Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Stanislav Govorukhin: Actress - Артистка (2007)

Director: Stanislav Govorukhin
Script: Valery Mukharyamov
Camera: Valery Myulgaut
Production Design: Valentin Gidulanov
Music: Evgeny Doga
Cast: Evgenia Dobrovolskaya, Maria Aronova, Alexander Abdulov, Yuri Stepanov, Mikhail Yefremov, Fedor Bondarchuk, Irina Skobtseva, KIra Golovko, Svetlana Nemolyaeva, Dmitry Pevtsov, Varvara Shukyatieva, Anzhelika Volchkova
Producers: Yekaterina Maskina
Production: film studio “Vertikal”, Mosfilm, under support of the RF Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography and the RF Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communications 2006, Russia, 100 min., color. Lyrical comedy.

Awards : Best film Festival ''Cinema and literature'', Gatchina (Russia), 2008
Audience Award Festival ''Cinema and literature'', Gatchina (Russia), 2008
Best actress Yevgeniya DOBROVOLSKAIA , Golden Eagle awards, Moscow (Russia), 2008
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Mariya ARONOVA , Golden Eagle awards, Moscow (Russia), 2008
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Aleksandr ABDULOV , Golden Eagle awards, Moscow (Russia), 2008
Audience Award Window to Europe Film Festival, Vyborg, Vyborg (Russia), 2007
Best actress Yevgeniya DOBROVOLSKAIA , Honfleur Russian Film Festival, Honfleur (France), 2007
First prize Festival Russian kino 'Moscow Premier Screenings', Moscow (Russia), 2007
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Mariya ARONOVA , "NIKA" Prizes, Moscow (Russia), 2007

Evgenia Dobrovolskaya's captivating perf sparks "Actress," veteran Russian helmer Stanislav Govorukhin's sly tale about an actress with an unquenchable, contagious sense of humor. Far from temperamental Margo Channing territory, pic's theatricality resides in its characters' exuberant exits and entrances, supportive empathy and appreciation for piquant bits of absurdity. A classically Russian spin on the screwball romantic-comedy genre that has proven so elusive in Hollywood nowadays, charming pic deserves international arthouse runs, though lack of timely hooks or sexy stars may dim its prospects.

With her career and lovelife in limbo, Anna Pavlova (Dobrovolskaya) is given to moments of pensive wistfulness. Despite the respect displayed by her fellow thesps in lively backstage banter, her bit part allows little room for her obvious talent. Her sole behind-the-scenes swain is the troupe's officious, gray-haired electrician (Alexander Abdulov), who conveniently has an apartment in the same building.

But, once ensconced next door with her flamboyant best friend Musya (Maria Aronova), having her future read in the cards or just shooting the breeze, Anna is free to kick back and indulge in the kind of ironic repartee that otherwise went out with Eve Arden and Joan Blondell.

Subtitles do a journeyman job of translating the numerous puns and plays on words, but it matters little, since the women's bubbling enjoyment is as infectious as it free of malice.

Thus, when Musya invites her husband's old school chum Vikentiy (Yuri Stepanov, a balding, roly-poly version of the handsome, absent-minded scientist of Govorukhin's Stalinist-era "Not by Bread Alone") to a match-making dinner, the shy parasitologist ("how romantic," Anna sighs mischievously) finds himself immensely entertained throughout the evening, drawn out of his intellectual shell by copious rounds of vodka and conversation. By the time Vikentiy putters off, he is already half in love with the luminous Anna.
Helmer Govorukhin's usual light, almost whimsical touch lends his characters' felicitous moments a dollop of improbability and a great deal of attitude. When Vikentiy's snooty mother comes to call, she mistakes Anna for the maid. Anna cannot resist the opportunity to assume the role, her sense of the ridiculous trumping any anger or hurt. (Variety)

The Actress is the comic tale of an actress languishing in bit parts who meets a mommy's boy genius entomologist, falls in love, and, instead of following him to Spain, stays to further her career having finally landed the part of Queen Gertrude in Shakespeare's Hamlet. While it has its comic moments and creditable acting performances, The Actress is an old-fashioned and unambitious film, the most interesting aspect of which are the quotations from Shakespeare. The credit for this, though, is due largely to the bard.

Most of the film is devoted to the relationship between two women, Anna (Evgeniia Dobrovol'skaia) and her neighbor and friend Musia (Mariia Aronova), a successful businesswoman with a dog-grooming salon, who is already on her fourth “successful marriage” to a man who is younger and better looking than she is, who sees other women, and whom she openly insults. As Iuliia Belozubkina has commented (46), the repartee between Anna and Musia, as well as the former's search for love, is reminiscent of Vladimir Men'shov's Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears (Moskva slezam ne verit, 1979). The interplay between the two women provides the film with many of its comic moments, as their dialogue is fast-paced and presumably the fruit of many improvisations. Further comic bit parts are added by Basiakin (Aleksandr Abdullov), a theater electrician and Anna's neighbor in the communal flat, who makes no secret of his feelings for her. The comic centerpiece of the film, however, is provided by the parasitologist, Vikentii (Iurii Stepanov), who drops by looking for Musia's husband, Arkadii, and is waylaid, ridiculed, and plied with booze by the two women just for fun. The humor here works, but it has much of Evgenii's drunken antics in El'dar Riazanov's Irony of Fate (Ironiia sud'by, 1975) as liquor alone proves capable of prizing the dithering intellectual from his doting mother (Irina Skobtseva). His passivity may be said to be Hamlet-like, especially in the traditional Russian interpretation of the figure as symbolizing the weakness of the intelligentsia. The analogy might be extended a little further as his father, also a scientist, is dead, and an important spectral presence in his life is symbolized by the portrait that dominates the flat he shares with his mother. Yet she, unlike Hamlet's mother Queen Gertrude, has not married again but rather is consumed by and consuming in her love for her son.

Read more in KinoKultura

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