Thursday, 31 March 2011

Gennadi Shpalikov: Long and Happy Life - Долгая счастливая жизнь (1966)

Director:Gennadi Shpalikov
Writer:Gennadi Shpalikov
Stars:Inna Gulaya, Kirill Lavrov,Pavel Luspekayev

The only film Gennadi Shpalikov both wrote and directed.
Grand-prix at Festival in Bergamo, 1966.

A master of curiously stylized dialogue, Shpalikov was in high demand as a screenwriter even before graduating from the State School of Cinematography. H.H. ter Balkt calls him "a soulmate of Bergman," the title most film scholars are too quick to bestow on Tarkovsky- and the poetic, meditative Life does have its similarities to Wild Strawberries, Russia's favorite Bergman film. A pack of guitar-wielding hikers board the bus back to the city; a stranger falls hard for one of the passengers, the very young and very married Lena. "I want happiness that lasts. I won't settle for less" is the film's insistently reiterated motif. Shpalikov didn't: suffusing the title with terrible ironies, he killed himself in 1974, and this remains his sole writing-directing credit. ...

People bring flowers in memory of famous actress

People have been bringing red carnations to the house of famous actress, People's Artist of the Soviet Union Lyudmila Gurchenko, who passed away on Wednesday evening. The actress was particularly fond of red carnations, and someone laid these flowers outside her house in Tryokhprudny bystreet in Moscow center shortly after the tragic news of the actress' sudden death was broken. She was 75.

'I do not remember so many people coming over to the house,' Larisa Barabanova, a neighbor of the famous actress, told Itar-Tass. 'People have been brining candles, flowers, and some merely stand still for a few minutes outside the house where the actress lived,' the neighbor said.

The designers of Lyudmila Gurchenko’s website decided not to place an official obituary, but merely displayed the actress' photograph subtitled «Lyudmila Markovna Gurchenko. November 12, 1935 - March 30, 2011."
The Internet is full of words of condolences from people who loved Lyudmila Gurchenko. "She remained a woman strewn with flowers by the men folk to her dying day," said a woman who was a fan of the famous actress. "Usually, women of her age look senile and they are old in mind, but Lyudmila Gurchenko always had a young heart," the woman said. A man who admired the famous actress said he could not believe that Gurchenko was dead. "I can't believe it. She has always been with us and I cannot believe that she is gone. She was a fiery woman, to say nothing of her tremendous talent," the man said.


Kino launch: Russia occupies the BFI

Yesterday in London, the British Film Institute launched its forthcoming Russian cinema season, which is going under the banner title of 'Kino – Russian Film Pioneers'. Like the big red robot from Star Fleet, it is in three parts, with there being opportunities galore to catch both acknowledged classics and glorious obscurities. Read on for an 'in' (Lenin, Stalin, Yeltsin, Putin...) to the whole shebang.
Russia and cinema go together like love and a carriage (as in clock. A winning gift for any cherished spouse), or a horse and marriage (well, so long as you're name's Caligula). Immense in size, doughty in its cuisine, Russia is a nation which has provided we capitalist pig-dogs in the west with a great many screen pleasures over the years. Could any one of us, after all, ever dream of forgetting about this guy...
However, perhaps mindful that the aforementioned Russian thespians are already drowning in the affection of fans spread throughout these fair isles of Albion, all the way from Belfast to Bognor Regis, the fair-minded film fanatics at the BFI are this year throwing their spotlight upon some of those lesser-known movie-makers to hail from the land of vodka and t.A.T.u. (yes, I'd forgotten they existed till just then too).
Plucky little fellas, in need of our love, like Eisenstein, Vertov and Tarkovsky – although having said that, not one of that named troika are bothering to come over to London at any point during the Kino season to promote their filmic wares. Lazy gits.
As already noted, the BFI Kino season comes in three parts, much like the Indiana Jones series in that regard (you hear me? There are three Indiana Jones movies and three only, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. With the possible exception of Ivan Drago), and these are they...

Kino as mustardo

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Lyudmila Gurchenko 12. 11. 1935. - 30. 03. 2010.

Lyudmila Markovna Gurchenko was born on November 12, 1935 in Kharkov. In 1953, after school, she went to Moscow and entered State Art University VGIK. She studied in Sergey Gerasimov and Tamara Makarovoj's workshop, and graduated in 1958. 1964-66 she was an actress of theatre «Sovremennik», 1966-69 was in the troupe of GosKoncert (State Estrada). Her first cinema debute was in film by Yan Frid «Road of Truth» in 1956. The same year she appeared in New Year's comedy of young director Eldar Riazanov «Carnival Night», in which leaging roles, under Ivan Pyrev's insisting, were played by well known actor Igor Ilinsky and student Lyudmila Gurchenko. The film had tremendous success and for many years was a favorite of Russian viewers, and due to role of Lena Krylova, Gurchenko became the all-Union favourite. The next year she stared in a comedy «Girl with guitar». Gurchenko showed her dramatic range in leaging role of Maria in movie «Working settlement» in 1966. She received critical success in the film by Victor Tregubovich «Old walls», in which she has played Anna Georgievna. The same year Gurchenko excellently played (and sung) in musical comedy "A straw hat", directed by Leonid Khvinihidze. Among Lyudmila Gurchenko's best works are the following movies: «20 days without war» by Aleksey German, «Siberiade» by Andrey Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky, «Five evenings» by Nikita Mihalkov, «A Railway Station for Two» by Eldar Riazanov, «Beloved woman of mechanic Gavrilov» by Peter Todorovsky, «Flights in dreams and reality» Roman Balayan. In 1982 book «My adult childhood» was published that was writen by Lyudmila Gurchenko. Later the actress wrote «Applause». Also recently several records were released with songs performed by her. ... more

Legendary Actress Lyudmila Gurchenko Passes Away

The famous actress Lyudmila Gurchenko, aged 75, has died in Moscow today.

