Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Nika 2010 - Best Movie: A Room and a Half by Andrey Khrzhanovsky (А.Хржановски "Полторы комнаты, или Сентиментальное путешествие на родину")

Award "Nika" 2010 for best film goes to "A Room and a Half, or sentimental journey to the homeland" ("Полторы комнаты, или Сентиментальное путешествие на родину") by Andrei Khrzhanovsky.
Andrei Khrzhanovsky also got awards as Best Director and for Best Screenplay.
RIA Novosti

More about this movie here.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Buslov: Boomer (2003)

"None of them wanted to kill. None of them wanted to die," we are told in the advertising blurb for Boomer, one of the most intensely advertised Russian films in recent memory. At first glance, truth in advertising seems to be characteristically absent inasmuch as aggressive violence comes as naturally to the four young heroes of this film as does eating and drinking. On closer examination, however, the description has the ring of truth. These four could not possibly want to kill, because they truly cannot want anything. "Want" is not a relevant category in this film in which human desire plays absolutely no motivating role.
Petr Buslov, the young director of this, his debut film, makes no attempt to hide his deliberate decision to make a genre movie. Whether one considers Boomer to be "road movie" or "gangster film," the plot and the characters follow the rules of the genre perfectly. Despite what one might well have expected, the title character of the film, a sleek and imposing BMW 750 IL, becomes neither the "real hero" of the film nor some kind of demonic spirit leading its occupants to their doom. It is, at the level of plot, no more and no less than their car, a most necessary component for this road movie. Nor is their anything particularly innovative about their social position. They are petty bandits without any characterization that would allow any one of them to distinguish himself from the general type, writes Gerald McCausland in KinoKultura

Photos from the shooting of the film "Boomer" here.

Pavel Lungin: Taxi Blues - Такси-блюз (1990) - full movie with English subtitles

Pavel Lungin (director / writer).
Cast:Constantin Asponsky, Alexandre Bouianov, Lydia Ejevskaya, Nicolai Ejevsky, Sergei Galkin

Best Director Award, Cannes 1990

Taxi Blues is emblematic of the end of two empires: the Soviet Union itself and the mighty film industry that was arguably one of its most successful endeavors, both domestically and internationally. Pavel Lungin made the film, his directorial debut, in 1990, the last full year of Soviet power and also the statistical high point of Soviet film production (300 Soviet films were released that year; the post-Soviet Russian film industry in comparison has produced in the double digits for nine consecutive years). One of the first Soviet co-productions with the West, the film was a harbinger of the post-Soviet period, in which unsubsidized Russian directors have relied heavily on the financial backing of foreign producers.

Petr Mamonov

The film itself evinces the influence of the capitalist West technically and narratively; it was among the first Soviet movies shot with live sound, and among the genres that inform the movie are the buddy picture and the action film (note the climactic car chase). Lungin achieves a complex cinematic pastiche, however, by alluding just as clearly to Soviet cultural tropes such as the love-hate relationship between the working class and the intelligentsia, the stodgy official banquet for visiting foreign delegations, and the ever-present Marxist-Leninist imagery encountered in the urban landscape of the Soviet capital.

—Marcia Pally, Cineaste 18.2(1991): 22-27

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Sergei Ovcharov: The Cherry Orchard -Сад (2008)

Cast: Anna Vartanian, Igor Yasulovich, Roman Ageev, Dmitry Podnozov, Svetlana Shchedrin, Boris Dragilev
Based on a book of Anton Chekhov's Cherry Orchard.

Sergei Ovcharov’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard (Vishnevyi sad, 1904) can be viewed as a “playwright’s cut.” Every production of Chekhov’s classic has to take into account the debate over its meaning that erupted after its premiere in January 1904. Chekhov famously viewed his work as a farce while Konstantin Stanislavsky, the Director of the Moscow Art Theater, declared it was a drama. When The Cherry Orchard debuted at the theater, it did so under Stanislavsky’s direction. After reading the work, he wrote to Chekhov: “This is not a comedy, nor a farce as you have written, this is a tragedy, whatever escape toward a better life you open up in the last act. … I wept like a woman, I wanted to control myself but I couldn’t (qtd. in Loehlin 4).” Stanislavsky staged the play accordingly. When he heard about it, Chekhov was incensed, firing back: “What Nemirovich [the co-director] and Stanislavsky see in my play definitely isn’t what I wrote and I’m ready to swear by anything you like that neither of them has read through my play carefully even once (Ibid).” The battle lines were drawn. Subsequent stagings would have to take one side or the other. Most sided with Stanislavsky.
reviewed by Stephen M. Norris © 2009 in KinoKultura

