Sunday, 21 September 2008

Igor Voloshin: Nirvana - Нирвана (2007)

Director: Igor Voloshin
Script: Olga Larionova
Camera: Dmitrii Iashonkov
Design: Pavel Parkhomenko
Costume design: Nadezhda Vasileva
Make-Up and Hair Design: Anna Esmont
Original Music: Aleksandr Kopeikin
Cast: Olga Sutulova, Mariia Shalaeva, Artur Smolianinov, Mikhail Evlanov, Tatiana Samoilova
Producer: Sergei Selianov
Production: CTB Film Company

Reviewed in KinoKultura by Elena Prokhorova© 2008

Igor' Voloshin's debut feature film Nirvana opened in July 2008 to less than half full screening halls, a fact at least partially explained by its doomed competition with Hollywood summer blockbusters, which included Timur Bekmambetov's American debut, Wanted (2008). Nirvana's pre-release performance in festival circuits, however, marks it as a film worthy of notice. The film received a prize at the Kinotavr film festival in the category “Best Debut” and was screened both at the Berlin and Moscow International Film Festivals.
Artsy (or at least “culty”) in style and targeting primarily young audiences, Nirvana follows the nurse Alisa (Ol'ga Sutulova), who leaves Moscow for St. Petersburg in search of a different life. She rents a room in a dilapidated but once grand apartment, next to a couple of “quiet” teenage junkies. Her affair with her neighbor, nicknamed “Dead Man” (Artur Smol'ianinov), leads to violent confrontations with his miniature lover Vel (Mariia Shalaeva), a heavy-duty heroin addict. The girls' mutual hostility, however, transforms into a strong bond, especially when the two have to raise money to rescue Dead Man from his creditor. Having lost Vel, who dies of an overdose after Dead Man betrays her, Alisa “re-unites” with her friend in a heroin-induced Nirvana, and then leaves St. Petersburg. ...
"Nirvana" (2008)

Essentially a conventional story about drug addiction and the redemptive power of female friendship, Russian drama "Nirvana" compels attention for its outrageously over-the-top costumes and makeup, courtesy of Nadezhda Vasiliyeva and Anna Essmont, respectively. Although supposedly contempo-set, helmer Igor Voloshin's debut feature looks at first like some lost 1990s-made cyberpunk effort styled by the late Australian performance artist-cum-designer Leigh Bowery, which is sort of a good thing. Pic takes itself a little too seriously for outright critical acclaim, but it may find a semi-blissful afterlife on the fest circuit and as a cult title on ancillary.

Awards :

Best first film Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Russia, 2008
Best Set Decoration Pavel PARKHOMENKO , Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Russia, 2008

Friday, 5 September 2008

The Other Caucasus War - "Captive" (Plenny)

Alexei Uchitel returns to the subject of the Chechen wars with a sensitive look at two Russian soldiers and their Chechen captive.

It's been at least a decade -- from the 1996 release of Sergei Bodrov's "Prisoner of the Caucasus" -- since Russian filmmakers tackled the Chechen conflicts with any degree of sensitivity. True, in between there have been any number of overtly patriotic and nationalistic action films, which used the locations for their own purposes, without really examining the emotional impacts of the war.

So it's welcome to see one of the best directors of the last 20 years, Alexei Uchitel, tackling the subject -- not as a war film, but as a human drama. His new film, "Captive" (Plenny), has been rewarded with international festival acclaim. Like Bodrov's "Prisoner," it succeeds by virtue of its elliptical, understated take on the conflict itself, and by centering on three characters -- two Russian soldiers and their Chechen captive -- and how their interaction develops.

The opening sees a Russian army convoy attacked and pinned down in the mountains of Chechnya. Only two soldiers, sniper Rubakha (Vyacheslav Grekunov) and his friend Vovka (Pyotr Logachev), escape and return to their base. Along the way they capture a Chechen rebel, Djamal (played by the Georgian actor Irakly Mtskhalaya).

The script, by Timofei Dekin and acclaimed Russian novelist Vladimir Makanin (based on the latter's short story), doesn't spare any punches -- the commanding officers are corrupt, selling arms to their local opponents. To prevent Djamal's exchange as a hostage and to lead the two Russians to try to rescue their comrades, Rubakha and Vovka take the Chechen across the mountains on a route march. Their communication is slow and intermittent, but contacts develop, which are put under serious stress in the film's denouement. They need him along the way as much as he hopes for their protection, because to shoot him would be only too easy.
The Moscow Times

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Yuri Chulyukin:The Girls - Девчата (1961)

Director: Yuri Chulyukin
Cast: Nadezhda Rumyantseva, Nikolai Rybnikov, Lyusiena Ovchinnikova, Stanislav Khitrov, Inna Makarova, Nina Menshikova

Devchata is a romantic comedy set in an isolated Russian logging camp, c. the late 1950s. A pig-tailed young girl - Tosya (Nadezhda Rumiantseva)- arrives from school with a cooking degree, and joins a group of other women who work in jobs supporting the loggers. Tosya's naivete is reflected in the first exchange we see, where the official who shows her to her quarters seems exasperated when he finds that she has not brought a pillow. Tosya is assigned as a cook for the camp. Once in her dorm-like room, she cheerfully prepares herself a meal of tea and a giant loaf of bread slathered with jam; all of it from her roommates' food stockpile. When the four other girls return after a day at work, they are generally taken by Tosya's youth and good nature. However, one woman is upset that she is eating her food without permission, and a fight ensues. It is in this scene that we first see another characteristic of Tosya: her fierceness. When the dorm-mate makes some rude comments, Tosya throws a boot at her head without hesitation. This trait is also exhibited a short time later, when Tosya enters the dance hall (the girls call it the "club"). At first, no one will dance with her (probably because she is so short), but eventually she begins to dance with another very tall girl who is also passed up by several young men. ...