According to preliminary data, the death was caused by complications of a surgery she underwent after a femoral neck fracture.

Lyudmila Markovna Gurchenko was born on November, 12th, 1935 in Kharkov, Ukraine. She made her debut with Yan Frid’s film Road of Truth in 1956. However, she gained enormous popularity after starring in Eldar Ryazanov’s comedy Carnival Night.

Altogether the actress acted in more than 80 films, including A Girl with a Guitar, Workers' Quarters, The Straw Hat, Twenty Days Without War, Siberiade, Station for Two, and The Mechanic Gavrilov's Beloved Woman.


GetMovies to provide free content

GetMovies will become Russia’s first movie portal to offer free content, compensated by more advertisement on the screen.

Russia´s oldest portal of licensed video, Get Movies, will become the first site in the country, where users will be able to download some content free of charge, including new movies, serials, TV programmes and archive recordings, old movies and cartoons, with costs covered by advertising revenues.

However, some movies will still need paid subscription, with the price remaining a bit below DVD, from 9.9 Roubles to 70 Roubles, depending on the content, timing, and other factors.

Copyright owners were most positive about the move, as they realize that such video content as some TV – shows, old serials and programmes is sometimes difficult to sell. The users in turn are happy about the opportunity to get free access to some of the items, with the portal’s audience growing significantly already.

Natalia Titarenko, an editor of the GetMovies project, was upbeat, saying further developments are in the pipeline.

“Further promotion of an advertisement model and development of the whole project are among our immediate plans,” she said, adding that broadening the scope of free video and improving site accessibility would be next."

“We want to increase the number of free of charge positions, will get down to advancing of navigation on our site and creation of even more comfortable and pleasant interface.”


Vladimir Bychkov: The Craftsmen's Town - Город мастеров (1965)

Directed by Vladimir Bychkov
Writers: Nikolay Erdman, Tamara Gabbe (story)
Stars:Georgi Lapeto, Marianna Vertinskaya, Lev Lemke

Vladimir Bychkov's good taste made "The Craftsmen's Town" one of the most charming children's movies of the Soviet times....

Kira Muratova: The Tuner - Настройщик (2004)

Director: Kira Muratova
Script: Sergei Chetvertokov, with Evgenii Golubenko and Kira Muratova (an improvisation on themes from Arkadii Koshko)
Cinematography: Gennadii Kariuk
Art Director: Evgenii Golubenko
Cast: Georgii Deliev, Alla Demidova, Renata Litvinova, Nina Ruslanova

Seeking marriage through newspaper ads, Liuba (Nina Ruslanova), a nurse, is bilked by a stranger whom she mistakes for her new date. Liuba's elderly girlfriend, Anna Sergeevna (Alla Demidova) is defrauded in a different fashion: having placed an ad for a piano tuner, she is entrapped by Andrei (Georgii Deliev), who is not only an excellent tuner, but also a reasonably good scam artist. Andrei and his current lover, Lina (played by Russia's newest cult figure, Renata Litvinova), attempt to gain the women's trust by retrieving Liuba's money. Placing their own fake ad in a newspaper so as to locate the suspect, Andrei and Lina return the stolen money, then swindle both women through an elaborate forgery scheme—in a word, normal human nature à la Muratova.

Surface, paper, and the fictional self emerge as the organizing themes of The Tuner, for which Renata Litvinova's Warholian superficiality is ideally suited. The opening scene sets its characters against a backdrop of fluttering ads. And although paper—the ads, the newspaper pages, the bank certificates, the forged papers, fake love letters, the monetary bills—is the film's dominant medium for the "scam self," Litvinova is a multi-media scam artist, performing best on the cell phone. And Muratova, we realize by the film's end, prefers celluloid. The scam artist, the musical artist, and the film artist collapse into a single shot when, in an extended take near the conclusion, Andrei stares out at us, accompanying himself on the (now) well-tuned piano. His knowing wink suggests that what had begun as a deceptive newspaper ad is also the film itself.

Several of Muratova's trademark devices resurface in this new work. Here her episodic eccentrics include a retarded deaf-mute; a toga-clad wine-seller who offers free rosè and a nameless blind man who is granted the film's final lines. When we were younger, we might have mistaken these vignettes as redemptive pathos in Muratova's work; now retrospectively, we observe them with cooler eyes as minor sightings in Muratova's game preserve of the human species. A second trademark device is her love of "cultural intermezzo": here, a gaggle of charmingly inept musicians and a girl singer-songwriter, performing on public transport. Aficionados of Muratova's work will remember Aleksandra Svenskaia's trumpet performance (Asthenic Syndrome, 1989) and Gena's declamatory lyrics in the opening scene of Three Stories (1997). This is Muratova's utopian dimension: art as irredeemably unprofessional, yet utterly self-sufficient, the flawless conjuration of an inner hallucination.

What then is a "tuner"? Anna Sergeevna reminds us that any good musician needs a "personal tuner," who attends to the pianist, not the piano ("everyone needs a tuner"). This is no metaphor for psychotherapy; but an unwitting acknowledgment of life's enduring availability to the marauder for capture, plunder, and annihilation. In the end, Andrei does not murder Anna Sergeevna, but merely swindles her and disappears. Turning to the police, the victims find they can agree upon no common description of Andrei. A certain Gogolian indeterminacy has rendered him indescribable. They themselves have been "tuned"; the tuner has left; the film is done. ...

