Thursday, 29 April 2010

Sergei Solovyov: Classmates - Одноклассники (2010)

Director: Sergei Solovyov
Writers: Sophia Karpunina, Sergei Solovyov
Cinematography: Sergei Machilsky
Composer: Anna Solovieva (II)
Artist: Sergei Ivanov (V)
Producer: Sergei Solovyov
Production: Studio Line Cinema, Nisko
Year: 2010
Premiere: 11 March, 2010
Actors: Konstantin Kryukov, Aristarchus Venesa, Sophia Karpunina, Andrei Rudensky, Andrew Mezhulis, Mikhail Efremov, Alyona Bondarchuk, Elena Drobysheva, Daniel Olbrychski
Genre: melodrama

Sergei Solov’ev: Classmates (Odnoklassniki, 2010),reviewed by Oleg Sulkin © 2011

Sergei Solov’iev is a brand—whether you like him or not. He is a brand without a system, a sovereign world with its own laws and lawlessness, its own vocabulary, its own ostentations and snarls. Everything within this brand is uniquely Solov’evian. This world is like a pendulum swinging between two obsessive ideas. The first is the desire to reduce Russian classics to a beautiful dialectical formula of triumphalism with the simultaneous destruction of the ‘beauty, intelligence and goodness’ triad. The second is a profound belief in some God-given and extremely subtle understanding of the maturing of Soviet and post-Soviet children.

In 2009-10, the Solov’ev pendulum made a full arc, producing two notable brand products. The ‘classical’ Anna Karenina featured the beautiful and intelligent sacrifice of Mr Karenin triumphing over Anna’s beautiful and reckless betrayal. Anna is played by Tat’iana Drubich, a completely different blood type to Tolstoy’s heroine. In a normal movie she would be considered terribly miscast, but in a Solov’ev film it promotes the thoughtful cocking of the eye and pronouncement: ‘There is something cool in this miscasting’. The second brand product was the teen film Classmates.

I believe the connections of the film’s title with the hugely popular social networking website were important for Mr Solov’ev’ in terms of PR. David Fincher’s Social Network (2010) fulfilled audience expectations by telling the history of Facebook. In contrast, Classmates is about entirely non-virtual people, many of whom have not come close to a computer. The deceit begins with the title and smoothly transfers into the first frames that feature a factory—the conventional launch-pad for many industrial dramas of Soviet cinema. The foundry does not appear anywhere else, or at least I did not notice it. The big boss comes to inspect his holdings, instantly recognizable by the expensive black car and robust minions who obligingly open its doors. The boss-oligarch is played by Andrei Rudenskii, an actor of noble, aristocratic and somewhat nervous appearance that oligarchs, if for some reason they condescend to see this movie, will be pleased to observe.

Next, we see the oligarch in the car, where he negotiates a restaurant meeting by mobile phone. There they sit: two couples talking about things oligarchic. They recall our common Soviet past, becoming excited when they recall the price of vodka as “2.87” in old rubles and remember the melted cheese “Druzhba” accompanying their drinking in doorways. The oligarch’s friend, a man of much simpler appearance, demonstrates to the great amusement of the women how from prolonged pocket storage this cheese melted and then stretched and stretched and stretched. Then the man begins to imitate trying to unglue his hands, just like the unforgettable Louis de Funès showed pulling a very long nose in one of the most popular comedies of the 60s. ...

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Nikita Mikhalkov's Burnt by the Sun 2 becomes Russia's most expensive flop

