Tuesday, 28 December 2010

“Battleship Potemkin” still the world’s best film?

December 20 saw 85 years since the premiere of the famous film “The Battleship Potemkin” by the great Russian film director Sergey Eisenstein.

A year after its premiere, the film was recognized “the world’s best film of all times”. Since 1950s, it has been included each time into the top ten of the world’s best films which is compiled by the Sight & Sound British magazine by a survey of 100 experts from all over the world and renewed every ten years. This year, “Potemkin” occupied the third place in the top ten of the world’s best films which was published by Empire magazine.

Russian cinema expert Naum Kleyman comments on this choice:

“There are pieces of art which are eternal – the Greek temple Parthenon, Leonardo’s Giaconda, Beethoven’s Ninth symphony… “Battleship Potemkin” is one of them. In its time, the film was a breakthrough. Before it, cinematography was viewed rather as an entertainment than as serious art. At “Potemkin’s” premiere, people saw that cinematography can touch the innermost of one's heart, like music or theater."

In fact, Eisenstein made his film by an order from Soviet leaders to the 20th anniversary of the first Russian revolution of 1905. The revolution gripped all Russia but was suppressed by the government.

The film’s script is based on one episode of the 1905 revolution – a mutiny on the battleship “Potemkin” in the port of Odessa in the Crimea. The city’s residents supported the rebels. To suppress the mutiny, the authorities brought in a squadron of battleships, but no one on these ships dared to fire at the rebellious sailors. Eventually, the authorities had to release “Potemkin” into the open sea. ...

Director of Soviet ‘Rambo’ Dies at 75

Russian film director Mikhail Tumanishvili, who was behind one of the biggest Soviet-era blockbusters, died in Moscow on Thursday. He was 75.

News agencies did not report a cause of death, but the director was hospitalized with lung problems earlier this year, the Infox.ru news agency reported.

Tumanishvili, a Muscovite, began his career as a theater actor but switched to filmmaking with his debut in 1981.

His first big hit was the thriller “Solo Voyage” (1985), which features Soviet marines preventing a group of U.S. right-wing military officers from starting World War III by launching a rocket attack on the Soviet Union. The action-packed movie took the Soviet box office by storm and boasted an audience of some 40 million.

Two years later, The New York Times likened the film to Sylvester Stallone’s “Rambo” and noted that it reveled in the same sort of Cold War stereotypes. The U.S. military is depicted as cold-blooded killers, but in a touch of the blossoming perestroika policy, “Solo Voyage” also features American tourists helping the Soviets uncover the plot.
Tumanishvili’s other notable work includes the drama “Crash, a Cop’s Daughter” (1989) and the hit crime series “Turetsky’s March” (2000). He directed a total of 16 feature-length films and three television series.
St. Petersburg Times

Mikhail Tumanishvili was born in Moscow in 1935. He was trained as a theater and film actor in the Shchukin School of Theater where he graduated in 1957. He acted on stage in the Pushkin Theater in Moscow and in films such as Leningradskaya Simfoniya (1957), Zhizn Snachala (1961) and Armageddon (1962). Since 1964 he worked as an assistant director for Mosfilm until his directorial debut with Otvetnii Khod in 1981. He has made 11 films to date.
1981 Countermove (Otvetnii Khod)
1982 Incident at Map-Grid 36-80 (Sluchai v Kvadrate 36-80)
1984 Line of Resistance (Polosa Prepyatstvii)
1985 Solo Journey (Odinochnoe Plavanie)
1987 Free Fall (Svobodnoe Padenie)
1989 Avariya – Cop's Daughter (Avariya – Doch Menta)
1991 Wolfhound (Volkodav)
1993 Stalin's Testament (Zaveshchanie Stalina)
1995 Crusader (Krestonosets) (co-directed with Aleksandr Inshakov)
1998 Yukka (Yukka)
2000 Turetskii's March (Marsh Turetskovo)

Friday, 24 December 2010

Alexey Balabanov's Fireman Takes White Elephant Prize

Film critics have awarded the major prize of the White Elephant award to Alexey Balabanov's drama film Kochegar (Fireman).

Prize for the best camerawork went to Pavel Kostomarov and the film Kak ya provyol etim letom (aka How I Ended This Summer). Sergey Puskepalis and Grigory Dobrygin featured in the prize-winning drama, became the best actors. The best actress prize went to Olga Demidova, who starred in the drama picture Obratnoe dvizhenie (Reverse Motion) directed by Andrey Stempkovsky.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Andrei Andrianov: Spy - Шпион (2011)

A film adaptation of Boris Akunin's "spy novel".

Director: Alexey Andrianov
Cast: Daniel Kozlowski, Fyodor Bondarchuk, Victoria Tolstoganova, Anna Chipovskaya, Vladimir Yepifantsev, Sergei Gazarov, Aleksey Gorbunov, Victor Verzhbitsky, Alexey Gavrilov, Catherine Miller
Script Vladimir Valutsky, Nikolai Kulikov
Operator Dennis Alarcon Ramirez
Producers Leonid Vereshchagin, Sergei Shumakov
Manufacturing Studio "thumbnail" supported "Russia 1

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Ilya Khrzhanovsky: 4 - Четыре (2005)

Ilya Khrjanovsky
Vladimir Sorokin
Cast :Shavkat Abdusalamov, Anatoli Adoskin and Aleksei Khvostenko

Awards :
Special Jury prize Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Russia, 2005
Grand prix au Festival de Rotterdam, 2005

The lies shared by three Russian strangers take on a life of their own in director Ilya Khrzhanovsky's dreamlike journey into the strange heart of modern-day Russia. After entering a local watering hole and relaying a series of elaborate but entirely fabricated tales, a prostitute posing as an advertising executive, a piano tuner claiming to be a genetic engineer, and a butcher posing as a Kremlin insider all go their separate ways. In the hours following their strange conversation, all three will experience a surreal and richly symbolic voyage into a land where the specter of even the most elaborate of lies can somehow fade into reality for one tantalizing instant. (kinoglaz.fr)

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Film by Alexey Uchitel among Golden Globe nominations

Alexey Uchitel`s Krai (The Edge) starring Vladimir Mashkov has been listed among the top five films nominated for the Golden Globe awards.

The action takes place in Siberia in late 1940s.

Voice of Russia

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Kazansky - Chebotarev: The Amphibian Man - (Человек-Амфибия) 1962

Directors: Vladimir Chebotaryov, Gennadi Kazansky
Writers: Aleksandr Belyaev (novel), Akiba Golburt,
Stars: Vladimir Korenev, Anastasiya Vertinskaya,Mikhail Kozakov


The film is based on the 1927 novel by famous writer Aleksandr Belyayev.

A cross between Jules Verne and Hans Christian Andersen, became one of the biggest smash hits in Soviet history.

Awards : Deuxième prix du Festival du film à Trieste (Italie), 1962

Part science fiction, part fantasy, and part romance, Amphibian Man, based on the 1928 Aleksandr Beliaev novel of the same name, is the story of Ikhtiandr’s (Vladimir Korenev) search for love and acceptance on land. In an exotic and beautiful unspecified Latin American locale, (Buenos Aires, Argentina in the novel) townspeople live in fear of an exotic creature, “the sea devil.” In reality, this “sea devil” is the kindly Ikhthiandr, whose father, Dr. Sal'vator (Nikolai Simonov) replaced his lungs with shark’s gills in a lifesaving operation in his childhood. Although Dr. Sal'vator dreams of a utopian underwater republic where his son can thrive, Ikhthiandr has his sights set on a different prize: the beautiful Guttiere (Anastasiia Vertinskaia), whom he rescued from a shark attack when she fled from an unwanted suitor. Feeling stifled by loneliness and the solitary existence of life under the sea, Ikhthiandr sets out to find her, against his father’s wishes. Along the way, he encounters not only her greedy and jealous fiancé, Pedro Zurita (Mikhail Kozakov), but also the cruel realities of the world outside of his sheltered underwater existence.