Awards :
Best actress Alla DEMIDOVA , Golden Eagle awards, Russia, 2006
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Nina RUSLANOVA , Golden Eagle awards, Russia, 2006
Best actress Alla DEMIDOVA , "NIKA" Prizes, Russia, 2005
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Nina RUSLANOVA , "NIKA" Prizes, Russia, 2005
Best directing Kira MURATOVA , Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Russia, 2004
Best Set Decoration Yevgeni GOLUBENKO , Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Russia, 2004
Best actress Alla DEMIDOVA , Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Russia, 2004
Prix Nika de la meilleure réalisation et du meilleur rôle féminin (Alla Demidova), 2004

At the heart of Kira Muratova’s newest film, The Tuner (Nastroishchik, 2004), is her characteristic and enduring love of predation—predation for its own sake. Of course, any talk of “the heart of Muratova’s work” is a judgment of anatomy rather than sentiment, as any admirer would attest. Author of sixteen films over forty-two years, Muratova is best known in the West for her political rehabilitation during the perestroika period and the un-shelving of her so-called provincial melodramas, Brief Encounters (Korotkie vstrechi, 1967/1987) and Long Farewells (Dolgie provody, 1971/1987). With The Tuner, she has produced an extraordinary new film that offers a complex assessment of the human subject, civilization, and the creative act. ...

Veteran film director Govorukhin turns 75

The Russian film director Stanislav Govorukhin has turned 75. He says he will celebrate his birthday by inviting friends to an exhibition of his own paintings at the Russian Academy of Arts.

Govorukhin is the author of such popular films as “And Then There Were None”, “Voroshilov Shooter”, “Bless the Woman” and “Actress”.

He has also grown prominent as a painter, he writes belles-lettres and scripts, and is an MP. The peak of his creative endeavour is believed to be his film “The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed”.

Govoukhin was also frequently appeared on-screen. His most recent work is the film “Jazz Style”.

Voice of Russia

Alexei Fedorchenko: Silent Souls - Овсянки (2010)

Director: Aleksei Fedorchenko
Writer: Denis Osokin
Cast: Igor Sergeyev, Yuriy Tsurilo, Yuliya Aug, Victor Sukhorukov

Official site here.

Silent Souls, the slender, elegiac new feature from Russian director Aleksei Fedorchenko was the one movie at last month's Venice Film Festival which left both myself and Indie Movies editor Emma with the unhappy sensation often characterised as 'that sinking feeling'. Not because it looked particularly heinous or especially ominous. No, nothing of the sort. But simply because we each squandered several opportunities to go see it, and were then forced to listen with teeth-gnashing frustration as those hacks who had caught the thing subsequently rhapsodised as to its merits.

Our shared (and entirely selfish) fear was that this apparent artistic triumph would romp home to the Golden Lion and leave us looking even more daft and empty-headed than usual, as when it came time to give our reaction to the final competition standings we simply shrugged our shoulders and looked as dumbly blank as guppy fish attempting to sit a Maths GCSE. Thank goodness then for Quentin Tarantino, who led his jury down the path of handing Venice's top prize to one of the more inane films showcased there, Sofia Coppola's Somewhere; Fedorchenko's endeavours merely being rewarded with a compensatory bauble for Best Cinematography, thus sparing the Indie Movies team's blushes.

However having skated so dangerously upon such perilously thin ice then, there wasn't a moggy in hell's chance of me passing up the opportunity presented by the organisers of this year's London Film Festival to give this alleged meisterwerk the attentions of my critical eye (I've only got the one – the left. My philistine of a right eye enjoys the cinema of Brett Ratner and Shawn Levy, and finds it impossible to get on with movies where the actors talk 'foreign').

As it turns out, maybe QT and company weren't as blinkered in their final choices as alleged in certain quarters (Sandro Bondi, I am looking at you. Yes, you), with Silent Souls proving to be an interesting diversion, but nothing more. The movie is based on a short story by Denis Osokin, who adapted his own work for the screen, and it very much has the feel of a literary sketch, of ideas evoked, rather than being quite fully explored.

Fedorchenko's film is set in northern Russia, in a region once populated by a Finnic people known as the Merjan, whose culture has been lost over the centuries. Our narrator, Aist (Igor Sergeyev), is a man attempting to riddle out the Merjan, to understand who exactly he and his kinsfolk are, through the creation of a written and pictorial chronicle. One day, while taking photographs of his co-workers at the paper mill in his home town of Neja, he is called in to see the mill's director, Miron (Yuriy Tsurilo), who explains that his wife, Tanya, has recently died, and that he requires Aist's assistance to transport her body to the spot where the couple honeymooned, to give her corporeal vessel an ultimate release in keeping with Merjan traditions.

Cue some wacky Weekend at Bernie's-esque chicanery, as the two middle-aged sourpusses take Tanya's al fresco corpse on a road trip... okay, I'm not fooling any of you, am I? This is largely a downbeat affair. There are moments of idiosyncratic humour - a flashback showing Miron lovingly washing the still-living Tanya (played by Yuliya Aug) in vodka, a choir led in a bizarre song about a trip to the pharmacy and a lengthy shopping list - but for the most part the proceedings are quiet and contemplative, with much of the parsimonious running time being occupied by unbroken shots of the backs of Aist and Miron's balding heads as they drive across the carbon-coloured terrain. Situated between the two is the cage of twittering 'buntings' bought by our narrator; small sparrow-type birds that give Osokin's source story its name, and make Aist the second avian-fixated screen Russian this year, after Mickey Rourke's 'buhd'-lover in Iron Man 2. Actually, the pick of cinematographer Mikhail Krichman's Venice-wowing camera work comes in a shot showing what look like two blue lines on a white blankness, before these are revealed to be the shadows cast by the young Aist and his eccentric poet father as they traverse an epic expanse of ice. ...