It is Russia's most expensive film – including graphic tank battles, murderous Germans and a forgettable cameo by a pasty-looking Stalin.
But the Kremlin's favourite actor and director, Nikita Mikhalkov, was tonight facing embarrassment after his long-awaited film about the second world war – Burnt by the Sun 2 – turned out a box office turkey.
The movie is a sequel to Burnt by the Sun, Mikhalkov's dark Oscar-winning portrayal of the Stalin years. In the latest film, the action shifts to the Nazi invasion of Russia, with Mikhalkov reprising his role as a purged Red Army general.
This time, Mikhalkov's character, Sergei Kotov, escapes after German bombers blow up his gulag. He is soon defending the motherland from fascist tanks. Russia's critics, however, have reacted badly to the blockbuster – dismissing it as "portentous and untruthful".
Writing on his blog, cinema critic Yuri Gladilshikov noted war veterans had said it did not resemble their experience of fighting at the front.
"There are a heap of reasons to dislike it," Gladilshikov wrote, citing the film's brutal battlefield naturalism, its promotion of orthodox Christianity, and a gratuitous topless scene involving Mikhalkov's daughter Nadia, who repeats her previous acting job as Kotov's daughter.
The critics have also taken a swipe at a clumsy state-backed PR campaign to promote the film. It has been deliberately released ahead of May 9, when Russia celebrates the 65th anniversary of its victory over Nazi Germany.
The premiere took place inside the Kremlin. Russia's prime minister, Vladimir Putin, did not manage to turn up. But Mikhalkov's fervent support for Putin and his strong Russian nationalist views are well known.
The film has many virtuoso setpieces but sticks closely to the Kremlin's approved version of the war: as the heroic Soviet triumph over Nazi barbarity.
This fact appears to have put the public off: the film has played to near empty halls, with box office receipts of just $2.5m from its opening weekend. Burnt by the Sun 2 cost a record $55m to make.
"The reasons it has flopped are psychological [not artistic]," critic Oleg Zolotarev said. "Mikhalkov is no longer seen as a director but as a state bureaucrat."
The Guardian

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Yevgeni Urbansky (1932-1959)

Yevgeni Urbansky rushed into cinema as a hundred-per-cent man bursting with irrepressible temperament and craving for life. For viewers he has remained aged thirty three, just like Christ – at this age the actor faced tragic death. A whole cinema epoch and peculiar aesthetics created in the films Kommunist (The Communist) (1958), Chistoe nebo (Clear Skies) (1961), and Ballada o soldate (Ballad of a Soldier) (1959) passed away together with him.
Yevgeni Yakovlelvich Urbansky was born on February 27, 1932 in Moscow, into the family of a Communist party worker. In 1957 he finished Drama School Studio attached to MXAT and was admitted to the company of Stanislavsky Moscow Drama Theatre.
The creative career of Yevgeni Urbansky was short but very bright. His starring debut in the movie Kommunist (The Communist) directed by Yuli Raizman brought love of the public, film critics and authorities to the actor. The film won first awards at the festivals in Venice and Kiev in 1958. In 1959 The Communist was named among the three best films of the year according to the poll of the readers of the magazine Sovetsky Ekran (Soviet Screen).
The actor was recognized in the streets by many people who would ask him for autographs; lots of film directors wanted him to star in their new films. However, Yevgeni Urbansky took his time to enrich his acting experience on stage, playing in around 22 to 25 plays every month in the course of two years. Only in the middle of 1958 he finally turned to cinema again. It was Grigori Chukhrai’s war drama Ballada o soldate (Ballad of a Soldier) (1959), in which Urbansky played a nameless disabled soldier whom the main character Alesha Skvortsov comes across at a railway station....

Larisa Shepitko: The Ascent - Восхождение (1976)

Ascent (1976)

Director Larisa Shepitko.
Starring Boris Plotnikov, Vladimir Gostuhin, Anatoly Solonitsyn.
Composer Alfred Schnittke.

Ascent (1976)

The Ascent was awarded the Grand Prix at 1977 Western Berlin festival and brought Larisa Shepitko world-wide fame. The film was purchased and displayed in 40 countries.
Larissa Shepitko died in a car accident in 1979, when she was 41 years old.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Alexei Balabanov: Of Freaks and Men - Про уродов и людей(1998)

Of Freaks and Men (1998)

Written and Directed by: Aleksei Balabanov Aleksey Balabanov
Release Date: May 20, 1998
Cast:Aleksei De, Anzhelika Nevolina, Chingiz Tsydendabayev, Dinara Drukarova, Sergei Makovetsky

Awards : 

Best directing Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Moscow (Russia), 1999
Best Cinematography Sergey ASTAKHOV , Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Moscow (Russia), 1999
Best Set Decoration Vera ZELINSKAYA , Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Moscow (Russia), 1999
Best actor Sergey MAKOVETSKY , Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Moscow (Russia), 1999
Best feature film "NIKA" Prizes, Moscow (Russia), 1998
Best directing "NIKA" Prizes, Moscow (Russia), 1998
Prix spécial du jury au Festival de Sotchi, 1998

Of Freaks and Men (1998)

In a week of films intent on telling you what you know already, Alexei Balabanov's proto-Freudian bad dream Of Freaks and Men stands out as a compelling experience, sinuously original and deeply refreshing - although refreshing is perhaps not the exact word for this uniquely unsettling movie. Balabanov's brutal study of modern Russian gangsterism, Brother, is already on release here, and now this director's later picture marks him out as a distinctive and very remarkable talent.

