Thursday, 30 April 2009

Leonid Bykov: Only Old Men Are Going to Battle - В бой идут одни «старики» (1973)

Directed by Leonid Bykov.
With Leonid Bykov, Sergei Podgornyj

Only «Old Men» Are Going to Battle is a 1973 Soviet film directed by Leonid Bykov. Note that the old men does not mean elderly, but rather as experienced fighters. Film is dedicated to World War II pilots.

The film as well as its leading role by Leonid Bykov was awarded with the First Prize of VII All-Union Cinema Festival in Baku. In 2009 film was re-released with the recolorized and remastered version by Igor Lopatenok (supervisor). There's evidence that Leonid Bykov wanted to make the film in color but the color tape was very scarce at that time. Screenplay by Leonid Bykov, Yevgeni Onopriyenko and Aleksandr Satsky. Original Music by Viktor Shevchenko, conductor - I. Klyuchayev, sound - Nina Avramenko. Cinematography by Vladimir Vojtenko. Runtime 92 min. Production by Dovzhenko Film Studios, colorization by Grading Dimension Pictures.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Pavel Chukhrai: The Thief - Bop (1997)

Director: Pavel Chukhrai
Cast: Vladimir Mashkov, Yekaterina Rednikova, Misha Philipchuk

Film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and won the Nika Award for Best Picture and Best Directing. Also winner of the International Youth Jury's prize, the President of the Italian Senate's Gold Medal, and the UNICEF Award at the 1997 Venice Film Festival.

The Thief is a story of hero worship that recounts what happens when a young boy chooses the wrong role model. It's also an examination of the way a person's impressions of the world change from childhood to adulthood, and how the simple innocence of a 6 year-old's outlook is doomed to mutate in the face of life's harsh realities. The Thief relates the memories of Sanya, a forty-something Russian who looks back on his early years with an unbiased eye. His voiceover narration is sparse, giving us the bare details of time, place, and background, and reminding us of how uncertain our childhood recollections are. Director Pavel Chukhrai uses this perspective to present a child's point-of-view filtered through the vision of an adult. It's 1946 Russia, and the war is over. A young woman, Katya (Yekaterina Rednikova), collapses in the roadside mud and gives birth to a baby boy. Her husband, injured in combat, has been dead for six months. The child, whom she names Sanya, will never know his real father (although he has mystical visions of a ghost-like apparition), and his life is destined to be one of poverty, disappointment, and despair. Six years later, when Sanya (Misha Philipchuk) and his mother are traveling across Russia by train, they encounter Tolyan (Vladimir Mashkov), a dashing soldier who sweeps Katya off her feet and charms young Sanya. By the time the train ride is over, the three have become a makeshift family, with Katya posing as Tolyan's wife and Sanya as his son. Tolyan is a little too rough to be the ideal father figure, but he forms a bond with the boy and teaches him some difficult lessons, emphasizing his belief that winning is everything and that respect is earned only through fear. Katya's idyllic "marriage" doesn't last long, however. Shortly after she, Tolyan, and Sanya move into a communal apartment, she discovers his source of income – he's a thief. And, while Tolyan thinks of his occupation as nothing more than a means to provide for himself, Katya sees the misery those thefts bring to his victims. As the trio flees from town to town to avoid the authorities, Tolyan's lifestyle begins to exact an emotional price from Katya. For her sake and her son's, she wants to leave Tolyan, but she can't find the courage to do so because she has nowhere else to go. The conclusion of The Thief delivers a blunt and telling blow that offers one plausible explanation for why children act violently. What's most important about this key scene is the matter-of-fact manner in which it is presented. Chukhrai gives it no greater significance than any other moment in Sanya's remembrances. This approach highlights the tragedy of lost innocence. The Thief is characterized by three strong performances. Vladimir Mashkov fashions Tolyan into a character who is frightening, charming, and likable at the same time. Yekaterina Rednikova gives a poignant portrayal as the luckless Katya. The real discovery, however, is young Misha Philipchuk, one of those rare child actors who is capable of giving a completely natural performance. Philipchuk displays Sanya's joy, anger, frustration, and pain as if they were happening to him. One wonders how Chukhrai was able to coax such a believable portrayal from the least-experienced member of his cast. ...