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Friedrich Ermler: Unfinished Story - Неоконченная повесть (1955)

Director:Fridrikh Ermler
Writer:Konstantin Isayev
Stars:Sergei Bondarchuk, Elina Bystritskaya, Sofiya Giatsintova

Sergei Loban: Dust - Пыль (2005)

Dust, Russia, 2005
Color, 107 minutes
Director: Sergei Loban
Screenplay: Marina Potapova
Cinematography: Dmitrii Model'
Music: Pavel Shevchenko
Cast: Aleksei Podol'skii, Gleb Mikhailov, Petr Mamonov, Larisa Piatnitskaia, Nina Elisova, Psoi Korolenko, Dmitrii Pimenov, Aleksei Ageev
Producer: Mikhail Sinev
Production: SVOI 2000

An independent, small-budget (no-budget, to be precise) film shot on digital camera, Dust seemed an unlikely candidate for any recognition amidst the bombast of such new Russian “blockbusters” as The Turkish Gambit (Dzhanik Faiziev, 2005) and Company 9 (Fedor Bondarchuk, 2005). Nonetheless, upon its release in June 2005 Loban’s film immediately raked in a dozen enthusiastic reviews by major Russian film critics, who repeatedly called this modest film a sign of a new direction in Russian cinema. Screened in the “Perspectives” program at the Moscow Film Festival, [1] Dust received a diploma of the Jury of Russian Film Critics for the “experiment on the body of the hero and on the language of cinema.” While the second part of this peculiar citation is expected praise for an independent production, the first part has to do with the script. The plot is simple, clever, and—to avoid the tired imprecision of the word “topical”—contemporary.

The hero of Dust is Lesha Sergeev (Aleksei Podol'skii), an obese 24-year old man, balding and myopic, who lives with his grandmother. This intelligentnaia woman monitors every aspect of Lesha’s life, from the intake of proteins and glucose (franks and sugar-loaded tea for breakfast) to suitable leisure (making model airplanes) to an appropriate outfit (an oversized T-shirt with a kitten print, purchased in a second-hand store). For the duration of the film, Lesha’s amorphous body will be draped in this “unisex” monstrosity, exchanged for female clothing at the film’s end. This expository part of the film is a small masterpiece of acting, editing, and mise-en-scène. Unpretentious and unsentimental, the sequence has Lesha’s entire life laid out with an unerring feel for turn-of-the-millennium Russia: a fully internalized sense of alienation from “reality.” Lesha’s face, torso, hands, and even the kitten on his T-shirt, magnified and distorted by close-ups, all articulate dejected bewilderment. ...Review by Elena Prokhorova here.

Review by By Sergey Chernov here.

Alexander Rogozhkin: Chekist - Чекист (1992)

Security officer (1992)

Directed by Aleksandr Rogozhkin.
Starring Igor Sergeev, Aleksei Poluyan, Mikhail Vasserbaum

Rogozhkin's film The Chekist was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival.

The Chekist is a 1992 Russian drama film directed by Aleksandr Rogozhkin. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival. The film is currently not in distribution.

Alexander Harashkevich
Alexander Harashkevich

Piers Handling, director of the Toronto International Film Festival, said of the film: "Rogozhkin eventually penetrates into the psychotic mind of the Chekist with a moment of sublime insight, reminiscent of Bertolucci's equally disturbing portrait of the fascist killer in The Conformist. The Chekist is an overwhelming cry in the face of such madness.

Aleksandr Rogozhkin: Cuckoo - Кукушка (2002)

Кукушка (The Cuckoo)
Russia 2002. 104 min. Color. In Russian, Finnish, and Sami with English subtitles.
Written and directed by Aleksandr Rogozhkin.
Director of Photography Andrei Zhegalov.
Editor Iuliia Rumiantseva.
Production Designer Vladimir Svetozarov.
Music Dmitrii Pavlov.
With Ville Haapasalo,  Anni-Kristina Juuso, Viktor Bychkov

Prizes and Festivals
* June 2002 - XXIV Moscow International Film Festival - presented as a part of the competition program.
* July 2002 - X Festival of the Festivals in Saint Petersburg - Grand Prize "Golden Griffin" - best film.
* August 2002 - X Film Festival "Window to Europe" in Vyborg - presented as a part of the competition program.
* October 2002 - International film festival "Europa Cinema" in Viarego, Italy - presented as a part of the competition program.
* December 2002 — 3 awards "Golden Aries" of the National Guild of the Movie Critics and the Movie Press.
* February 2003 - 4 awards "Golden Eagle".
* March 2003 - 4 awards "Nika".
* 2003 - International Film Festival in Troy, Portugal.
* 2003 — International File Festival in San Francisco — Viewers' Choice Prize.
* 2003 — XI Russian Film Festival in Onfler, France.
* June 2004 - Russian Federation National Award in the Art and Literature Area was awarded to the crew of the film.

© STV Film company, 2002.

