Monday, 3 January 2011

The year at the movies - 10 top Russian films of 2010

Reinvention was the order of the day as Russia went to the movies in 2010 - with many of the year’s biggest releases focussing on the war years.

But the 65th anniversary of the great victory inspired directors to more than empty tub-thumping, even if nobody told Nikita Mikhalkov that was the plan.

Mikhalkov's improbable sequel to his Oscar-winning Burnt by the Sun was perhaps the most talked about film of the year.

Paying little heed to the small detail that the heroes had largely been killed off at the end of part one, the follow-up was billed “A great film about a great war” and instantly became both a critical flop and a part of the curriculum at some schools.

The Moscow News’ Mark Teeter looked beyond the hype to find a flawed but fascinating film.

“If ‘Burnt by the Sun – 2’ fails as a coherent epic (or even the first half of one), consider it as a series of set-piece sequences – some of which are very effective and affecting,” he wrote.

Two other big war films also packed out cinemas as they dealt with different ends of the war and different ends of the country.

Brestskaya Krepost returned to the terrifying days of 1941 as the Third Reich launched its blitzkrieg on the USSR.

And it divided opinion at MN, with Teeter enjoying a fresh look at a murkier moment of history while colleague Tom Washington was less impressed with a sentimental attempt to tug the heartstrings in the cause of Russian national pride.

Deep in Siberia, Krai (The Edge) tackled the complex aftermath of a nation victorious yet split in two by the human, social and political costs of the war.

But while Teeter waxed lyrical about a “remarkably candid” reassessment of recent history, he conceded that the lasting memory of the film is a thrilling race between two huge, steaming, snorting Soviet-era trains.

It wasn’t just recent history that got a lookover – historical blockbuster Yaroslav went back to the time of ancient Rus to preach a message of unity and tolerance.

Shot by a team which had clearly watched the Kevin Costner Robin Hood film more than once it told the story of bear-slaying legend Yaroslav Mudry (the wise) and his triumph over treachery to found what is now the city of Yaroslavl.

As a historical romp it’s amusing enough, but the awkwardly tacked-on ending where Yaroslav delivers his wisdom to an assembled crowd of good honest peasants rather spoils the effect.

It’s not that his message of unity for Slav and Varengian alike is anything less than irreproachable; it’s the way the script makes him sound uncomfortably like a United Russia slogan. ...

The Moscow News

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