Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Andrei Khrzhanovsky: Room and a Half - Полторы комнаты, trailer (2009)

Director:Andrey Khrzhanovskiy
Writers:Yuri Arabov, Andrey Khrzhanovskiy
Stars:Aleksandr Bargman, Sergey Barkovskiy, Aleksei Devotchenko

A multiple-award-winner in Russia for his animation work, Andrey Khrzhanovsky’s semi-fictionalised biography of Nobel prize-winning poet Josef Brodsky is a lively, dense and richly imaginative portrait not only of a great writer but also of the post-Second World War cultural world of the Soviet Union. Using live-action, documentary and archive footage as well as several types of animation and surrealist flights of fancy and some seven years in the making, Khrzhanovsky’s labour of love will be a festival and arthouse favourite with Russian communities abroad sure to embrace it.

Born in 1940 and considered the greatest Russian poet of his time, the liberal Jewish writer was exiled from his beloved homeland in 1972 never to return. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987, he died an American citizen in 1996. Khrzhanovsky imagines Brodsky returning home and uses the journey as the starting point for his flashbacks with the older Brodsky (Dityatkovsky) on the deck of a luxury liner, reviewing all his life from the early war years when his Navy photographer father (Yursky) was serving in the Far East, while Brodsky accompanied his Red Army translator mother (Freindlich) to various prison camps across the country.

Some of the most touching moments in the film cover his childhood, painting an intimate, cheerful, closely knit family, that never lets their cramped living space or the penury of the lean years sap their spirit. The film freely elaborates on young Brodsky’s flights of imagination at the time, including a magical animated sequence in which Soviet soldiers throw culture out of the window, followed by a whole orchestra’s worth of instruments. ...

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Ermler, Stalin, and Animation: On the Film The Peasants (1934)

By Peter Bagrov (St. Petersburg)

Fridrikh Ermler’s The Peasants is such a strange and unexpected film that it is impossible to decide on how to approach it, especially when the focus will be on such an exotic topic as Stalin’s animated representation. It is unclear where one should begin: with the film itself? with Ermler? with Stalin? or with the animation sequence?
Stalin (let’s start with him) first appeared as a character in feature films in 1937 in Mikhail Romm’s Lenin in October. To be completely accurate, however, we should also include Sergei Eisenstein’s October (1927), although the future “father of the people” appeared only as a face in mass scenes. This was noticed for the first time, I believe, only two years ago by filmmaker and film scholar Oleg Kovalov (117). So the film does not really count. In the cast credits for Lenin in October, Stalin’s name was already in second place, immediately after Lenin’s. The role, however, was only episodic and was performed by a type-cast actor who was discovered in the provinces—Semen Gol'dshtab. [1]

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Biography and Filmography