A nail is hammered into stone while men in Wehrmacht uniforms are meticulously preparing the proper vantage point for a sniper's position. With this opening sequence of images, Aleksandr Rogozhkin's film The Cuckoo begins in medias res, but soon adds a profound existential dimension to the seemingly routine sequence of World War II military activity. A Finnish soldier has been condemned by his unit and is forced to don an SS uniform. Now he must assist in his own enchainment. Imprisoned on a boulder "like Prometheus," as he will later explain, his life is reduced to serve one final purpose: he is to become a "cuckoo," Soviet army slang for a condemned and thus involuntary sniper. This introduction deftly establishes an overarching theme. It hints at the larger, abstract question of how humans could possibly liberate themselves from the brutal constraints of circumstances, especially in war, while it simultaneously renders this idea in its essential concreteness—an image of one man, shackled to a rock...
Writes Daniel H. Wild©2004 in KinoKultura

Monday, 28 March 2011

Grigori Aleksandrov: Volga-Volga - Волга-Волга (1938)

Director:Grigori Aleksandrov
Writers:Nikolay Erdman, Vladimir Nilsen
Stars:Igor Ilyinsky, Lyubov Orlova, Pavel Olenev

In August 1932 Grigory Aleksandrov had been invited to Maxim Gorky's dacha where Stalin, who 'happened' to be visiting, spoke of the need for a new Soviet culture which would be an 'upbeat, joyous art full of fun and laughter'. In 1933, the Party Central Committee called a conference of people at which they advanced the slogans 'Give Us Comedy' and 'Laughter Is the Brother of Strength', and called on the country's chief film directors to produce comedies. Those assembled were told that viewers' letters were demanding comedies. …. Volga-Volga must be seen as a standard Soviet film, an exemplar of socialist realism. Yet it was also one of the most popular films of the Soviet 1930s; throughout the country long lines formed at the box office to see it. …In fact, among its most devoted fans was Stalin himself; he even sent a copy to Roosevelt in 1942 for his education. Stalin apparently had the film screened so often that as he viewed it he would recite many jokes before they came up on the soundtrack. ...

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Vasily Shukshin:The Red Snowball Tree - Калина красная (1973)

Kalina red (1973)

Director:Vasili Shukshin
Writer:Vasili Shukshin
Stars:Lidiya Fedoseyeva-Shukshina, Vasili Shukshin, Ivan Ryzhov

Kalina red (1973)

Drama of a man who tried to live a new life. Yegor Prokudin (Vasili Shukshin) is a child of a street who grew up in a criminal gang. While he was free, he did not lose his innocent, joyful heart, but many years in prison have taken away his joy in living. The film opens on the occasion of his release from prison. Soon, he discovers love with a village peasant girl, Lyuba (Lidia Fedoseeva-Shukshina), who was lettering him in jail and restores his will to live and fills him with an enthusiasm for rural life. There are dark shadows on his way for better being - his past and his old mother he never visited from childhood times. (Actually, the scene where Lyuba talks to his mother was shooted with non-acting old village women) Their idyll is short-lived, as his former associates will not leave him alone.

This film was the winner of the All-Union Film Festival prize in 1974 in Baku, and was extremely popular in the Soviet Union. This was the last film made by writer/director/actor Vasili Shukshin, who was a leading exponent of the Russian traditionalist cultural movement and it's his masterpiece without question. While Kalina Krasnaya clearly favors the simple life, it does not embellish or overly glorify this theme, unlike official party films in praise of workers. Shukshin's heroes are ordinary people and their weaknesses and far from easy fate is source of satirical humour but also kindly and sensitive sympathy. >>>

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Leonid Gaidai - Biography

Gaidai Leonid Iovich (January 30, 1923 – November 19, 1993), Russian film director and scriptwriter.

The humor of great Gaidai is timeless. His comedies are free from edifying or obtrusiveness, he easily managed to avoid hackneyed cliches and smutty jokes. Phrases from his comedies have become winged and are widely used in Russia till date.

‘A cinema comedy should have as few words as possible, and those words must be laconic, sharp-cut and take an unerring aim’ – Gaidai said, and he was as good as his word.

Leonid Iovich Gaidai was born on January 30, 1923. From 1941 he was in the army in Mongolia. When the war began he was transferred to Kalinin front as a scout, as he had learnt German at school. After a severe wounding he got ‘unfit-for-duty’ and had to return home. In fact he never completely recovered after that wound which actually made him suffer till the end of his life; no one knew about it but for his family. He did not like to complain.

From early age Gaidai was dreaming of stage. In 1947 he graduated from a theatre studio in Irkutsk regional theatre and for several years played on the local stage. Though a shy and clumsy person having difficulties in pronouncing sounds ‘r’ and ‘l’, he was a good actor beloved by the public. In 1949 he entered the film direction faculty of VGIK (The All-Union Institute of Cinematography) where he met actress Nina Grebeshkova to become his wife and spend all life with him.

Though at the beginning of Gaidai’s creative life he was supported by well-known masters of Soviet cinema, such as Ivan Pyriev and Mikhail Romm, his way in cinema was far from simple. ... more

Yakov Protazanov: Man from the Restaurant - Человек из ресторана (1927)

Director:Yakov Protazanov
Writers:Oleg Leonidov, Yakov Protazanov,
Stars:Michael Chekhov, Vera Malinovskaya, Ivan Koval-Samborsky

Based on the story by Ivan Shmelyov

Alexander Mindadze: Innocent Saturday - В субботу (2011)

Director:Alexander Mindadze
Writer: Aleksandr Mindadze (screenplay)
Stars: Anton Shagin, Svetlana Smirnova,Stanislav Ryadinskiy

