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