Of Freaks and Men (1998)

Shot in a glittering, wintry monochrome, which attains a heavy sepia tint, Of Freaks and Men is set in turn-of-the-century St Petersburg. It imagines the bourgeois origins of Russia's fledgling porn industry: specifically that catering for images of flagellation and sado-masochism - catching this industry on the cusp of its movement from still photography to rudimentary moving pictures. The film's periodic silent-movie captions and its daguerreotype-hue are in homage to both media.

For this flourishing new porn culture, Balabanov invents a milieu of secrecy, exoticism and aberrant strangeness. The result is a disturbing, erotically creepy, funny and touching film whose images will live in your memory, writes Peter Bradshaw...

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Grigori Alexandrov: Composer Glinka - Композитор Глинка (1952)

Director: ALEKSANDROV Grigori V.
Cast: SMIRNOV Boris,ORLOVA, Lyubov

With Sviatoslav Richter.

Won prize for the artistic quality at Locarno International Film Festival in 1953.

Композитор Глинка (1952)

Film about the life and creative work of M.I. Glinka, the great Russian composer, about his studies in Italy, about creation of the operas «Ivan Susanin» and «Ruslan and Lyudmila». On having learned that the latter is devoted to A. S. Pushkin, tsar Nikolay I considers it a revolt. The composer’s associates - progressive-minded people of Russia carry off his bitter experiences.


Saturday, 24 April 2010

Garik (Igor) Sukhachev: House of the Sun - Дом солнца (2010)

Director Garik (Igor) Sukhachev
Actors Stanislav Ryadinsky, Svetlana Ivanova, Nelly Nevedina (Selezneva), Chulpan Khamatova, Mikhail Efremov, Darya Moroz, Ivan Stebunov, Alexei Gorbunov, Alexander Mokhov, Olga Block Mirimskaya, Anatoly Smiranin, Sergei Batalov, Anna Tsukanova, Nikita Vysotsky, Evdokia Germanova, Nina Ruslanova, Stas (Stanislav) Belyaev, Olga Balashov, Anastasia Lapina, Maksim Pinsker, Vladislav Abashin, Alexander Serov, Ostankino, Velimir Rusakov, Rodion Vyushkin, Ivan Makarevich, Armen Mouradian
Script Garik (Igor) Sukachev, Natalia Pavlov
Operator Sergei Kozlov
Composer Alexei Belov
Producers Sergei Gribkov, Stanislav Yershov, Sergey Arshinov, Andrew Feofanov, Olga Akimova
Production Studio them. Gorky

Friday, 23 April 2010

Vera Glagoleva: "One War" (2009)

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

2009. - Prize for best male debut on the CF "Constellation" in Tver (Michael Dull).
2009. - Second place (prize "Silver Boat") in the contest "Vyborg Account" at the XVII Champion "Window to Europe" in Vyborg (Vera Glagoleva).
2009. - Grand Prix "The Magnificent Seven MK-up to the audience voting at the VII Moscow festival of national cinema" Moscow Premiere "(Vera Glagoleva).
2009. - Grand Prix at the V Kazan MF Muslim Film (MFMK) "Golden minbar (Natalia Ivanova, Vera Glagoleva).