A new drama film set in Chernobyl opens in Russian cinemas this week, recalling the trauma of the world's worst nuclear accident just ahead of the the 25th anniversary of the catastrophe.The Russian film's release comes after the quake-damage to a nuclear power plant in Japan brought fears of a nuclear explosion on the scale of Chernobyl and suspicions of another Soviet-style cover-up by officials.
The film, "Innocent Saturday", shows a junior party worker, Valera, learning of the explosion by chance and initially trying to escape from the town of Pripyat just outside the Chernobyl zone.
But he misses the last passenger train out of the town because his girlfriend cannot run fast enough and finds himself drawn into a drunken wedding party, where he plays drums for a rock band and downs bottles of wine.
His friends brush off warnings of the dangers with macabre jokes, even when they finally view the flaming power station, in scenes that recall the near anarchic atmosphere in the days after the April 26, 1986 explosion.
"You create an image or a metaphor born from your own life and then that metaphor returns to you in your life or world events," director Alexander Mindadze said in an interview with the RIA Novosti news agency.
"What I was trying to talk about was not only relevant yesterday but is unfortunately relevant today." ...

Alexander Proshkin: The Cold Summer of 1953 - Холодное лето пятьдесят третьего (1987)

Director: Alexander Proshkin
Writer: Edgar Dubrovsky
Camera: Boris Brozhovsky
Editing: Yelena Mikhailova
Design: Valery Filippov
Music: Vladimir Martynov
Cast: Valeri Priyomykhov, Anatoli Papanov, Viktor Stepanov

The film was awarded Nike in 1988 for Best Fiction Film.
People's Artist of the USSR Anatoly Papanov was awarded the State Prize for his latest role played in this film.
According to the poll of the journal Soviet screen, the film was named best picture of 1988, and Valery Priemyhov - best actor.
The movie was awarded the Grand Prix International Film Festival 1989 in Valenciennes (France) and the prize of the International Film Festival 1989 in Gijon (Spain).

Shortly after Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953, Lavrenty Beria, the omnipotent NKVD Minister, granted a broad amnesty. Due to it, going at large were hardened criminals that had been convicted for grave offenáes. Wreaking havoc in the taiga in search of food and transportation, the bandits come across a small village where two amnestied political prisoners are waiting for the arrival of a boat. It fell to those two – the middle-aged Kopalych and the young Luzga – to defend the helpless villagers from the convicts. The great Russian actor Anatoly Papanov played his last role (Kopalych) in this film.

A huge hit on its original release, voted best film of 1988 by the journal Sovetskii Ekran and second only to Vassily Pichul’s raunchy phenomenon Little Vera (Маленькая Вера) at the box office, The Cold Summer of 1953 simultaneously depicts two pivotal periods of Soviet history. Set in the months immediately following Stalin’s death and produced and released in the wake of Mikhail Gorbachev’s late 1980s reforms, it implicitly criticises the Soviet system to a degree that must have been unimaginable even a few months before it went into production in June 1987. ... more

Friday, 25 March 2011

Anna Melikyan: Mars - Марс (2004)

Anna Melikyan

Russia, 2004
Color, 100 min
Russian with English subtitles
Direction and script: Anna Melikian
Cinematography: Oleg Lukichev
Production design: Ul'iana Riabova
Music: Aleksei Aigi
With: Gosha Kutsenko, Nana Kiknadze, Artur Smol'ianinov, Evgeniia Dobrovol'skaia, Elena Morozova, Nadia Kamenkovich, Iana Esipovich
Production: Central Partnership; Slon Studio, with support from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation


Everyone tries to run away to search for a better life, to run away from people who surround you, from the environment you live in and in the end from yourself. The famous and unbeatable boxer Boris is doing just that. He just took a train to an unknown destination. When he wakes up in the early morning, through the fog he sees the neon letters "MARS", the name of the station and the little town, where everyone works at a factory for stuffed animals. Boris will only spend one day in the town but they will forever change the life of its inhabitants.
From: russartcom

A debut film, especially in a film industry that is trying to reinvent itself, makes the viewer wary of derivative style and laboured plot. Anna Melikian’s feature debut Mars may have speckles of both, but it also possesses the lightness and love of the medium that are rare in Russian cinema today. Financed by one of Russia's largest distribution companies, Central Partnership, Mars is playfully romantic. The film has a commendably simple plot, which seems to have been borrowed from Lermontov’s “Taman'”: a jaded visitor from the “capitals” comes and leaves, disrupting “the peaceful life” of a Crimean town.

Mars (2004)

In Mars, a boxer from Moscow, Boris (Gosha Kutsenko), is on the run from his career and his mobster boss. As Boris emerges from under his hang-over and looks out the train car window, he comes face to face with supersized animals peeking in. Only gradually does the shocked hero realize that the plush toys are peddled by the town’s inhabitants, whose salary is paid in this “soft currency.” In the glory days of socialism, the provincial town of Marks was named after the author of the “Communist Manifesto,” but now it is missing the letter “k” on the train station logo. The Mar(k)s pun is essential for the film’s style, which shifts between absurd comedy and melodrama, between Karen Shakhnazarov’s City Zero (1989) and the colorful fantasies of Amélie (dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001). ...

Reviewed by Elena Prokhorova©2005 in KinoKultura

Marina Ladynina - Biography

Marina Ladynina debuted in Vrazhdiye tropy (1935), directed by veterans Ivan Pravov and Olga Preobrazhenskaya. For the rest of her career in cinema, however, she worked exclusively with film director Ivan Pyryev, who, along with Grigoriy Aleksandrov, was the leading author of Soviet musical comedies, one of the few well-developed popular genres within the system of Stalinist film culture. The making of musical comedies was encouraged by a decree which Boris Shumiatski, administrative head of Soviet cinema at the time, issued in 1935 and in which cinema was recommended to focus on making "movies for the millions." Ladynina's career directly reflects this directive—she was an actress with whom millions of viewers could identify.