In many ways, the now fifty-year-old film has not aged well, but it has done so in a way that is generally considered “so bad, it’s good.” Amphibian Man, with its cheesy 1960s visual aesthetics and relatively low budget, given costly technical aspects, has become a cult classic. It has an overdramatic and oversimplified love story. Guttiere is predictably the object of affection of not only Ikhthiandr and Pedro, but also Ol'sen (Vladlen Davydov), a journalist and friend of Dr. Sal'vator. Ikhthiandr wins her heart by immediately confessing his love for her and, when she teases him about love at first sight, he earnestly replies with “Is there any other kind?” This charming, but utopian love, combined with impossibly ridiculous feats of technology and the tragic ending of the loveable and naive Ikhthiandr who wanted nothing more than to be a part of the world on land, seem to form the perfect mixture of terrible and brilliant.

More here

Original version of the movie here.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Oleg Stepchenko: Vii: The Return - Вий: Возвращение

 Вий 3D (2013)

Director: Oleg Stepchenko
Cast :Jason Flemyng, Valery Zolotukhin, Alexei Chadov, Agniya Ditkovskite, Nina Ruslanova, Olga Zaitseva, Andrew Smolyakov, Igor Jijikine, Oleg Taktarov, Alexander Karpov, Anna Churina,

 Вий 3D (2013)

The film is directed by Oleg Stepchenko, based on the first manuscript of Nikolai Gogol. The film is in production since December 2005, and was stopped sometimes due to lack of finance.. In April 2011 the filming was completed.

 Вий 3D (2013)

Early 18th century. Cartographer Jonathan Green undertakes a scientific voyage from Western Europe to the East.

 Вий 3D (2013)

Having passed through Transylvania and crossed the Carpathian Mountains, he finds himself in a small village lost in impassible woods of Ukraine. Nothing but chance and heavy fog could bring him to this cursed place. People who live here do not resemble any other people which 
the traveler saw before that. 

Official site here.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Alexandr Ptushko: Scarlet Sails - Алые паруса (1961)

Directed by Alexander Ptushko. Screenplay by A. Yurovsky, and S. Nagorny
B.ased on Alexander Grin's 1923 adventure novel
Actors: Vasiliy Lanovoy, Pavel Massalsky, Anastasia Vertinskaya, Oleg Anofriev, G. Shpigel

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Stanislav Govorukhin: The Rifleman of the Voroshilov Regiment - Ворошиловский стрелок (1999)

Voroshilov Sharpshooter (1999)

Director Stanislav Govorukhin
Actors Mikhail Ulyanov, Anna Sinyakina, Alexander Porohovschikov, Vladimir Semago, Sergei Garmash, Vladislav Galkin, Alexey Makarov, Marat Basharov, Ilya Ancient, Irina Rozanova, Georgiy Martirosyan, Vyacheslav Golodnov

Voroshilov`s sniper

Stanislav Govorukhin directs this revenge drama that skewers both that country's pandemic corruption and nouveau riche thugs. Ivan Fedorovich (Mikhail Ulyanov) is a former railway worker who served during WWII as a sharp shooter in a crack Voroshilov regiment. Long retired, Ivan lives with his attractive teenaged granddaughter Katya (Anna Sinyakina), while her executive mother chases both business and men abroad. One day, Katya is picked up by a trio of wealthy young "New Russians" who have a taste for expensive cars and violent Western movies. They take her to a neighboring apartment complex, get her drunk, and then take turns raping her. The three boast that she is not the first girl they have ravaged and will not be the last. When Katya staggers home and tells her grandfather what happened, he immediately informs the police. The cops arrest the rapists and beat a confession out of them. Yet before the criminal trial can proceed, the district inspector (Vladislav Galkin), who coincidentally is the father of one of the rapists, orders the charges be dropped. After angrily complaining to a series of unreceptive bureaucrats, Ivan decides to take manners into his own hands using his old marksmanship expertise and a black market rifle. This film was screened at the 2000 Berlin Film Festival.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Vampire Animation Released in Russia

Full-length animation film Nosferatu. The Horror of Night created by Russian animators goes on general release in Russia.
Its author is Vladimir Marinichev, a former officer of the Petersburg Criminal Investigation Department. He decided to try his wings as a film director after watching the animated cartoon film History of Toys. Animation seemed to him quite affordable: one just needed a computer and some imagination.
The famous vampire named Nosferatu became the protagonist of The Horror of Night. After all, the former militiaman has firsthand experience in the naywards of human soul. Nevertheless, the animation film characters make one smile rather than fear. Dracula, for example, is very elegant and ironical, and a musician into the bargain.

Vera Glagoleva: One War - Одна война (2009)

Director: Vera Glagoleva
Actors: Aleksandr Baluyev, Natalia Surkov, Michael Dull, Natalia Kudryashova, Xenia Surkov, Julia Melnikova, Fedor Koposov, Anna Nahapetova
Year: 2009

For nearly a decade now, Russian filmmakers have engaged in penetrating exposés of the untold history of the Great Patriotic War. The topics covered include the penal battalions, the treatment of German civilians and POWs, the poor training of naïve young recruits, commanders’ callous disregard for Russian lives, collaboration, the role of the security police, and so on. Vera Glagoleva adds to this rich and provocative body of work the tale of what happened to women who bore children to the fascist enemy.
One War has a simple plot, which unfolds over three days, 8-10 May 1945. Five women, along with their young children, have been exiled to a small island on Lake Ladoga for the crime of sleeping with German soldiers. Their corrective labor consists of gutting, scaling, and drying fish. They are guarded by a single, disabled sergeant (Aleksandr Baluev). This monotonous routine is interrupted by the arrival of an NKVD major (Mikhail Khmurov), who has come to round up the women and send them to the gulag. Their children will be placed in orphanages. The next day, the women are, however, allowed to celebrate the Victory, although the major refuses an invitation to join their modest festivities. Early the following morning (10 May), the sergeant flees with the women and children while the major watches silently from a rocky promontory.
One War presented this reviewer with a conundrum. On the one hand, the film tells a little-known story that has built-in emotional resonance. Ruslan Gerasimenikov’s cinematography is exquisite and painterly; the film’s acting is, likewise, very strong. One War has been a selection in a number of international film festivals and has garnered awards, most notably the Grand Prix at the Sofia International Film Festival.
Reviewd by Denise J. Youngblood © 2010 in KinoKultura

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Silent Souls reach Latin America

A Russian drama about life and death, Silent Souls, has picked up two important awards, the Silver Astors, at Argentina’s Mar del Plata international film festival, the only “A” status film fair in Latin America.
Alexey Ferdorchenko, from the Urals Russian city of Yekaterinburg, was named Best Director, while novelist Denis Osokin was praised for the film's screenplay at the 25th edition of the festival.
Earlier this year, the beautifully shot Silent Souls received accolades from the jury of the Venice film festival where the film's cameraman, Mikhail Krichman, was awarded the prestigious 'Ozella' prize for Best Cinematography.
Fedorchenko’s “Souls” revolves around a middle-aged man who just lost his beloved wife and wants to bury her somewhere where they once spent their honeymoon. However, Miron does not make his journey alone; he is accompanied by a photographer, to whom he confides his family life, cut short.
Erotic and poetic, Silent Souls' cinematic language did not go unnoticed at the Middle East International Film Festival in Abu-Dabi, where it also received the top honors.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Soviet icon spurring Russian cinema revival

Russia’s proud cinematic traditions, forged during the Soviet era, were shaken by the years of economic turmoil in the 1990s, but the industry is now fighting to return to its position on the global screen.
Leading the way is Mosfilm, once the symbol of Soviet cinema. The studio, occupying a sprawling complex on 125 acres on Moscow’s Sparrow Hills, struggled through much of the past two decades but is now on an upward path, working desperately to restore its glory years and reach a new audience.
Established seven years after the 1917 Russian Revolution, the studio was essentially the film arm of the Soviet Union’s propaganda machine and all the great directors of Soviet cinema, from Sergei Eisenstein to Andrei Tarkovsky, worked there. More than 3,000 films were produced there, including “War and Peace” (1968) and “Dersu Uzala” (1975), both of which won Oscars for best foreign film.
Sitting at the head of a boardroom table with the two Oscars in a glass cabinet behind him, Mosfilm’s general director recalls the decade of financial distress and artistic disorientation that forced the industry into decline.
“I remember that period very well,” Karen Shakhnazarov says. “In the 90s, films were virtually not made, the industry didn’t even function.”
The legendary film studio’s production hit rock bottom – it says only 21 feature films were released in 1996. Such meager output would have been unthinkable in the Soviet Union, when cinema had a central cultural role.
In 1997, the government placed Mosfilm on the list of enterprises to be privatized in order to breathe new life into the ailing film industry and by the end of the 1990s, all the major film institutions in Russia– the Filmmakers Union, Goskino, Mosfilm and Lenfilm - had new leadership.
But the transition was far from easy. Filmmaking costs rocketed and today the average feature film costs from 500 million to 700 million rubles to produce (about $350,000 to $500,000), roughly 100 times what it cost in the Soviet Union.
RIA Novosti

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Alexander Kott: The Brest Fortress aka Fortress of War - Брестская Крепость (2010)

A war drama set during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, in which Russian troops held on to a border stronghold for nine days.