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Irina Evteeva: Little Tragedies - Маленькие трагедии (2010)


Written by Irina Evteeva, Yuri Kravtsov
Directed by Irina Evteeva
Animated by Irina Evteeva
Director of photography - Genrich Marandzhyan
Director of photography (fiction billets) - Valery Myulgaut
Production designer - Nataliya Kochergina
Costume designer - Lidiya Kryukova
Sound technician - Leonid Gavrichenko
Music by - Andrey Sigle

Cast: Sergey Dreyden, Aleksey Barabash, Vladimir Koshevoy, Liza Boyarskaya, Vladimir Adzhamov, Zara Mgoyan, Aleksandr Tkachev, Denis Sinyavsky, Leonid Eliseev

Irina Evteeva works in a unique technique: every frame of a film is processed by hand. Eventually it becomes an animated film.The second part of Evteeva’s trilogy “The Everlasting Variations” is in production now. It is called “Theseus”. The first one was “Demon”, they will be followed by “Faust”.
Production: "Lenfilm" studios.

Neglected giant - Alexander Dovzhenko

Alexander Dovzhenko is one of the greatest filmmakers, though you’d never know it if all you had to go on was what you can read about him in English. The best things published about him in English are the out-of-print edition of his selected writings (edited by Marco Carynnyk) and a chapter of Gilberto Perez’s superb The Material Ghost. Otherwise, anyone who wants to explore the Ukrainian director’s work practically has to start from scratch. This you can do yourself now that a retrospective that’s been touring the US and Canada is about to reach the MFA.
Dovzhenko is, to be sure, the subject of two books by American academics. Vance Kepley Jr.’s In the Service of the State (University of Wisconsin Press, 1986) reads the director’s films as the expression and the result of impersonal political forces and social contradictions — an analysis to which, as Kepley states, cinematic style is irrelevant. Just off the press is George O. Liber’s Alexander Dovzhenko: A Life in Soviet Film (British Film Institute). This biography brings to light much information about Dovzhenko’s political activities and his rocky relationships with Stalin, Khrushchev, and the Soviet filmmaking hierarchies. But Liber, a history professor, has little to say about Dovzhenko’s films.
Such silence is symptomatic. American film criticism of the past quarter-century has witnessed two main trends. The prevalence of historicist or postmodernist approaches born and bred in university film-studies departments has yielded tepid analyses that avoid asking what it’s actually like to watch a film and why one film might provide a more complex experience than another. The second trend is the degeneracy of journalistic film reviewing, which has become almost without exception an unofficial branch of the publicity departments of film distributors or a naively and pointlessly subjectivist chronicle of individual reviewers’ likes and dislikes (actually, for reasons that would take too long to go into here, it’s both these things at once). If English-language writing on Dovzhenko gives almost no indication of why he’s worth attending to at all, he isn’t alone among film artists to suffer such neglect, though he’s one of the most notable cases of it. (Another is Kenji Mizoguchi.)
Dovzhenko’s films present a challenge to viewers and writers, a challenge that won’t be brushed off in the historicist manner by discounting their æsthetic qualities, or in the journalistic manner by paying empty tribute to their beauty. Beauty might not, however, be a bad place to start with Dovzhenko. As Barthélemy Amengual writes in his excellent (French) book on Dovzhenko: "The great films of Soviet cinema attest, for the most part, to the justice of socialism. Dovzhenko’s persuade us first of its beauty."
This beauty is always grounded in the complexity of reality. Dovzhenko opens Earth (1930; December 8 at 2:30 p.m.) with the tranquil death of an old farmer as he’s surrounded by his friends and family in his apple orchard. The main motifs of this sequence are all efforts to protect this death from time: the long shots of wheat fields, which frame the passage and recur within it; the sunlight shimmering on the old man’s white shirt and white-bearded face; his contented smile; shots of sunflowers, apples, a baby. The mood is of wonder, ripeness, completeness. The scene can be read as showing a symbolic sacrifice: the old man must die so that time, the Communist time, can start moving. But Dovzhenko prolongs, unforgettably, the timelessness of the moment.
There’s another sequence in Earth that’s as marvelous as any in cinema. It shows a young man, Vasil, walking home alone in the moonlight after an assignation with his girlfriend. We first see him walking with his eyes closed, the camera tracking back before him. Then, unexpectedly, he starts to dance. The sequence is extended in a series of jump cuts, as Vasil dances toward the camera, over and over again: each new shot is a risk, a fantasy, asserting an inexhaustible energy.
