or; Elena (2011), winner of the Cannes Jury Prize; and Leviathan (2014), winner for best screenplay at Cannes and recipient of the Golden Globe award for best foreign-language film.

Arrhythmia, by Boris Khlebnikov

This latest offering from Boris Khlebnikov has already scooped the Grand Prix, the Audience Award and the Best Actor prize at the main Russian festival, Kinotavr, as well as the Best Actor prize at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. In terms of national and international recognition, Arrhythmia rivals Loveless.

The film shows the story of the complex marriage of two doctors living in the Russian city of Yaroslavl, very honestly presenting the challenges that medical workers face every day in the modern Russian public healthcare system. The realist depiction of Russian life and the acrid satire on the situations almost every Russian faces every day have made this film extremely popular with Russian audiences.

Paradise, by Andrei Konchalovsky

Image result for konchalovsky paradise

The Silver Lion winner at the Venice Film Festival and a Russian nominee for the Oscars in 2017, Paradise was made by one of the Russia’s most nationally and internationally acclaimed filmmakers Andrei Konchalovsky.

The film came out in Russia in January 2017, although international audiences got acquainted with the piece even earlier. The film’s female protagonist is modeled on the Russian princess Vera Obolenskaya, who emigrated to France after the 1917 Revolution and later joined the French Resistance.. She helped British, French and Soviet prisoners escape during the Second World War, and found herself in a Nazi concentration camp as a result. But even there she continued to save the lives of others. This documentary-style, black-and-white movie is dedicated to the heroes of the French Resistance.

Tesnota, by Kantemir Balagov

Kantemir Balagov, a 26-year-old director from the North Caucasus region of Russia, this year caused a sensation nationally and internationally. His first full-length film Tesnota (the word could be translated as “tightness” or “closeness”) won the Certain Regard FIPRESCI Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017, as well as many other international prizes. Balagov was a student of the famous Russian director Alexander Sokurov, who curated a special study course for young directors in the North Caucuses.

Balagov depicts the Jewish district of his native city of Nalchik in 1998 at the time of the Chechen war. A young couple from a Jewish family announce their engagement, and the next day they are kidnapped. Different generations of the family find their own ways to save their relatives.

Balagov is certainly a bright Russian director, whose career is worth following.

The Last Warrior, by Dmitry Dyachenko

This Disney comedy film, based on Russian fairytales, is a record-breaker in its homeland, becoming the biggest ever box-office draw in Russia. Co-produced by the local company Yellow, Black and White, the movie nudged past the previous champion, Stalingrad by Fyodor Bondarchuk, which had held the record for four years.

The story starts with Ivan, a young man from Moscow, who takes part in the so-called “white mags” competition, occasionally teleporting from present-day Moscow to the mysterious world of the Russian fairytale.

The film has not yet been shown abroad, but, considering its popularity in Russia, there’s every chance it will hit the global silver screen.

Friday, 22 September 2017

New Zvyagintsev movie 'Loveless' to compete for Oscar from Russia

Russian Oscar committee decided to suggest this movie for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Each of Zvyagintsev's movies is a big event in the cinematic world, usually marked by coveted awards. Loveless has won the Jury Prize at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and now Russia selected it to be the entry for the competition of the 90th Academy Awards, RIA Novosti reports.

European countries lined up to buy the rights to screen Loveless even before the official film release. A young couple is on the verge of divorce. They decide to send their son to an orphanage, but they unwittingly forgot about the decision the next day, they are too busy with their own lives and the boy disappears. The following plot feels like a search movie (similar to Gone Girl or The Searchers), but on a philosophic level, as film critic Anton Dolin says, they are not simply searching the land outside, but for something inside themselves. The critic also notes that the cast and dialogue appear completely natural, even during the erotic scenes.

Zvyagintsev's previous critically acclaimed movie, Leviathan, was also nominated for an Oscar as Best Foreign Language Film in 2014, won the Golden Globe Awards and got a prize for the best script at the 67th Cannes Festival.


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Prominent Russian Actress, Director Vera Glagoleva Dies At 61

Russian actress and director Vera Glagoleva (file photo)

Prominent Russian actress Vera Glagoleva has died at the age of 61, Russian news agencies reported on August 16.

Reports cited friends, relatives, and a Russian screen actors' guild as saying that Glagoleva died at a hospital in the United States.

The cause of death was not immediately clear.

Glagoleva gained fame in the Soviet Union for her roles in films such as Don't Shoot White Swans (1980) and To Marry The Captain (1985).

She directed six movies and also worked as a producer and screenwriter.

The last film Glagoleva directed was the 2014 drama Two Women, based on a story by Ivan Turgenev and starring British actor Ralph Fiennes.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Controversial film about last tsar approved for release in Russia - Alexei Uchitel’s Matilda

The Russian culture ministry has cleared a film depicting a love affair between Russia’s last tsar and a ballerina for nationwide release, despite protests from conservative critics who have demanded it be banned.