Unlike Aleksandrov's leading lady, dazzling mega star Lyubov Orlova, Ladynina was a comedienne with a special talent for character parts. She was a short, fast-talking, funny, down-to-earth girl with intense blue eyes and a turned-up nose, and she usually appeared surrounded by an entourage of cheerful peasant girlfriends. While Orlova's natural milieu was the world of elaborate stage performances involving lavish interiors and glamorous outfits, Ladynina's world was inhabited by Stakhanovite shock workers, amateur wood carvers, and good-natured shepherds. Similarly, while Grigoriy Aleksandrov's films were considered a more refined entertainment value, Pyryev's films conveyed straightforward propaganda messages which make them look particularly implausible and contrived from today's point of view. As a rule, Pyryev's films featured working class protagonists—tractor drivers, farm workers—and were known for their hyperbolization of prosperity and the happiness of Soviet life at collective farms. Film historian Neya Zorkaya has noted that even though all these films were marketed as true to life, they completely neglected any realist criteria and promoted a myth of high achieving Kolkhoz mode, or production, at times when agriculture was undergoing a serious crisis.
Read more about Marina Ladynina here.

Andrei Razenkov: Kromov -КромовЪ(2009)

Screenplay by Andrei Razenkov, Mikhail Petukhov, Konstantin Filimonov
Director - Andrei Razenkov
Photography by Maria Soloviova
Art director - Olga Kravchenia
Composer - Evgeny Doga
Sound supervisor - Yan Pototsky
Film editor - Olga Grinshpun
Producer - Konstantin Filimonov
Cast: Vladimir Vdovichenkov (in the lead role), Yuri Solomin, Albert Filozov, Amalia Mordvinova and the others.
The historical drama “Kromov” by Andrey Razenkov is based on a true story that took place in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. Aleksey Alekseevich Kromov, a colonel and officer of the Russian Army, becomes the only keeper of Russian treasury. His mission is to come to France and organize supplies to Tsar Russia. During this time a take-over took place and the government, that had given him the sum of money, changes. From this very moment a hunting for Kromov begins. The purpose of the hunting is to get the money.

The theme of melancholy and nostalgia is omnipresent in Andrei Razenkov’s Kromov”. The unique moral dilemma that the film’s title character confronts is a pretext to emphasize the bourgeois flourish of the fin-de-siècle and to deplore its end. However, this emotional mood is not to be confused with real nostalgia and melancholy of emigration narratives. It is no reconstruction of historical emotions either, but rather an aesthetic object, an emotional frame for a fantasy story. In a similar way, the characters’ faces, voices and costumes do not pursue the aura of the historical epoch as they overtly represent our modern tastes, clothes styles, and behavior types. It is perhaps the disinterest in the sense of historical accuracy that is to be blamed for the film’s failure to create a narrative with firm connections of cause and effect. Despite being focused on exceptional historical circumstances, the film does not develop either into an adventure film or a psychological drama as it hovers in the emotional mood and sinks in aestheticizing....
Andrei Razenkov: Kromov” (2009)reviewed by Jamilya Nazyrova © 2010

Aleksandr Medvedkin: Happiness - Счастье (1934)

Happiness (1934)

Director: Aleksandr Medvedkin
Writer: Aleksandr Medvedkin
Stars: Pyotr Zinovyev, Yelena Yegorova,Nikolai Cherkasov

The film was banned in Russia for 40 years because of its anti-Bolshevik humor. "'Happiness' is a delightful slapstick comedy based on folklore but charged with (often risque ) modern humor."

Slapstick Comedy With Anti-Bolshevik Humor

Peter Zinoviev and Elena Egorova

Following the revolution in 1917, a new school of directors came into power and a whole number of interesting, novel, and original films were produced. Many simply failed to arouse proper response or support in Soviet Russia at the time, remaining in the shadows on the sidelines of the general process. It would take 30 years for recognition for Alexander Medvedkin's first full-length film, a slapstick comedy that had anti-Bolshevik humor, which he shot without sound in 1934. It caused a sensation in the Soviet Union and in Western Europe as a "revival" film in the 1960's when various early filmmakers were "rehabilitated." It was almost unnoticed when it was first released.

"Happiness" is the stylized Russian folk tale about a poor and lazy peasant by the name of Khmyr, who dreams of becoming a tsar, eating his fill of pork fat and doing nothing (his idea of happiness), and his industrious wife, Anna, who found real happiness on a collective farm after the revolution. The film contains drawn scenery amusingly transplanted into cinema from popular Russian wood prints, ingenious and always purposeful tricks, hilarious scenes of the wanderings around Russia of a scraggly and vicious pilgrim nun, and talented sideshows of "dreams" and "royal repasts" of Khmyr.

Alexander Ivanovich Medvedkin

Alexander Ivanovich Medvedkin began his career at the Gosvenkino Studios as scenarist and assistant director. During the 20's he was in charge of a agit-train (special trains carrying agitational materials, newspapers, pamphlets, political speakers, and film equipment, both to project propaganda films and record events) and began his training as a director as the train traveled around the big construction sites, developing propaganda shorts and posters. He was a brilliant satirist taking in influences as disparate as Mack Sennett, Gogel, and Russian folk-lore.