Director: Alexander Kott
Writers: Aleksey Dudarev, Vladimir Eremin,
Cast: Pavel Derevyanko,Andrei Merzlikin,Alexanser Korshunov

Official web-site (in Russian)

The Brest Fortress (2010) - IMDb

Full movie:

The Red Army’s defense of the Brest Fortress against the Nazis in June-July 1941 is one of the most resonant episodes of the Great Patriotic War. The legend about the feat of the defenders of the fortress—the Citadel on the Bug, as it is often called—emerged during the Khrushchev Thaw. The myth about the fearless warriors, who fought Hitler’s army deep in the enemy’s rear for almost a month was formed in the mid 1960s, after the publication of a book by the Moscow journalist Sergei Smirnov (the father and grandfather respectively of filmmaker Andrei Smirnov and Dunia Smirnova). In the 1970s, at the suggestion of the First Secretary of the Belarus Communist Party, Peter Masherov, the Brest Fortress became the ideological and tourist brand for Belarus, as well as an occasion for the propaganda of Soviet internationalism: the garrison at the Fortress had included a dozen nationalities of the USSR. For the authorities of modern Belarus, the history of the Brest Fortress and its defenders is, above all, an example of the “fraternal attitudes” to allied Russia. It is no wonder that this well-known plot was chosen for the first film project of the Television and Radio Organization (TRO) of the Union state.
The film project was preceded by a documentary film of the same title, made by TRO a year before the beginning of the feature film. According to scriptwriter Konstantin Vorob'ev, it was the success of the television screenings of the documentary that pushed the management of TRO into the direction of a live-action film for the silver screen. The film-project The Brest Fortress was financed from the budget of the Allied State of Russia and Belarus at a ratio of 60 and 40 percent respectively, with an overall budget of approximately $7 million. The ideological inspiration for the film came from the former television comedian and now head of TRO, Igor’ Ugol’nikov, who emphasized from the very beginning the public importance of the project. The Brest Fortress should tell the young generation of Russians and Belorusians “the truth about the war”, which has been deformed in recent narratives. In particular, young men should know that the main contribution to the victory over Nazism came from the USSR....
Reviewed by Anton Sidorenko in Kinokultura

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Self and the Other in Recent Russian Cinema

Birgit Beumers (U of Bristol) writes in KinoKultura
The sociologist Lev Gudkov (2004) has argued that an identity is usually constituted by reference to the Other, usually an enemy; he further argues that the victim complex is the result of the traumatic experience of the Soviet past. This self-perception is projected onto the way in which Russians are seen in world cinema (see Beumers 2008). Although the passivity and inertia that Gudkov attributes to the victim complex have been manifest in Russian culture even before the twentieth century—one only needs to think of the “Russian idea” with its submissive and aggressive elements, associating the east with passivity and the west with activity [1]—Gudkov’s point here is about a nation that has publicly and emotionally not come to terms with certain aspects of Soviet history. Thus, whilst parades mark the anniversaries of WWII with memorial celebrations that remember those who lost lives, no remembrance ceremonies have commemorated the victims of Stalinism.
For Gudkov, the victim complex is a mechanism that allows man to compensate for a lack of self-respect and self-esteem; it justifies general fatigue as the result of the ruling power’s coercion of man into action; it prevents man from turning plans into action, indeed it exempts the victim from action; it is a defense against an active Other that becomes the enemy, because it may coerce the victim into action (Gudkov 98-102): “The victim complex works like a mechanism purifying the subject of possible action from any defects and relieving it from deficiencies, from a sense of inadequacy or loss. Instead, it endows the subject with latent and potential qualities that cannot be tested against reality, cannot be realized, cannot translate into action” (Gudkov 101-2).
Gudkov’s argument that the victim complex is symptomatic of post-Soviet Russia even to a larger extent than of the Soviet era is connected to the lack of responsibility that the Soviet individual traditionally carried for his actions: “The victim complex is a perversion of personal initiative” (Gudkov 108). Therefore, the victim complex characterizes Russia’s self-perception, and strips the image of Russian-ness of the pseudo-confidence with which Soviet ideology endowed its citizens by claiming achievements, notably in the space and arms race, and in the victory over fascism in WWII. ...

Monday, 1 November 2010

Sergei M. Eisenstein - ¡Que viva México!

Directors: Grigori Aleksandrov, Sergei M. Eisenstein 
Writer: Grigori Aleksandrov 
Stars: Félix Balderas, Sara García, Martín Hernández


 Sergei Eisenstein shot ¡Que viva México! in Mexico in 1931 at the height of the Great Depression. The courageous financiers of this project were the author Upton Sinclair, his wife Mary Craig and a small group of their friends. They had great difficulties in keeping the production going; the economic crisis forced Sinclair to call a halt to it in early 1932. Shooting was stopped with most of the work completed; only one episode could not be filmed. At the same time Josef Stalin insisted on Eisenstein's return to the Soviet Union.

Eisenstein left Mexico with Sinclair's promise in mind; that all the negatives would be send to him to enable the final editing of the film in Moscow. Sinclair tried several times in vain to transfer the film footage to Russia, but the Soviet Film Industry was instructed not to import the film. Eisenstein had been denounced both as a political renegade and as a Trotskyite, which was, in the eyes of Stalin, a serious offence. Preventing Eisenstein from finishing his Mexican film was Stalin's punishment. Consequently Eisenstein was left without film work for several years and started teaching at the State Film School. The Stalinist propaganda, which heaped all the blame on Upton Sinclair for the tragic end of ¡Que viva México!, prevailed.

Two films utilizing Eisenstein's film footage were made with Upton Sinclair's permission: Thunder over Mexico made in 1933 by Sol Lesser and Time in the Sun, made by Mary Seton in 1939/40. Thanks to the foresight of Sinclair, who in the 1950s deposited the unedited materials of Eisenstein's film with the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the subsequent work of Jay Leyda to make them accessible, all is not lost. We are sure that seventy years of archival care and investment in preserving the essence of this film will eventually result in an authentic reconstruction of this lost film.

Many film-historians are convinced that ¡Que viva México! is one of Eisenstein's greatest films. ¡Que viva México! stood at the crossroads of Eisenstein's artistic development and at a crucial point in the evolution of the art of the cinema. This work deserves more than any other to be taken out of the archives, to be appreciated by a new generation! It is a treasure waiting to be discovered.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Aleksandr Kaidanovsky: The Wife Of The Kerosene Man - Жена керосинщика (1988)

Director: Aleksandr Kaidanovsky
Script: Alexander Kaidanovsky
Operator: Alexei Rodionov
Composer: Alexander Goldstein
Artists: Victor Zenkov, Theodore Tezhik
Country: USSR
Year: 1988
Premiere: September 1989

Cast: Vytautas Paukste, Aleksandr Baluev, Anna Myasoyedova

Awards : Grand prix du film fantastique au Festival d'Avoriaz, 1990

Plot: A doctor is framed by his own brother, who wants his wife, and was sent to gaol for allowing one of his patients to die. Now the doctor is out of prison he ekes out a living by selling kerosene door to door, whilst his brother holds a high position in local government.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Vsevolod Pudovkin: The Deserter - Дезертир (1933)