Matilda, made by prominent Russian director Alexei Uchitel, tells the story of a love affair between the young Nicholas and a half-Polish ballet dancer, Matilda Kshesinskaya. Trailers show romantic scenes between the prince and the ballerina. Conservative and religious critics deny the affair ever took place and say the film is an insult to the memory of Nicholas, who was canonised by the Russian Orthodox church in 2000.

The Russian MP Natalia Poklonskaya filed a request to the general prosecutor’s office earlier this year asking to check whether the film broke a law on offending the feelings of religious believers. She admitted she had not seen the film when she made the request and said she did not plan to.

As Russia marks the centenary of the year that saw twin revolutions upend the tsarist order and sweep Vladimir Lenin’s Bolsheviks into power, the reputation of the last tsar is being rehabilitated. Monuments to Nicholas II are going up across Russia, and last month thousands of pilgrims made a 13-mile overnight walk to the spot where Nicholas and his family were executed in 1918, to mark the 99th anniversary of the deaths.

There is even a small but vocal contingent of Russians who want to see monarchy restored in the country.

Last month, hundreds of Orthodox activists staged a protest in Moscow against Uchitel’s film, and in some cases threats have even been made to cinemas, warning them they face attacks if they show the film.

A spokesman for the Russian culture ministry said on Thursday that the film complied with Russian law and had been issued a 16+ certificate. He said the certificate applied to the whole of Russia, but added that individual regions had the executive authority to ban the film if they wanted.

The hardline ruler of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has already called for the film to be banned, and authorities in neighbouring Dagestan have also said they do not want the film to be shown.

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Monday, 19 June 2017

Pavel Chukhray: Cold tango - Холодное танго (2017)

Cold tango (2017)

Directed by Pavel Chukhray
Cast: Yulia Peresild, Rinal Mukhametov, Sergey Garmash

Julia Peresild

By miracle he avoided death and returns to the house where he was born. In the house now lives the love of his life. But the hope for happiness turns sour with a terrible discovery: his beloved is the daughter of his enemy.


Saturday, 10 June 2017

Alena Davydova: Ivan - Иван (2016)

Director: Alena Davydova
Cast: Kirill Polukhin, Polina Gukhman, Anastasiia Mel’nikova, Liudmila Boiarinova, Sergei Iatseniuk,

Image result for Alena Davydova:  Иван

In her desire to make “an ordinary film about ordinary people” (Manzhula 2016) Alena Davydova, born in a small town in Chuvashia, brings a fresh perspective to the Moscow-centric Russian film industry. Her full-length feature debut Ivan came out at the St Petersburg Sever Film Company, the successor of the famous Studio for the First and Experimental Film (PiEF) founded in 1989 by Aleksei Iu. German and Svetlana Karmalita to nurture emerging talent. The studio selected Davydova’s project for support in 2013 when her script for Ivan received the main prize for “best contemporary story” at the eighth national competition of family-oriented scripts “Faith. Hope. Love.” The film premiered at Kinotavr, the Open Russian Film Festival, in 2016. A rather straightforward drama about a day in the life of two ordinary people in a humble provincial town, Ivan stands out among the more usual fare of flashy commercial productions or complex art house features. This emphatic simplicity has won over the hearts of many Russian bloggers, but it also runs the risk of making the story too obvious and banal for the more sophisticated viewer looking for deeper social and psychological analyses. Despite her “quiet scrutiny” of her ordinary characters that is “devoid of both special effects and speculation on viewers’ emotions,” Davydova is not a new Vasilii Shukshin, as one film critic at the Kinotavr press conference suggested (Uminova 2016). Nor is she a new Larisa Sadilova, another prominent filmmaker from Russia’s provinces whose dedication to provincial Russia is paired with rigorous social critique. That said, Davydova’s compelling casting, convincing dialogue, and semi-detective plot in Ivan will keep many viewers engaged throughout the feature.

The film tells a story of the middle-aged ambulance driver, Ivan, who lives alone in his run-down apartment. One day, when taking out the trash, Ivan bumps into a nine-year-old girl, Tonia, who says she came from a nearby town to visit her grandmother. Tonia unceremoniously asks Ivan for food and shelter because her grandmother is gone and she cannot get in touch with her. Ivan unwillingly assumes responsibility for the opinionated girl and her lapdog, and the unlikely trio embarks on an eventful day filled with hopes, disappointments, and revelations. The viewer gradually assembles Ivan’s traumatic life story by observing his interactions with Tonia and other acquaintances as he scrambles to put together a decent outfit to wear to his daughter’s sixteenth birthday. Ivan’s life “has turned upside down” when, after a bad helicopter accident that involved “falling and burning,” the formerly intrepid pilot with a zest for life has acquired a fear of heights and failed to adjust to his new, earth-bound existence. Ivan’s current life drags on as a pale shadow of his past adventures, and both his family and friends have written him off and moved on. Only a few keep urging him to turn his life around by taking up flying again, thereby aggravating his guilt over his seeming inability to overcome his acrophobia. Others, who still care, offer doubtful half-solutions like moving to a better place or simply moving to avoid the depressing status quo. Predictably for a film with a broken adult and a precocious but compassionate child, Tonia is the only person who eventually manages to turn Ivan “right side up.” Parallel to Ivan’s narrative, the viewer puts together pieces of Tonia’s puzzle: a much more intriguing but poorly developed story of a child traveling alone, wandering the streets away from her hometown in search of a lost parent, a “brave and strong pilot.” At some point in the film, Ivan must live up to this idealized vision if he wants to preserve his growing bond with Tonia, his second chance at getting fatherhood, family, and life right.

