Monday, 10 October 2011

Anna Chernakova: Death of a pince-nez, or Our Chekhov - Смерть в пенсне, или Наш Чехов (2010)

Director: Anna Chernakova (Awards:1995. - Grand Prize "Crystal Apple" in ICF female cinema in Minsk for the feature film "The Cherry Orchard" (co-feature film "Family hunter").
Actors: Yuri Stoyanov, Alena Babenko, Alexander Feklistov, Alexander Adabashyan, Evdokia Germanova, Aleksandr Grave, Elena Drapeko, Alexander Shpagin, Darya Volga, Paul Belozerov, Maria Surova, Sergei Bezrukov, Vladimir Poglazov

The Leningrad-born Anna Chernakova trained as a director at the Film Institute (VGIK) in Moscow and has been a writer, film director and producer since 1992. Working and living in Canada and the United Kingdom, she has always kept close ties with Russia. Her credits include two feature films The Cherry Orchard (Vishnevyi sad, 1993) and Season of Mists (Sezon tumanov, 2008), an animation titled Sea and Stars (2002) and a one-hour drama, Last Summer (2000), as well as several documentaries. Death in Pince-Nez (a sequel to her film version of The Cherry Orchard) was first shown in 2010 at the Moscow International Film Festival, as Russia was celebrating 150 years since the birth of Anton Pavlovich Chekhov. Anna Chernakova was the first Russian director to make a film version of The Cherry Orchard, and for Death in Pince-Nez she decided to revive her earlier film and she reunited most of the actors from her previous film. To summarize the plot of this film is paradoxically both an easy and complex task. Put simply, it tells the story of a Russian theatre director, Daniil Sorin, who returns to his homeland after 15 years abroad. In Europe he supposedly achieved some recognition for his work, therefore his company calls him back to revive a once famous performance of The Cherry Orchard, which he had directed some years earlier. He is initially doubtful and disgruntled by the idea, but then agrees: the mise-en-scène can start. At a deeper level, the film is filled with allegories and metaphors, which are difficult to catch at first viewing. The genre is not obvious either: elements from comedy, tragedy, drama and detective are all mixed together. It is potentially a very interesting film reflecting, as it does, the theme of art from a diachronic as much as from a synchronic point of view. The centre of this reflection epitomizes Chekhov. But the overall impression is that Chernakova somehow missed the point. From the very beginning we are surrounded by many different elements reminding us of Chekhov and his work: the titles appear between the pages of the great Russian playwright's pieces; the director Sorin has got a black crow whose name is Uncle Vanya; the characters have names and surnames from Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard (Anya, Varya, Petya, Lopakhin), and Sorin is of course also the name of one of the main characters of The Seagull (but he could easily be associated to Ranevskaya, who comes back to Russia from Paris with a white coat and a scarf). ...

Reviewed by Chiara Natalucci © 2011 in KinoKultura

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