Directed by : Vsevolod PUDOVKIN

Cinematography : Anatoli GOLOVNIA
Production design : Sergey KOZLOVSKI
Music : Yuri SHAPORIN
Sound : Yevgeni NESTEROV
Companies : Mejrabpomfilm
Release date in Russia : 19/09/1933

While the crushing of the labor movement in Germany during the two years devoted by V. I. Pudovkin to the production of his first dialogue motion picture has robbed it of much of its timeliness, the main theme of "Deserter," now at the Cameo Theatre, remains unaffected by the triumph of Hitlerism.
The filmed story of the young Hamburg metal worker (Boris Livanof) who becomes faint-hearted in the course of a lengthy strike of dockers and shipyard workers, and is sent to Soviet Russia by a farseeing labor leader (B. Kovrigin) to be cured of his temporary weakness, will interest admirers of good camera work and direction and will be applauded by class-conscious workers. Some of the latter, however, may resent the slurs cast upon the "Social Democratic betrayers of labor" who counseled arbitration when the strikers and their families were practically starved out.
Pudovkin again demonstrates his ability to hold screen audiences, but be could have reduced the running time of "Deserter" by about fifteen minutes without lessening its value. The best acting is done by some of the secondary characters and by the masses in the clashes with the police and in the scenes of industrial activity and proletarian festivities in Soviet Russia. What might be labeled a Socialist happy ending is achieved by having the conscience-stricken hero confess his faults, return to Hamburg and carry the banner of the strikers in a desperate battle with the police.

The New York Times

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Nikolai Dostal:Petya on the Road to the Kingdom of Heaven - Петя по дороге в Царствие Небесное (2009)

Director:Nikolai Dostal
Writer:Mikhail Kurayev
Stars:Egor Pavlov, Aleksandr Korshunov, Roman Madyanov

Awards : First prize Moscow International Film Festival (MIFF), Russia, 2009
Best actor Egor PAVLOV , Honfleur Russian Film Festival, France, 2009
Best music Aleksey SHELYGIN , "NIKA" Prizes, Russia, 2009
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Roman MADIANOV ,
"NIKA" Prizes, Russia, 2009

Review by Alexander Jakobidze-Gitman

Since the glasnost years the Stalin era has become a popular topic in Russian cinema, and has also helped to draw attention to Russian film abroad. At the last Moscow Film Festival (2009), the Grand-Prix was once again conferred on a picture about the Stalin era, Nikolai Dostal's Petya on the Road to the Kingdom of Heaven [Petya po doroge v Tsarstvie Nebesnoe]. However, unlike Dmitry Meskhiev's Us [Svoi] (2004), which was distinguished not only by high cinematic quality but also by an innovative ideological approach, and whose triumph at the festival 5 years ago came as strong evidence of Russian cinema's revival, the success of Petya was somewhat puzzling, and was not followed by any significant public or critical acclaim. It seems that the film's awkward status and rather ambiguous messages (that will be examined below) reflect not only a rather baffling course of the development in Russian cinema, but also, somewhat indirectly, the painful hesitations in the Russian cultural establishment regarding its attitude towards Stalinism. As a matter of fact, these hesitations were revealed a bit later, when, first, Stalin's biography was published in the famous “Lives of Remarkable People” book series, and then followed the formal condemnation of the Katyn massacre.
Since the early 2000s, interest in the screen image of the Stalin era started to shift from the recent past to the more distant historical past (such as the eras of Peter the Great or the Decembrists). It is not that any terrifying aspects of Soviet history were obscured; on the contrary, the violence and starvation in prison camps and the blood-thirstiness of NKVD executioners were shown in a more elaborate manner than ever before. Many of these new films and TV series were based on works by writers such as Solzhenitsyn or Shalamov, whose subject, means of expression, and history made them essentially oppositional to official Soviet culture. These works suddenly became source material for a production line of costume dramas, complete with a standard set of clichés and produced primarily by the state-run Channel One; one may say that the Soviet past has thereby undergone a “secondary processing.”
This phenomenon also coincides with a new wave in architecture that imitates the Stalinist Empire style and a fad for reprints of postcards and posters of the 1920-1950s, whose propagandist messages can now be perceived as merely funny or even cute. One might easily determine that the Stalin era is being transformed from a painful topic in national memory into an object of mass consumption, a commodity brand with which one can “sell” both terrifying and curious phenomena with equal success.
At least on the surface, however, Petya and a few other recent films—such as A Gift to Stalin [Podarok Stalinu] (Rustem Abdrashev, 2008) and Kind People [Lyudi dobrye] (Alexei Karelin, 2009)—show something of a counter-tendency. They demonstrate a revival of the trend in the post-Soviet cinema of the 1990s that was concerned with depicting out-of-the-way locations during the postwar years, where people of different backgrounds were forced to live close to one another in communal apartments and barracks. Many of these films--such as Pyotr Todorovsky's Encore, Once More Encore! (1992) and What a Wonderful Game (1996), Savva Kulish's The Iron Curtain (1994), Lev Kulidzhanov's Forget-me-nots (1994), Leonid Maryagin's The 101st Kilometer (2001), and Pavel Chukhray's celebrated The Thief [1997]--were autobiographical, since the youth of the filmmakers occurred in the postwar period and they could therefore be considered to be products of “primary processing.” ...

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Alexei Balabanov: Fireman - Кочегар (2010)

Director: Aleksei Balabanov
Scenario: Aleksei Balabanov
Producer: Sergei Selyanov
Operator: Alexander Simonov
Genre: Drama, Crime
Actors: Yuri Matveev, Mikhail Skryabin, Aida Tumutova, Aleksandr Mosin, Anna Korotaeva, Vyacheslav Telnov, Roman Burenkov, Vyacheslav Pavlyut, Sayan Mongush, Petr Semak, Oleg Korytin, Philip Dyachkov, Irina Osnovina, Dmitry Poddubny

The legendary “Brat” (“Brother”) director is known for his violent movies, and if the flaming skull on his upcoming film’s poster might be taken as evidence that “Kochegar” will be equally as challenging as “Gruz 200” (“Cargo 200”). The action takes place in St. Petersburg in the mid-‘90s, where a fireman spends his free time writing short stories on an old typewriter. But the man’s creative process is often interrupted by visits from some of the city’s strangest characters.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Gleb Panfilov:There is no Passage through Fire - В огне брода нет (1967)

Directed by: Gleb Panfilov
Screenwriters: Yevgeny Gabrilovich, Gleb Panfilov
Operator: Dmitry Dolinin
Composer: Vadim Bibergan
Artists: Natalia Vasilyeva, Marksen Gaukhman-Sverdlov

Actors: Inna Churikova, Mikhail Kononov, Vadim Beroev, Anatoly Solonitsyn, Maya Bulgakov, Mikhail Gluzsky, Vladimir Kashpur, Michael Kokshenov, Evgeny Lebedev, Love Malinowska, Vitaly Matveev, Leonid Dyachkov, Anatoly Marenich, Nikolai Kuzmin, Mikhail wisely, Nicholas Ants, Viktor Terekhov Stanislav Churkin, Alexander Khochinsky.


* Prize "Golden Leopard" for Best Director Gleb Panfilov and the Jury Prize for best actress Inna Churikova International Film Festival in Locarno in 1969.
* Leningrad Komsomol Prize in 1970 by Gleb Panfilov for making films, "No Path Through Fire" and "Home."
* Participation in the "Week of Russian cinema at Cannes in 1998 (Retrospective Inna Churikova).