Each Dovzhenko work contains more different trains of thought, more image patterns, more ideas than we’re used to finding in a single film. His art lies in embracing so much energy, so many vital parts, in an organic whole. A historical epic unlike any other, Arsenal (1929; December 12 at 6 p.m.) moves with compulsive speed and gathering certainty from desolation through chaos to revolution. The construction of the film is exhilarating in the authority of its ellipses, the freedom with which it handles durations, the range and brilliance of its atmospheres.
Arsenal celebrates a battle in which striking workers and pro-Bolshevik Ukrainians defended a Kyiv munitions plant against Ukrainian nationalist forces. But the film is notable for Dovzhenko’s refusal to reject national identity as a source of courage. Although his films, like all Soviet films of their period, were made officially "in the service of the state," they’re deeply subversive. The hero of Zvenigora (1928; December 4 at 6 p.m.), which retells Ukrainian history, is the old grandfather who zealously guards the fabled treasures of the mountain of Zvenigora, not the Communist grandson who builds a future in which these treasures will become meaningless. In Earth, which is ostensibly a paean to Stalin’s forced collectivization of farmland, the only character granted a tragic status is the enemy of progress, a murderous "kulak" (rich farmer) named Khoma. (Which doesn’t make Khoma the film’s hero. Earth transcends tragedy.)
Ivan (1932; December 6 at 6 p.m.) is about a massive construction project on the Dnipro River in Ukraine. A brilliant and erratic film, anticipating the most radical endeavors of left-wing moviemakers of the late ’60s, Ivan is perhaps the most ambivalent of Dovzhenko’s works. Its "unheroic hero" (Dovzhenko’s words), the zealous transplanted farmer Ivan, is balanced by the Falstaffian shirker Stepan, whose misadventures with loudspeakers and with an unseen paymaster introduce crazy comedy into the film’s already volatile mix of river lyricism, political speeches, panegyrics for industry, and pregnant or enigmatic encounters among mismatched members of the proletariat.
Shchors (1939; December 14 at 10:30 a.m.) ought to be the most Stalinist of Dovzhenko’s films, both because of its reverential focus on a leader figure — a Ukrainian revolutionary commander — and because Stalin not only proposed the subject but intervened at several points in the preparation of the film, not least decisively by executing several of its real-life characters. But Dovzhenko makes it a personal film not just in its imagery but in its characterizations. While portraying Shchors as a trim, brainy leader never completely at ease among his men, Dovzhenko builds Shchors’s boisterous, brutal, and outlandish second-in-command, the aging Bozhenko, into an equal figure in his design. The two make a marvelous, mysterious pair: the one too human, the other not human enough.
Like all Dovzhenko’s films, Shchors lives in its detail, in wild gestures and extreme transformations, in rapid shifts of attention and multi-layered shots (in one scene, women riding to a wedding in a sleigh pass soldiers fighting from house to house). The cliché about film — that it’s a visual medium — is true of Dovzhenko. Sound could add nothing to Zvenigora, Arsenal, or Earth. The experimental, materialist soundtrack of Ivan is remarkable, but as late as Shchors (Dovzhenko’s third sound film), sound is largely redundant and irrelevant. Shchors is a film in flight, never lingering over its beautiful images, aware that glory exists in moments that swiftly pass.
Dovzhenko was part of the Soviet cinema’s heroic period, which saw montage as the highest potential of film, and his montage sequences are stunning (foremost among them is the harvest sequence in Earth). They push to a paroxysm Dovzhenko’s habitual style, which gives each shot an intensity, an inner movement, and an independence from context that invariably set it in contrast with its neighbors. No director has less regard for "continuity editing" or less use for standard formulas of editing. (A Dovzhenko reverse shot is never merely a convention but part of an individual visual pattern that demands, at a given moment, that two people facing each other be shown frontally.) With every shot and cut he made, Dovzhenko insisted passionately on the miraculousness of the cinema’s freedom to join fragments of time and space.
Both Earth and Ivan became the targets of violent attacks from doctrinaire Soviet critics. Dovzhenko managed to rehabilitate himself, but his position in Soviet filmmaking was chronically insecure. Between 1932 and his death in 1956, he managed to complete only three narrative films (including a masterpiece, 1935’s Aerograd, that isn’t part of the MFA series; Dovzhenko also supervised or partially directed several documentaries). His artistic legacy is small in quantity. But no film director, under any political system, left a richer body of work.
Movies Other Neglected giant by CHRIS FUJIWARA