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.