Monday, 11 October 2010

Russian director explores Dostoyevsky

Russia’s director Vladimir Khotinenko has made a film series about the Russian literary genius Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Khotinenko shared his experiences in an interview with Voice of Russia.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky is widely seen as Russia’s hallmark brand. For Vladimir Khotinenko, Dostoyevsky is not a monument, but a person.
'My project explores Dostoyevsky the person, not Dostoyevsky the genius, he says. If you want to see how ingenious he was, read his books. My project was designed to paint a human picture of Dostoyevsky in contrast to the established stereotypes stemming from the portrait of Dostoyevsky by the Russian artist Perov, who portrayed Dostoyevsky as significant, sullen and somewhat bored…'
By contrast, Khotinenko shows the writer to be passionate, reckless and vulnerable. Just as his characters, who he often copied from himself, Dostoyevsky took everything in his life - love, art and gambling - to the limit.
Dostoyevsky’s life was as exciting as his novels. He was a strong personality and produced an equally strong impact. He loved reading his works, and works by Gogol and Pushkin, in public. His performance had such magical power and was filled with so much emotion that people fainted during his reading of Pushkin’s “Prophet”. His work was accompanied by visual effects. As he dictated “The Gambler” to his wife, he paced up and down the room, from the window to the door, from the door to the oven, then slapped the oven. A seemingly trifle move, the slapping was resonated with the writer’s inner rhythm.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky is played by Yevgeny Mironov, who starred in the screen version of Dostoyevsky’s “Idiot” a few years ago. In the new series Mironov had to trace the writer’s life from age 26 to nearly the last of his days.
Voice of Russia

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Top 20 Russian Movies - khanbaliq's Selection

khanbaliq wrote, and choose following films:

The cinema of Russia began in the Russian Empire, widely developed under the Soviet and in the years following the fall of the Soviet system, the Russian film industry would remain internationally recognized. In the 21st century, Russian cinema has become popular internationally with hits such as House of Fools, Night Watch, and the exceptionally popular Brother.

Cinema Of Russia

20. Office Romance (comedy) - Eldar Ryazanov
19. Assa (crime) - Sergei Solovyov
18. Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears (drama) - Vladimir Menshov
17. The End Of St. Petersburg (drama) - Vsevolod Pudovkin
16. Prisoner Of The Mountains (war) - Sergei Bodrov
15. An Unfinished Piece For A Player Piano (drama) - Nikita Mikhalkov
14. October: Ten Days That Shook The World (historical) - Sergei Eisenstein
13. Ballad Of A Soldier (war) - Grigori Chukhrai
12. White Sun Of The Desert (adventure) - Vladimir Motyl
11. Dersu Uzala (drama) - Akira Kurosawa
10. War And Peace (epic) - Sergei Bondarchuk
09. Tale Of Tales (avant garde) - Yuriy Norshteyn
08. Stalker (science fiction) - Andrei Tarkovsky
07. Come And See (war) - Elem Klimov
06. The Cranes Are Flying (drama) - Mikhail Kalatozov
05. Solaris (science fiction) - Andrei Tarkovsky
04. Alexander Nevsky (historical) - Sergei Eisenstein
03. Man With A Movie Camera (avant garde) - Dziga Vertov
02. Andrei Rublev (historical) - Andrei Tarkovsky
01. The Battleship Potemkin (historical) - Sergei Eisenstein

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Tarkovsky, Mihalkov, and Sokurov, headliners at the Russian Film Festival in Bucharest

The first edition of the Russian Film Festival will take place in Bucharest, between October 22 and 28, showcasing some of the best known creations of Russian cinema.
Highlights of the festival are Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker , Aleksandr Sokurov’s Days of Eclipse, Leonid Gaidai’s Diamond Hand and Russian film royalty Nikita Mikhalkov’s At Home among Strangers. Russian cartoon nostalgics will be pleasantly surprised to rediscover the mischievous wolf’s attempt at escaping the ever-elusive hare in Nu pogodi cartoons (translated as Just You Wait! In English), as part of the set of the Festival’s Russian cartoons section.
The festival will take place at Cinema Eforie and Cinema Studio, in Bucharest. What’s more, between October 21 and 28, Union cinema will host a cartoon exhibit signed by pioneering Russian director Sergei Eisenstein.
Business Review

Thursday, 30 September 2010

First Russian Animation Museum Opens in Moscow

Russia’s first Museum of Animation has been opened in Pavilion 84 of the All-Russian Exhibition Center.
It is the first and the only museum in Russia that is dedicated to this kind of cinematic art.
“The museum presents original models, sketches, dolls and scenery. Some of the exhibits are over 50 years old, and most of them date back to the period of blossoming of Soyuzmultfilm Studio”, the press-service informs.
Altogether the museum has more than 1000 exhibits. Animation Museum means not merely exhibits. It is an informative digression into the history of world and national animation. Every hour group excursions are held here with demonstration of animated cartoon films and a documentary film on the history of Soyuzmultfilm Studio, as well as master classes.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Eldar Ryazanov: Office Romance - Служебный роман (1977)

Director: Eldar Ryazanov
Writers: Emil Braginsky, Eldar Ryazanov
Operator: Vladimir Nahabtsev
Composer: Andrei Petrov (II)
Artists : Alexander Borisov (III), Sergey Voronkov
Country: USSR
Production: MOSFILM
Year: 1977
Premiere: October 26, 1977

Actors: Alisa Freundlich, Andrei Myagkov, Svetlana Nemolyaeva, Oleg Basilashvili

The film's plot is based on the stageplay "Co-workers" written by Eldar Ryazanov and Emil Braginsky, and tells the story of Ludmila Kalugina, a general manager of a statistical bureau, and her subordinate, economist Anatoly Novoseltsev, who come from mutual aversion to love.
"Office Romance" was the leader of Soviet film distribution in 1978 and still enjoys wide popularity in former Soviet republics.
Both a romantic drama and a screwball comedy, the film is noted for its display of Moscow sceneries, and for its comical presentation of everyday life and customs of Soviet society during the Era of Stagnation.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Lev Kulidzhanov: Crime And Punishment - Преступление и наказание (1969)

Director: Lev Kulidzhanov
Actors: George Taratorkin, Innocent Smoktunovsky , Tatiana Bedova ,
Yefim Kopelyan, Evgeny Lebedev, Viktor Fyodorov, Maya Bulgakov

1970 Soviet film in two parts directed by Lev Kulidzhanov, based on the eponymous novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Filmed in the novel's original setting of St. Petersburg, this epic 1969 adaptation features a host of seasoned Russian actors, making one of cinema's definitive takes, writes Anthony Nield.

A homegrown interpretation of Dostoevsky's classic novel,Lev Kulidzhanov's Crime and Punishment was shot in black and white widescreen with a host of celebrated Soviet performers. The combination of Dostoevsky's tongue and intended setting, not to mention the requisite length with which to tell his tale, adds up to one of cinema's more definitive takes.

Not that Kulidzhanov concerns himself with strict reality. The opening credits unfold over a dream sequence, one that's marked by its use of freeze frames, jump cuts and slow motion. It immediately puts us inside the mind of Raskolnikov, the ex-student who will soon commit premeditated murder to test his theory that he is a 'great man' and therefore exempt from moral codes. From this point onwards we are firmly with him throughout his deterioration. We hear the internal monologue and are subjected to further dream sequences (though nightmare would be more applicable) in a style that is often woozy or oppressive.

Many of the actors may not be recognisable to UK viewers (with the possible exception of Innokenty Smoktunovksy, who had played Hamlet for Grigori Kozintsev in 1964), though that only adds to the sense of place. We’re assured of the quality of the performers, but are unlikely to be distracted by their other roles. Instead they are free to settle into their parts and the authentically Russian locations, creating a screen version of Crime and Punishment with an added advantage over the many of the others.

For all the style Kulidzhanov never loses sight of his performers. Georgi Taratorkin is superb in the lead, visibly weakening as the film progresses to the point where, oddly enough, he reminds of Terence Stamp's Toby Dammit in Federico Fellini's portion of Histoires extraordinaires (Spirits of the Dead); a usually handsome actor reduced to his own sickly, pale shadow.