Among modern films about WWII, Vera Glagoleva’s “One War” stands apart in many ways. Exploring themes that have been a taboo subject for years, the film strikes a very painful and dramatic chord.
May 1945… Five women are serving sentences on a small island on Lake Ladoga in northern Russia, to which they were exiled from occupied territories together with their children, aged from one to three, who were fathered by German soldiers. May 9 brings happy news that the war is over but it also brings sad news that the women will have to go to labor camps and their children will be placed into orphanages. One of the guards has pity for the young mothers. The next morning, he takes them and the kids to the mainland in a fishing boat, hoping to hide them in thick woods. His major, whose family perished in a Nazi death camp, knows about the plot but lets them go, risking being brought before a military tribunal.
The finale offers fragile hope that the women will have at least some chance of a better future. What can be more dreadful for a mother than the prospect of being separated from her child. In orphanages, little kids who could not give their full names were often registered under other names, so chances of being found by their parents after the war were bleak.
Asked by the Voice of Russia correspondent whose opinion she valued most, Vera Glagoleva said:“It was important to show the film to war veterans. They were deeply moved by the story, and their opinion mattered much to me. There were others, for example, one influential movie maker, a woman, who said that it was a controversial film and veterans may not like it. Some say it’s good for schoolchildren to watch this film as it will teach them to sympathize with and be kind to other people. As there are no archive documents confirming the events described in “One War”, the author relied on eye-witness accounts and reminiscences. Yet, the film is surprisingly true-to-life. Vera Glagoleva: “You know, it’s all those little things that make the film look realistic - the bead necklace one of the girls tries on, a powder box – they belong to my aunt. All costumes are real, dating from those times. Some things just came our way, others were bought…”.
“One War” has already scooped many prizes at various film festivals. “It will be shown in Prague soon, and then in Limoges in France, and after that in Canada. And we are also bringing it to Germany. There will be a show in Cologne, on March 13. We have already shown it in Berlin. We travel a lot with this film. I am glad to have an opportunity to communicate with viewers. It’s a great pleasure and it means so much to me.” Vera Glagoleva, an actress and director, about her film “One War”.
Voice of Russia

Another Soviet Cult Film to be Colorized

The old Soviet comedy The Foundling (Podkidysh) of 1939 has become coloured. The renewed version of the film will be broadcast over the First Channel on May 2.
The film starring brilliant Faina Ranevskaya and Rostislav Plyatt completes the trilogy of the colourized classical Soviet films that have been restored by the company Formula of Colour. Other two films were the comedies Volga – Volga (1938) and The Happy Guys (Vesyolye rebyata) (1934).
Besides, some other Soviet films were also colourized. The popular historical TV-series Seventeen Moments of Spring (Semnadtsat mgnoveniy vesny) (1973) evoked controversial reaction of the viewers, whereas Cinderella (Zolushka) (1947) and Only Old Men Are Going to Battle (V boy idut odni stariki) (1973) were very well received.

A scene from the movie "The Foundling"

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

10 Russian films to be shown at Cannes

Ten Russian films will be shown in the Russian pavilion which will be open from May 12 to 23 as part of the 63rd Cannes’ film festival. The films are mostly by young directors and reflect modern tendencies in Russian cinema art. Among the films to be shown in Cannes, there are “It Snows in Russia” by Natalya Naumova, produced by her father, the famous film director Vladimir Naumov, “X-rated” by Andrey Kavun, “Alien” by Anton Bormatov and “I Love you” by Pavel Kostomarov and Alexander Rastorguev.
Voice of Russia

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Inna Churikova hospitalized

The famous actress Inna Churikova was taken to hospital. Doctors suspected she had heart attack.