"The Thief" is one of those metaphor-driven movies, promising an inevitable epiphany in which its veiled meaning suddenly hits you like a proverbial ton of bricks. Not that it's heavy-handed, but it's not exactly subtle either. A 1997 Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, "The Thief" is on the one hand a carefully observed, beautifully acted and moving evocation of life for a World War II Russian war-widow and her young son, and their encounter with a charismatic petty thief. But it is also a blunt and powerful allegory of the motherland herself and the conflicted emotional state of a nation under a harshly paternalistic Joseph Stalin. Told from the point of view of a 6-year-old boy (the adorable Misha Philipchuk), the literal story revolves around Sanya and his mother Katya (Ekaterina Rednikova) and the handsome stranger they meet on a train in 1952. Dressed in the dashing uniform of a soldier, Tolyan (Vladimir Mashkov) immediately catches Katya's eye and-after a feverish coupling on the platform between jostling train cars-the two decide to cast their lot with each other. Masquerading as husband and wife in order to get a better shot at a communal apartment, Katya and Tolyan soon settle in to what looks like the beginning of financial prosperity, with their apparently cozy domesticity shattered by increasingly frequent bouts of spousal abuse and frighteningly stern child-rearing. Furthermore, it rapidly becomes apparent that Tolyan's cash flow comes not from any military paycheck but from the five-finger discount he gives himself at the market and in his neighbors' apartments. Around this time is when the self-proclaimed "Daddy" removes his shirt to reveal the tattoo of Stalin on his chest to little Sanya (just in case there were any lingering doubts as to whom the criminal represents in this morality play). Although he badgers the boy cruelly and enlists his aid in the commission of dangerous robberies, Tolyan does demonstrate a genuine concern for his foster son's well-being. The two begin to develop a familial relationship of sorts, with a bond forged not only out of respect, but fear. What happens next is history, both literally and figuratively. ...

Monday, 13 April 2009

Cult Movie The Needle (Igla) to be Continued

Rashid Nugmanov, the director of The Needle (Igla) (1988), which features the famous rock musician Viktor Tsoi, is working on the remake of this cult movie.

“The film will include scenes from the original Igla; all the shots with Viktor Tsoy and the film plot will remain in it. Yet, it is going to be an independent movie. It will give explanations to certain scenes, the development of characters will be shown” - Rashid Nugmanov pointed out.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Pavel Lungin: Lilacs - Ветка сирени (2007)

Lilac branch (2007)

Director: Pavel Lungin
Stars: Liya Akhedzhakova, Oleg Andreyev,
Igor Chernevich

In Russia, film biographies have been anything but conventional. When turning to the “biopic,” as this popular genre of moviemaking is known today in Hollywood, Russian filmmakers have typically opted for stylization over standard narrative. As far back as 1934, Georgii and Sergei Vasil’ev’s seminal Chapaev portrayed its Civil War hero in a humorous, yet strident manner that helped establish Socialist Realism on the Soviet screen, while Eisenstein, in both Aleksandr Nevskii (1938) and Ivan the Terrible, Parts I and II (Ivan Groznyi, 1944-58), fashioned a biographical treatment of Russia’s bygone leaders in the ominous shadow of Joseph Stalin.  Several decades later and under less restrictive circumstances, AndreiTarkovskii’s Andrei Rublev (1966) offered an elliptical form of film biography, as disparate episodes with little biographical specificity constituted this epic look at the eponymous 15th-century icon painter. More recently, in His Wife’s Diary (Dnevnik ego zheny, 2000), Aleksei Uchitel’ has delved into the stormy domestic life of Russian writer Ivan Bunin and his travails as an émigré in southern France, Iurii Kara has explored the tragic years of the engineer Sergei Korolev (Korolev, 2007) or Andrei Kravchuk has turned to the life of Admiral Kolchak (Admiral, 2008), while Pavel Lungin’s Tycoon (Oligarkh, 2002) offers a loose, semi-veiled biography of powerful Russian businessman and media tycoon Boris Berezovskii. 

Lilac branch (2007)

Lungin’s Lilacs examines the life of the renowned Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff. Jumping back and forth between Rachmaninoff’s later years as an émigré in the United States and his youth in pre-Revolutionary Russia, Lungin utilizes narrative techniques linked to the Hollywood biopic—most notably, detailed period-piece scenes of turn-of-the-century Russia and 1920s America that dramatize recognizable events from the composer’s life—to probe Rachmaninoff’s creative malaise in the U.S. as well as his earlier rise as a Romantic composer and pianist in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Throughout Lilacs, we encounter crucial events from Rachmaninoff’s biography, including the unsuccessful debut of his first symphony, his dabbling with psychotherapy under the guidance of renowned Russian physician Nikolai Dahl, his controversial and somewhat tumultuous marriage to his cousin Natalia, and his extensive touring of the U.S. in the 1920s, as arranged by Fred Steinway of the famous piano-producing family. But not so fast! Despite the familiar events from Rachmaninoff’s life and a soundtrack replete with Rachmaninoff’s music, Lungin concludesLilacs with a startling disclaimer: “The main hero and the events of the film constitute an artistic invention and have been used only for the creation of the film. They do not represent any particular person and do not reflect events from this person’s life.”

Reviewed by Tim Harte © 2009 in KinoKultura