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Thursday, 16 September 2010

Victor Pelevin adaptation Generation P pushed back to October 2010

The release of Generation P (Поколение П), a film adaptation of the third work by contemporary Russian novelist Victor Pelevin published in 1999, has been pushed back to October 2010. Directed by Victor Ginzburg, Generation P will star such well-known actors as Mikhail Efremov, Renata Litvinova and Vladimir Menshov.
The film is expected to focus on disoriented young people living in post-Soviet Russia of the 1990s known collectively as “Generation Pepsi”:
Babylen Tatarsky, the main protagonist, is a poet, a recent university graduate with a degree in literature looking to get started on a creative career path. Finding himself in the middle of post-Soviet political and social turmoil, Babylen joins the ranks as an advertising copywriter and attempts to find his life’s true calling.
Touching on the themes of consumerism, recreational drug use, and New Age topics such as Mesopotamian mythology, this project sounds very promising and somewhat reminiscent of the post-modern French satire on the advertising business 99 Francs (2007)

Alexey Batalov: The Overcoat - Шинель (1959)

Director: Aleksey Batalov
Writers: Nikolai Gogol (story), Leonid Solovyov
Stars: Rolan Bykov, Yuri Tolubeyev and Aleksandra Yozhkina


SEVERAL memorable motion pictures have been made from (or inspired by) Nikolai Gogol's classic story "The Overcoat," the poignant tale of a humble clerk in 19th-century Russia who becomes obsessed with the possession of a new garment and then demented and destroyed by its loss. But the closest approximation of the original story—and quite possibly the best of the lot—is this Soviet film directed by Aleksei Batalov, which opened at the Carnegie Hall Cinema yesterday.
Like the great German silent film "The Last Laugh," which F. W. Murnau made on the theme of the Gogol story, with Emil Jannings in the leading role, this comparatively short, expressive picture represents a splendid collaboration of an intelligent and sensitive director and an actor of remarkable skill. The latter is Roland Bykov, whose work has not previously been seen in this country but who surely will be looked for in the future on the basis of his performance in this film.
Mr. Bykov, with the camera trained upon him in virtually every scene, usually close-to and skillfully angled to get the play of expression on his face, develops a deeply pathetic portrait of Gogol's sad, simple-minded little man whose lonely life as copy-clerk in a government office is brightened and finished by his adventure with an overcoat.
It is a patient, precise procedure, marked by detailed emphasis upon such things as his going to work on a snowy morning, being badgered by the younger clerks, facing his solemn superiors, receiving a bonus with which to buy a new coat, having fittings from a creaky, drunken tailor and then sallying forth in his new apparel. But the climax of triumph and tragedy comes in the stirring succession of scenes in which the coat is stolen by footpads after a joyful party and the little man goes mad and then dies.
Mr. Bykov's performance is a personal tour de force, a simple, human revelation, but Mr. Batalov has made the film bespeak the rigidity and artificiality of the bourgeois milieu in which the little man lives. The squalor of his poor home and his neighbors is subtly set against the elaborateness and pomposity of the office and his employers. And the irony of the coat as a status symbol is clearly and starkly made.
Excellent supporting performances are given by all in a large well-ordered cast, and a good musical score by N. Sidelnikov assists the strong atmospheric quality. This picture, made several years ago, is not likely to have wide audience appeal, but it should fascinate those who like fine acting and have a taste for Russian literature. Adequate English subtitles translate the dialogue.

You can watch the movie here.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Lev Kuleshov: The Great Consoler - Великий утешитель (1933)

Великий утешитель (1933)

Director: Lev Kuleshov
Cast: Galina Kravchenko, V. Lopatin, O. Raevskaya, Konstantin Hohlov, Ivan Novosel

The film takes place in America in 1899, and in its principal plot depicts Bill Porter, who is the great consoler of the title, in prison. His writing skills earn him privileges from the governor and he is spared the inhumane treatment meted out to other prisoners. Porter is very much aware of the brutality around him but, mindful of his better conditions, refuses to write about prison life. He prefers to console his less-well-treated friends, and indeed all his readers, with excessively romantic fantasies in which good invariably triumphs.

One of these stories, "The Metamorphosis of James Valentine," creates an alter-ego for a wrongly imprisoned convict friend, who suffers the worst injustices of the prison and is dying of tuberculosis. The story flatters Valentine with an unrealistic degree of attractiveness, charm and intelligence. With his endless optimism, Porter tries to make this story come true by brokering a deal between the governor and Valentine, which will give the latter a pardon. The governor, however, deceives Valentine, who dies in prison. Furious, Valentine's friend, Al, starts a riot and the film closes with Porter's admission that his artistic philosophy has failed.

The film is nominally based on three text sources: a biography of the American author O Henry by his fellow prisoner, Al Jennings, Beating Back: Through the Shadows with O Henry, and two works by O Henry himself, "A Retrieved Reformation" and "An Unfinished Story." O Henry was the nom de plume of William Porter and there is a character who appears under both names in the film.[13] Al Jennings also plays a role in the character of Al.

There is a significant difference between O Henry/Porter, the real-life author and his fictional counterpart in the film.[14] Porter was indeed jailed, as in the film, although the real-life Porter could hardly claim to be totally innocent of the crime, as is claimed in the film's opening titles. Wrongly charged with embezzlement from the bank he worked at, Porter rejected the opportunity to clear his name at a trial and instead left the country in the company of a group of outlaws, including Jennings. He was arrested, tried and sentenced to five years in prison when he returned to visit his seriously ill wife.

It was in Ohio State Penitentiary that his writing career was transformed from that of a humorous newspaper columnist to a mature writer of short stories. He is still noted, if not famous, for his ability as a raconteur of ordinary tales of New York people, told in a simple street-wise style. Despite his mechanically simple plots, modern critics of American literature can still credit him with being "a master of the surprise ending."[15] In Russia, his works were widely read in the 1920s[16] and such eminent Russians as the formalist critic Boris Eikhenbaum[17] and the writer Evgeni Zamiatin[18] wrote on O Henry's works. By the 1930s, when the film was made, his popularity everywhere was in decline, and in Russia he was heavily criticised.[19]

The real O Henry, whilst hardly a towering pillar of morality and social justice in modern literature, has nevertheless survived with a reputation that exceeds that of Kuleshov's fictionalisation of him. He certainly has a good deal more rogueish a personality than the film character. O Henry in the film is portrayed as a spineless coward whose stories, although popular, are of negligible artistic merit.

The film is essentially just as concerned with what the real O Henry did not write about as with what he did write about. Eikhenbaum, in discussing the work of the real-life author O Henry, quotes two examples of where O Henry refused to write about the reality of a situation.[20] The first is where O Henry chose to represent James Valentine in his story as having opened a safe with a set of tools when the real-life Valentine opened it using the gruesome method of filing his fingernails off. In the second case, O Henry refused to write about a girl who shot a banker who had seduced her. Asked by Al Jennings why he would not use the story when it had "a great throb to it," O Henry yawned that "the pulse beats too loud [...] it's very commonplace."[21]

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Evgenii Bauer: After Death - После смерти (1915)

Directed by Yevgeni Bauer.
Starring Vitold Polonsky, Olga Rakhmanova, Vera Karalli
Drama based on Ivan Turgenev's Klara Milich


A highly psychological Edgar Allen Poe themed exploration of death’s grasp on the living, this morbid and macabre tale of obsession with death that breeds madness originated as a short story by Ivan Turgenev. While it could easily have been made into a bad five minute short, Bauer gets over 45 minutes out of it without it seeming the least bit stretched or padded. After Death is actually far more artistic than his earlier masterpiece Twilight of a Woman’s Soul, but even though every frame is overloaded with artistry, as Bauer progresses the techniques become less apparent because they blend so well with the story. Bauer is remarkably subtle, especially for his time, and considering how much emphasis he put into using all means possibly to render the story.
The main character Andrei Bagrov (Vitold Polonsky) has become reclusive since the death of his mother, but a friend persuades him to attend a social gathering. Bauer depicts the party through a three minute tracking shot, placing the camera on a board rigged between two bicycles. However, we notice the scene not for it’s possibly groundbreaking technique, but rather for the surprised reaction of the many attendees in seeing the reclusive loner and the discomfort and clumsiness of the hero attempting to navigate in society. The initial pans reveal the surprise of the gossipy attendants, who in their own subtle way gape and gawk at the presence of the perpetual mourner. The pauses, hesitations, jerks, and later pans reveal Andrei’s discomfort in being amongst these people who will undoubtedly judge him harshly.
Andrei briefly encounters Zoya (Vera Karalli), a very modern and forward actress, who writes a letter to him requesting his presence and jumps right to declaring her love for the isolated scientist. Andrei is not surprisingly shocked, as Zoya is a virtual stranger to him who has uttered a few words to him, at most. As in Twilight of a Woman’s Soul, the woman leaves the man forever due to not liking his reaction, but this time she does so by killing herself three months later, over Andrei’s unrequited love.
Too deeply immersed in his obsession with his dead mother to reciprocate while she was living, Andrei’s fixation now shifts from one dead woman to another. Both women seem to have made a far greater impression on him post mortem, as they’ve lodged themselves in the forefront of his mind. Andrei is not only a scientist, but also a photographer who is susceptible to dreaming, and it’s those dreams show us why. Bauer’s men tend to be weak, intimidated creatures who want to control and possess women. The Zoya of Andrei’s dreams has none of the independent and forthright qualities of the one we saw in “real life”. Instead she’s an outdated model who would be subservient...