There is no need to prove that Inna Churikova is a great actress: somewhat eccentric, frankly ungainly and queerly fearless. What other actress, besides her and the legendary Faina Ranevskaya, could be so aweless about looking ugly or funny on screen, as she was? Though endowed with a bright comic gift, she became a genius tragic actress.
Inna Mikhailovna Churikova was born on October 5, 1943, in Belebey, near Ufa. In the early 1950s her mother and she moved to Moscow. When a schoolgirl yet, Inna was bent on her future profession: she studied at the drama studio attached to the Stanislavsky Theatre.
After finishing school she attempted to enter Shchukin Drama School, but failed, probably, because of her specific appearance. Luckily, the examiners in Shchepkin Drama School took pity on her after she said she wanted to become a great actress and all of a sudden burst into tears.
Her creative fervor and thirst for acting brought her to filming already in her first year of studies in the Shchepkin Drama School. She debuted in an episode in Tuchi nad Borskom (Clouds Over Borsk) (1960), an antireligious feature film denouncing sectarians. Later she made her mark in a bright episode, portraying her character with rich and broad strokes in the comedy Ya shagayu po Moskve (Walking the Streets of Moscow) (1963).
After graduating from the Shchepkin Drama School in 1965, Inna Churikova could not find a better stage job than playing Baba Yaga in the Moscow Theatre for Young Spectators. At the same time, her film roles were a bit more varied, including the mean ugly girl named Marfusha in the famous fairy tale movie Morozko (Father Frost) (1964), an undistinguished episode in Stryapukha (The Cook) (1965), a serious supporting role in Starshaya sestra (Elder Sister) (1966), and others.
The year 1968 finally saw a turning point in her creative life, bringing her up to the category of unique actresses: a graduate of the Higher Directors’ Courses and her future husband Gleb Panfilov invited Inna Churikova to star in his debut film, the war drama V ogne broda net (No Path Through Fire) (1967). The film can be considered the true professional debut of the actress. High tragedy and humour are interwoven in her playing, revealing the innermost feelings and impulses of her character, her lyricism, tenderness and enormous talent.
After the first big success Inna Churikova left the stage to work in cinema only, and only with Gleb Panfilov. Their next film under the title Nachalo (The Debut) (1970) was a triumph again. The witty and profoundly lyrical film, starring Churikova as a beginning actress and Joan of Arc at the same time, showed the lives of the two heroines of the present and the past intersecting. Both the director and the actress saw The Debut as a preparatory stage for the epic film about the heroic Joan of Arc, and wanted to start producing it as soon as possible. Unfortunately, it did not work out: the permit for filming was postponed again and again for many years until the cinema authorities decided to reject this project at all.
In 1973 the well-known director Mark Zakharov (LENKOM Theatre) invited Inna Churikova to play in a stage production making her return to the theatre.
Her theatre roles include those of Arkadina in Anton Chekhov’s Seagull, a commissar in Optimistic Tragedy by V. Vishnevsky, Irina in Three Girls in Blue by L. Petrushevskaya, Mamayev in Wiseman after A. Ostrovsky, Philumen Marturano in City of Millionaires by Eduardo de Filippo, Grandma in Barbara and a Heretic after Dostoyevsky’s Gambler, etc. In the two productions of Hamlet, staged in LENKOM Theatre (the first one directed by A. Tarkovsky and the second one by Gleb Panfilov) Inna Churikova played Ophelia and Gertrude.
Along with working in the theatre the actress was engaged in films of various directors. The most remarkable of them are: Tot samyy Myunkhgauzen (That Munchhausen) (1979) written by Grigory Gorin and directed by Mark Zakharov, Voenno-polevoy roman (War-Time Romance) (1983) by Pyotr Todorovsky, Rebro Adama (Adam's Rib) (1990) by Vyacheslav Krishtofovich, God sobaki (The Year of a Dog) (1993) by Semyon Aranovich, Plashch Kazanovy (Casanova's Raincoat) (1993) by Aleksandr Galin, and Kurochka Ryaba (Ryaba My Chicken) (1994) by Andrei Konchalovsky.
Recently Inna Churikova has extensively and, as usual, successfully, played in a number of non-repertory productions. For over 10 years already the stage play Sorry by Gleb Panfilov has enjoyed popularity among theatre lovers, as well as Ovechka (Lamb), gathering full houses in Russia and the neighbouring countries.
The actress jointly with her husband and son has co-written the script for the historical feature Romanovy: Ventsenosnaya semya (The Romanovs: An Imperial Family) (2000), where for the first time she does not appear on screen, but dubs the English actress Linda Bellingham starring as the tsarina Aleksandra Fyodorovna.
“In spite of the fact that horrors prevail on television, I still believe in man. Nobody can make me change my mind. It is essential for man to unfold, because one has much Divine inside. This is what I do believe in. May be this is the most important thing?” – the great actress says.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Nikita Mikhalkov’s “Burnt by the Sun-II”