Kirill Polukhin, one of the leading actors of the Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theater in St Petersburg, plays the title character with a believable balance of natural charisma and low self-esteem: reminded at each step that he is an “eagle” turned “penguin,” Ivan nevertheless projects an innate openness and charm that explain the genuine attachment to him of both Tonia and Irina, a woman who loves him despite (or perhaps because) of his current “unmanly” weakness and lack of ambition. Polukhin’s wider popularity based on television series in which he is routinely typecast as a “charismatic scoundrel” (Bobrova 2016) curiously augments his role in Ivan. The palpable chemistry between the seasoned actor and his nine-year-old acting partner, Polina Gukhman, results in compelling acting and dialogue that, in the words of kinoteatr.ru reviewers, make for an “organic” and “soulful” viewing experience that is accomplished “in one breath” (“Ivan” 2016).

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Alexei Mizgirev: The Duelist - Дуэлянт (2016)

Director: Aleksei Mizgirev
Stars: Martin Wuttke, Yuri Kolokolnikov, Vladimir Mashkov

Пётр Фёдоров

An adventure film, with dramatic and thriller elements set against the backdrop of palaces and the noble view of the Russian capital, The Duelist centers on Yakovlev, a retired officer, who returns to St. Petersburg from a long exile. While in the city, he fights as a duelist's representative. (Nineteenth-century Russian duel law allowed for a duelist to be replaced by any one person.) Though Yakovlev fights for money, he also seeks honor and revenge against those who disgraced him, therein, challenging the Russian Providence. Yakovlev fearlessly plays with destiny as an example of traditional romantic characters from the Russian Classics.

Aleksei Mizgirev’s fourth feature-length film, The Duelist, differs significantly from what the director’s rather cineaste audience has seen before. Set in St Petersburg in 1860, the film is a contemporary version of a historical drama and costume film, with an action-driven plot and abundant cinematic effects. Although the IMAX spectacle is intended as up-to-date genre cinema made in Russia, it nevertheless adumbrates the auteur style of directing that Mizgirev pursued in his previous films, Hard-Hearted (Kremen’, 2007), Buben, Baraban (2009) and The Convoy (Konvoi, 2012). First, The Duelist echoes the gloomy urban landscapes characteristic for Mizgirev’s films about contemporary Russia; and second, the nineteenth-century characters are plunged into questions and problems which seem to matter still today. Whether auteur style or genre cinema—Mizgirev’s films reflect the director’s general interest in human behavior, in questions concerning personality and social environment, in honor and dignity as central moments of individual identity.

The story revolves around the professional duelist Iakovlev, who is hired by a mercenary German baron in order to stand in for others in duels. The practice of dueling, in nineteenth-century Russia an illegal but prevalent way to settle disputes and slights against honor between noblemen, was regulated by strict rules. One of them, as we are told right at the beginning of the film, stipulated the possibility of a substitute. In this role the protagonist, a handsome but glowering young man, wins duel after duel. This draws the nobility’s attention to the mysterious duelist, who has recently returned to St Petersburg and whose identity is revealed bit by bit as the story unfolds. Soon Iakovlev finds out that all duels, for which he was hired, were arranged by the cold-hearted, nefarious Count Beklemishev in order to get rid of his creditors. At the same time Iakovlev himself becomes entangled in an intrigue initiated by Beklemishev, involving the idealistic young Prince Tuchkov and his beautiful sister, Princess Marfa. When Iakovlev takes sides with the Tuchkovs, it becomes clear that—apart from feeling attracted by the blonde Princess Marfa himself—Iakovlev has an agenda of his own.

Iakovlev’s identity is revealed in several flashbacks. Running ashore on the Aleutian Islands as an ordinary soldier of the Tsarist army, he was rescued and cured by an Aleutian shaman who foretold him immortality. An offspring of the old noble Kolychev family, he fell victim to one of Beklemishev’s intrigues five years ago. As a young lieutenant he was provoked and offended by Beklemishev in front of St Petersburg’s nobility. The young man’s sense of honor suffered severe consequences. Beklemishev initiated Kolychev’s suspension from the Tsarist army as well as his deprivation of peerage, which drove Kolychev’s mother to commit suicide. After being flogged, he was sent to the Aleutian Islands as an ordinary soldier. There he took the identity of the late nobleman Iakovlev in order to be allowed to duel the man responsible for his misfortune, which would, besides taking revenge, enable him to restore his honor.

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