POSLE SMERTI (AFTER DEATH) 1915 Part 1 & Part 2

Evgenii Bauer (Yevgeni Bauer) (1865-1917)

And more about Evgeni Bauer (aka Evgenii, Yevgeni)

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Russian film "Silent Souls" wins three awards at Venice film festival

US filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, who heads the jury of the Venice Film Festival this year, has highly appreciated Russian film "Silent Souls" ("Ovsyanki") by Alexei Fedorchenko calling it a really poetic story. The film has won three awards in Venice, which guarantees the start of the European distribution already in October.
First of all the jury distinguished the work of the film's cameraman Mikhail Kirchman granting him the "Ozella" prize for the best film photography. Seven years ago Kirchman contributed to the success of another Russian film in Venice - "The Return" by Andrei Zvyagintsev. That film received the festival's main award - the Golden Lion.
According to the director of "Silent Souls" Alexei Fedorchenko, Mikhail Krichman has a gift to fill even a plain foreground with deep content. This is the main reason why the jury named the film a poetical movie.
He is a demiurge, he creates a world instead of simply capturing an image. I can't understand how it happens. It seems that the chosen landscape has nothing special but once Mikhail press the button of his camera - the picture is filling with vehement sadness and vehement love.
The brilliant camerawork is not the only quality, which distinguishes the film. It has received two more awards - the FIPRESCI award of the International Federation of Film Critics and the Nazareno Taddei Award, which is the prize of the ecumenical jury for spirituality.
Mixing the realistic present and fictional past the filmmaker Alexei Fedorchenko and screenwriter Denis Osokin managed to speak about everlasting things. When trying to define the genre of the film they first spoke about an erotic drama but later came up with more precise definition of "ethnographic mystification". The film's producer Igor Mishin considers "Silent Souls" to be a film for viewing audience mainly thanks to an ethnographic component.
This ethnographic component is a kind of a package or cover for this film. Some of our people remember that their roots go back to Finno-Urgic tribes dissolved in the Russian nation 400 years ago. This is the idea of the story. The sentiments of these people can be understood by anyone. Everyone knows that when you lose a beloved or close person the whole world turns upside down. Despite a number of tragic events its is a bright story which gives people hope.
"Silent Souls" is a road-movie telling a story of the factory chief who takes his friend and two buntings he bought on a trip to give his deceased wife a made-up Finno-Urgic tribe ritual burial, telling the story of their relationship on the way through flashbacks. In the European distribution the film will be called "Tatiana's Last Journey". The original Russian name of the movies is "Ovsyanki" which means "Buntings" and these little birds play a very important role in the story guiding the heroes to the mystical world. These birds are the only witnesses of the story from the very beginning to the very end.
This is Fedorchenko's second participation in the Venice film festival. The first film by the Yekaterinburg director "First on the Moon" fooled the jury and was awarded the best documentary prize at that festival, even though it was a mockumentary telling the story of how Soviet people were the first on the moon in 1938.
The three awards for "Silent Souls" is a good pass to the world's screen. After Venice the film will be shown at the international film festivals in Vladivostok and Toronto and the world first screening will take place in Paris.
The Voice of Russia

Video HERE.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Ivan Solovov: The Elder Wife - Старшая жена (2008)

Director: Ivan Solovov
Screenplay: Zoya Kudrya
Producer: Ivan Solovyov
Cast: Andrei Panin, Irina Rozanova, Aleksandr Domogarov, Lydia Velezheva, Alexander Bashirov

A mature, professional filmmaker Ivan Solovov belongs to a category of less known directors who combine quality filmmaking with an ability to cater to popular taste. He is largely ignored by the high-brow critics-aesthetes for never venturing into esoteric art-house and preferring his formulaic, simple, action-filled thrillers such as Caravan of Death (Karavan smerti, 1991), The Black Ocean (Chernyi okean, 1997), Hot Spot (Goriachaia tochka, 1998) and tearjerkers such as An Avalanche (Lavina, 2001) or The Railroad Romance (Zheleznodorozhnii romans, TV, 2003). At the same time he is wholeheartedly supported by the Moscow television channel programmers, those rating-buster seekers, who appreciate Solovov’s skillful use of the melodramatic form (also found in ubiquitous soap operas with their reassuring repetition of familiar emotional patterns, structures and tensions).
Peter Brooks aptly defines the following “everyday connotations” of melodrama: “The indulgence of strong emotionalism; moral polarization and schematization; extreme states of being, situations, action; overt villainy, persecution of the good, and final reward of virtue; inflated and extravagant expression; dark plottings, suspense, breathtaking peripety” (Brooks pp. 11-12). Some of these connotations appropriately describe the Solovov’s recent production Elder Wife. It schematizes the traditional heterosexual romance (although adding an “exotic” motive of polygamy as a catalyst) with a normative resolution that puts the woman in her place relative to the man within a strictly patriarchal universe.

Reviewed in KinoKultura by Andrei Khrenov © 2010

Friday, 10 September 2010

Dmitri Korobkin: Yaroslav. A thousand years ago - Ярослав.Тысячу лет назад (2010 )

Director Dmitriy Korobkin
Actors Alexander Ivashkevich , Alexei Kravchenko , Svetlana Tchouikina , Victor Verzhbitsky , Valery Zolotukhin, Yelena Plaksina , Konstantin Milovanov , Boris Tokarev , Vladimir Antonik , Pavel Hrulev
Script Maria Koshkin
Operator Dmitriy Korobkin
Producers Vadim Byrkin , Oleg Surkov
Production film company, " Anno Domini "

The beginning of XI century in Russia or Rus. Kievan Rus is composed of the principalities that are governed by the sons of Grand Prince Vladimir of Kiev. Princes with their men collect tribute then sending it to their father in Kiev. In the north-east of Russia is the most distant principality of Kiev - Rostov. Prince Vladimir sends his son Yaroslav to rule in Rostov, when he turns 11 years old. Jaroslav grows under the tutelage of the boyars, who run the principality, while he is small. Growing up, Jaroslav takes power into their own hands, expanding the principality, and attaches the new lands. But this is not an easy task. Bandit gangs keep ruling in the woods, along the roads and rivers . Their main occupation is the slave trade. Gangs sell people to the Bulgars and the Khazars, and they send the slaves for resale to the lower reaches of the Volga. More and more often the Jaroslav's squad, goes for tribute and finds empty, ransacked settlements of the tribes Meria. Rostov region has no laws. Only a strong power can change the situation.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Russia chooses its Oscar nominee - Alexey Uchitel: The Edge

Director Alexey Uchitel
Actors: Vladimir Mashkov, Anorka Shtrehel , Vyacheslav Krikunov , Julia Peresild , Sergei Garmash, Anna Ukolova , Alexander Bashirov , Vladas Bagdonas , Alexei Gorbunov
Script Alexander Gonorovskiy
Operator Yuri Klimenko
Composer David Holmes
Producers Konstantin Ernst, Alexey Uchitel , Alexander Maximov , Igor Simonov
Production TPO " Rock " , JSC " TV Show " with the financial support of JSC " RZD "

Russia will nominate a new film by Alexei Uchitel called 'Krai' (The Edge) for the Oscar Film Award.
The film was chosen by the special committee headed by director Vladimir Menshov whose film 'Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears' had won Oscar as the best foreign film in 1981.
The action of 'the Edge' film set in Siberia soon after the Second World war.
The leading role is played by a well known Russian actor Vladimir Mashkov.
Along with Vladimir Mashkov, who played the lead, the film features well-known Russian actress Kseniya Rappoport and actors Sergei Garmash, Armen Dzhigarkhanyan, and Aleksandr Bashirov.
Voice of Russia


The world premiere of a Russian war drama will take place at one of the most far-reaching festivals in the world – the Toronto Film Festival - which will kick off in Canada in mid- September.