Nikita Mikhalkov’s “Burnt by the Sun-II” is due to be screened for the first time in 20 Russian cities on April 17th. It will also be shown at the same time. The movie actually consists of two parts, and it’s the first one that’s due to be screened now. In May the film by the prominent Russian film-maker is due to hit the screen of the famous Cannes festival. The movie forms part of the festival’s main event. The first reaction of the venerable Russian film-maker was this.
As to the Cannes festival, Nikita Mikhalkov says, I am not really excited any more. This will be the fourth time that my film has competed in Cannes. Therefore I think that what is important now is, first, that a Russian movie form part of the competition, since last time this happened long ago; secondly, the presence in Cannes is sort of getting an impulse for distribution the world over. A company that buys a film for showing it around the world sees it as quite important that the movie be part of the Cannes festival main event. But then, I am not really looking to anything special, no hope to that end. But did Mikhalkov hope to win an Oscar when he shot his first film “Burnt by the Sun” 16 years ago? Hardly so. But his film about basically an ordinary story of one day of a large family in the countryside met with response and appraisal, and won the prestigious US Academy award.
The film is about an aged professor and his wife, - the prerevolutionary intellectuals, and of a military leader, the hero of the Bolshevik revolution and Civil War, and of his young wife and charming little daughter. There is also a family friend-turned traitor and executioner of the family…. A summer day of 1936 begins carelessly and calmly, but ends in a tragedy, - the heroic military leader Kotov is arrested by security police agents. The audience is almost certain that he would hardly survive life in concentration camps and would be eventually added to the millions of victims of Stalin’s political purges.
Voice of Russia

Thursday, 15 April 2010

“Burnt by the Sun” sequel comes to Cannes

Nikita Mikhalkov’s sequel to his Oscar-winning movie “Burnt by the Sun” will be screened as part of the 63rd Cannes International Film Festival.
The premiere of the movie in Russia will take place on April 22, dated to coincide with the 65th anniversary of the victory in World War II. “Burnt by the Sun 2”, a movie about the war and about a family who are struggling through it, was recognized as the most expensive Russian movie of all times with its budget totaling some $55 million.
The predecessor of “Burnt by the Sun 2” received an award in Cannes in 1994. It has become a legend of Russian cinema, filmed in the early 1990s, when the Russian economy was in tatters and Russian cinema was in danger of going extinct.
A movie that touched the hearts of millions was filmed for $2.8 million (a huge sum in those times) showed us a day in life of a family of the year 1936. The story was finished, the future of the heroes was revealed and the movie itself received an Oscar for the Best Foreign Film. However Nikita Mikhalkov had announced that he was planning to make a sequel that will detail the fates of the characters going through the war.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Mark Donskoy: Mother - Мать (1955)

Duration: 97 min.
Director: Mark Donskoy
Scenario: Nikolai Kovarsky, Mark Donskoy
Operator: Alex Mishurin
Artist: M. Agranoff
Composer: Leo Schwartz
Installation: N. Gorbenko
Costumes: E. Gakkebush
Cast: Vera Marecki, Alexei Batalov, Nicholas Kolofidin, Petrov, Paul Usovnichenko, Sergei Kurilov, Tatiana Piletskaya, Liliya Gritsenko, Vladimir Marenco, Pavel Volkov, K. Nemolyaev, I. Neganov, Oleg Borisov, Boris Bitjukov, Dmitry Milyutenko

Based on a novel by Gorky.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Actress Tatiana Samoilova Hospitalized

People's Artist of the RSFSR and Russia, 75-year-old Tatiana Samoilova was hospitalized in a Moscow on Saturday, complaining of shortness of breath and severe pain in heart.

Tatiana Samoilova, film festival 2007

Friday, 2 April 2010

The Nutcracker (1973)

The Nutcracker (Russian: Щелкунчик, transcribed as Schelkunchik) is a 1973 Soviet animated film from the Soyuzmultfilm studio directed by Boris Stepantsev and based partly on Pyotr Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker, but more closely on E.T.A. Hoffmann's novelette The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, the story which inspired the ballet.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Andrei Khrzhanovskii: A Room and a Half (Poltory komnaty, 2008)

Andrei Khrzhanovsky
Reviewed by David MacFadyen © 2009 in

Since the untimely death of poet Joseph Brodsky in 1996, interpretations of his work in Russia have tended towards two extremes; we might define this graceless immoderation as either “active” in temperament or woefully “passive.” In other words, the former inclination stubbornly positions the poet as some champion of countless subversive scribblers, all of whom labored away with tight-lipped earnestness under a dictatorial regime. The other tendency, displaying equal revisionist vigor, insists that Brodsky suffered for years in American exile, weeping quietly over well-thumbed photographs of Leningrad. This propensity towards things maudlin—the more evident of the two cliches in today’s Russian media —has always centered around one particular text from early in the poet’s career (1962), stating that he would one day return to die on Leningrad’s Vasil’evskii Island. Even now it takes little effort to find schmaltzy sung versions of the poem online.