More about the film HERE.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Aleksei Mizgirev: Buben, Baraban - Бубен, Барабан (2009)

Buben, Baraban (literally: Tambourine, Drum), Russia 2009
Color, 100 min.
Scriptwriter and Director Aleksei Mizgirev
Director of Photography Vadim Deev
Production Design Denis Shibanov
Cast: Natal’ia Negoda, Dmitri Kulichkov, Elena Liadova, Sergei Neudachin, Liubomiras Lauciavicius, Aleksandr Oblasov
Producers Ruben Dishdishian, Aram Movsesian, Iurii Moroz, Sergei Danielian
Production “Ithaca-Film”, commissioned by Central Partnership
Distribution Central Partnership

The film’s title, Buben, Baraban, appears in the top corner of the frame in a blood-red rectangle while the credits pulsate in an even deeper red box at the bottom of the frame— like venous blood in its different colors. The red color is reminiscent of the color of the Soviet flag—symbolizing, incidentally, the blood spilled for the country. The sound of a mint can be heard; to the sound of the drum the pioneers’ once formed a line; a tambourine accompanied on the stage the various national dances from the former Caucasus and of the Asian peoples of the Soviet Union... The rest of the credits roll on dark frames, anticipating the gloomy landscapes or the few dimly lit interiors of the library, the hostel, the stairwells or the clinic that are to follow. Everything in the film is sad and gloomy: from the cracking and collapsing houses with their once solid balconies to downtrodden footpaths covered with bits of asphalt; from the collieries to a bus painted in bright green like a grasshopper... The bright, distinct dots of color are used with precision, especially in the final frame; they all serve to emphasize the strict asceticism of the image that corresponds to the entire concept of Mizgirev’s film.
reviewed by Ol'ga Surkova © 2009

Awards :
2009 . - Special Jury Diploma ORFF Kinotavr( Alex Mizgir ).
2009 . - Special Jury Prize at the Festival International Film Festival in Locarno (Alexei Mizgir ) .
2009 . - Best director at the Locarno IFF (Alexei Mizgir ).
2009 . - Best director IFF Eastern European cinema in Cottbus ( Alexei Mizgir with Zvonimir Juric and Goran Devic for the film " Black ") .
2009 . - Diploma of the Jury for humanism in the ICF Eastern European Cinema in Cottbus ( Alexei Mizgir ) .
2009 . - National Award and Film Critics ' White Elephant for best screenplay (Alexei Mizgir ) .
2009 . - National Award and Film Critics ' White Elephant for Best Actress (Natalia Negoda ) .
2010. - Prize "Golden Eagle " for Best Actress in film (Natalia Negoda ) .

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Fedorchenko"s "Ovsyanki" represents Russia in Venice

Alexei Fedorchenko’s film “Ovsyanki” (Silent Souls) will represent Russia at the Venice international film festival opening on the Lido island on Wednesday.
This year more emphasis has been placed on experimental cinema and video art.
The jury led by Quentin Tarantino will announce the winners on September 11.
Voice of Russia

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Friedrich Ermler: The Turning Point - Великий перелом (1945)

Directed by : Friedrich ERMLER
Writing credits : Boris CHIRSKOV
Mikhail DERZHAVIN (sen.)
Nikolay KORN
Cinematography : Arkadi KOLTSATY
Production design : Nikolay SUVOROV
Music : Gavriil POPOV
Sound : Nikolay KOSAREV, Aleksandr OSTROVSKY
Companies : Lenfilm
Restauration : Mosfilm (1967)
Release date in Russia : 29/01/1946

Awards: Cannes 1946

Plot synopsis
World War II. German high command accumulates enormous forces for the assault. Soviet troops commanded by General Muravyov repulse the enemy attacks. Soviet army scouts find out the exact day and time of the decisive offensive. Muravyov is determined to forestall the Nazis and plasters the enemy with fire. All is quiet. Will the fascist troops weakened by the surprise fire begin their offensive or put off the attack?
National Grand Prix and Award for Best Script at the 1st IFF in Cannes, France (1946). For this film, the main members of the crew and cast received the Stalin Prize (first class) of 1945: F. Ermler, B. Chirskov, A. Koltsaty, N. Suvorov, M. Derzhavin, A. Zrazhevsky (1946).
Source www.lenfilm.ru

Friedrich Ermler

Born: 13 May 1898 (Rechitsa, Russia, now Rezekna, Latvia)
Died: 12 July 1967 (Leningrad, Soviet Union, now Saint Petersburg, Russia)

Friedrich Ermler, one of the Soviet most undervalued directors of late silent and early sound film era, needs, by many critics nowdays a serious re-evaluation. Originally studied to be a pharmacist, his honest believe in the ideas of Bolshevik's led him to be a member of Red Army during the Russian Civil War, right after which he formally joined the Communist Party. His film career started in 1923, firstly taking screenwriting and acting classes at the Institute of Screen Arts in St. Petersburg and then continued as a director at Lenfilm Studios, where he spent practically his entire career (between 1939 and 1943, Ermler served as an artistic director of Lenfilm Studios). His feature film debut "Scarlet Fever/ Skarlatina" (1924) was a comedy. One of the most outstanding and celebrated works are a remarkably accurate portrayal of everyday life in 1920s Leningrad "Katka's Reinette Apples/Katka-bumazhny ranyet" (1926, co-directed with Edouard Ioganson), and "House in the Snow Drifts/Dom vsogrobakh" (1927), which was based on the short story The Cave by Yevgeny Zamatkin. In 1932, in conjuction with director Sergey Yutkevich, he completed his first sound film "Counterplan/Vstrechnyy/". Among others Elmer's best-known films count "Great Citizen/Veliky Grazhdanin" (1938), the two-part biography of Stalin's slain enemy Sergei Kirov and "Turning Point/Veliky Perelom" (1946), which won Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival in 1946. Friedrich Ermler is considered a master of psychological realism, treatment of his characters is remarkably evenhanded, their weaknesses and even deceptions understood against a backdrop of fear and deprivation. The interest in elemental things: people's faces in two-shots, the way men put on their pants and boots, houses and bridges at night are the signature marks in all Ermler's work. Over his career, Ermler traveled to Europe (in 1929) and Hollywood (1935) as an ambassador for Soviet films.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Mikhail Romm: Nine Days of One Year - Девять дней одного года (1961)

Nine Days of One Year (1961)

Directed by Mikhail Romm
Written by Mikhail Romm and Daniil Khrabrovitskii.
Cinematography by German Lavrov.
Art direction by Georgii Kolganov.
Music by Dzhon Ter-Tatevosian.
Cast: Aleksei Batalov, Innokentii Smoktunovskii, Tat'iana Lavrova, and Nikolai Plotnikov.

During experiments at an institute for nuclear physics, a young scientist, Gusev, receives a dangerous dose of radiation. At his own risk, he decides to continue the experiments, which could lead to a ground-breaking discovery, but also to his death. The road of scientific prometheanism he has chosen to follow makes him a stranger in his own home and marriage. The existential challenge Gusev faces is compounded by an ethical dilemma of universal significance: what is the meaning of his sacrifice in a world that uses nuclear power for self-extermination?

Nine Days of One Year (1961)
Aleksei Batalov

The film hit the screens in the beginning of 1962 and soon became an emblematic text of the 60s. In it, for the first time in Soviet cinema, the viewer was allowed to enter the fascinating world of nuclear science, a realm hitherto concealed from the eye of the movie camera. The film owed much of its initial appeal to its mise-en-scéne. Most of the footage was shot on location in a research institute for nuclear physics in Siberia. Physicists were, in every respect, the supermen of the 1960s in the Soviet Union, and Romm's film has its own share in their idolization. For a society desperately trying to recover the ideals tarnished in the years of Stalinism, scientific progress offered a much-needed springboard. For Romm, it also offered a new sphere of liminal experience in which human values and ideological positions can be brought into sharp focus and tested for viability.

Nine Days of One Year