His best work includes the silent film, "Happiness," a grotesquely funny parody of farm life, before and after the Revolution (1917), full of rich visual invention and eccentricities. Medvedkin was criticized for his satirical view of the new Soviet society, and in 1977 he was interviewed at the FIAF Congress in Varna, Bulgaria, and again in Moscow in 1985. In answer to "Happiness," he said, ". . . it was my greatest achievement. I'd like to tell you something that seems to have escaped the attention of the critics and journalists who've written about the film. I've never managed to ensure that people understood the real meaning of this film which is as follows. . . the peasant himself - and this is just not true of our country, it's part of the social psychology of mankind in all civilized nations - dreams of ownership. He wants a prosperous life to set himself apart from his thousands and millions of neighbors; he wants to creep ahead and have his own barn, his own horses, his own grain. In short he wants to be his own boss. Of course, for every 1,000, only one will manage it; the other 999 will remain farm-hands and starve, but this dream lives on among the peasants. So happiness is a satirical picture. I made it as the nail in the coffin of this rosy dream. I ridiculed that dream because it's unrealistic; 999 people out of 1,000 get nothing from a dream like that." ...

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Aleksandr Sanin: Polikushka - Поликушка (1922)

Directed by Aleksandr Sanin.
With Ivan Moskvin, Vera Pashennaya, Yevgeniya Rayevskaya, Varvara Bulgakova.

Based on Leo Tolstoy's story of the same title. The filming was completed in 1919 but the release was delayed till 1922 because of the Russian Civil War.

Yuri Zhelyabuzhsky: The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom - Папиросница от Моссельпрома (1924)

Director:Yuri Zhelyabuzhsky
Writers:Aleksei Fajko, Fyodor Otsep
Stars:Yuliya Solntseva, Igor Ilyinsky, Anna Dmokhovskaya

As she works in her tedious office job, Maria Ivanovna dreams about being married, and she has particular hopes that her co-worker Nikodim Mityushin will take an interest in her. Nikodim, though, is in love with Zina, who sells cigarettes on the sidewalk, and he frequently buys cigarettes from her even though he does not smoke. One day, a film crew uses Zina as an extra in an outdoor scene, and the cameraman, Latugin, falls in love with her. Latugin soon arranges an acting job for Zina. To complicate matters further, Zina has yet another admirer in Oliver MacBride, an American businessman who is visiting Moscow. Written by Snow Leopard

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Olga Preobrazhenskaya, Ivan Pravov: And Quiet Flows the Don - Тихий Дон (1931)

Directors: Ivan Pravov, Olga Preobrazhenskaya,
Writers: Ivan Pravov, Olga Preobrazhenskaya,
Stars: Nikolai Podgorny, Andrei Abrikosov, Emma Tsesarskaya

According to the first book of the novel by Mikhail Sholokhov.

Festivals and Awards
1932 International Film Festival in Venice
Participation in the main program: Ivan Pravov

Pyotr Chardynin, Cheslav Sabinsky: Be silent, silent - Молчи, грусть...молчи (1918) / 1

Directors: Pyotr Chardynin, Cheslav Sabinsky
Stars: Pyotr Chardynin, Konstantin Khokhlov,Vera Kholodnaya

Russian silent drama film directed by famous director Pyotr Chardynin and starring several big Russian silent film stars as Vera Kholodnaya,Ossip Runitsch, Vitold Polonsky and Vladimir Maksimov. This film consisted of two parts,but survived just a 44 minutes long episode from the first part.However,the film is very famous now due to star cast.
Thank you:

Vasily Goncharov, Aleksandr Khanzhonkov: Defense of Sevastopol - Оборона Севастополя (1911)

Directors: Vasili Goncharov, Aleksandr Khanzhonkov
Writers:Aleksandr Khanzhonkov, Vasili Goncharov,
Stars:Andrej Gromov, Ivan Mozzhukhin, V. Arentsvari

First film ever that was shot by two cameras. Set in 1854-1855, in Sevastopol and Yalta during the Crimean War. Admirals Kornilov (Mozzhukhin) and Nakhimov (Gromov) organize the defense during the siege of Sevastopol. Both admirals are killed during the battle, and the city of Sevastopol is taken by the alliance of British, French, Sardinian, and Turkish troops. The legendary feat of Sailor Koshka (Semenov) was staged at original location. The 100 minute-long film was premiered in 1911 at the Livadia, Yalta, palace for the Tsar Nicholas II.
Written by Steve Shelokhonov

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Akira Kurosawa: Dersu Uzala - Дерсу Узала (1975)

Directed by Akira Kurosawa.
Starring Maksim Munzuk, Yuri Solomin.

Given the expanse of the Siberian wilderness as his cinematic canvas, Akira Kurosawa responds with the visually hypnotic, deeply affecting portrait of nature, friendship, and survival in Dersu Uzala. Based on the journals of Russian explorer Vladimir Arseniev, the film opens to a forest that is being cleared for development, and Arseniev searching for an unmarked grave. Transported back in time, a topographic expedition troop, led by Captain Arseniev (Yuri Solomin), encounters a nomadic, aboriginal (Goldi) tribesman named Dersu Uzala (Maxim Munzuk) who agrees to guide them through the harsh frontier. Initially viewed as an uneducated, eccentric old man, Dersu earns the respect of the soldiers through his great intelligence, accurate instincts, keen powers of observation, and deep compassion. He repairs an abandoned hut and leaves provisions in a birch container so that a future traveler would survive in the wilderness. He deduces the identities and situations of people by analyzing tracks and articles left behind. During a violent winter windstorm, he saves Arseniev's life by arranging their equipment into a makeshift frame, in order to secure the straw and provide thermal insulation for the fatally cold evening. At the end of the expedition, he leaves the soldiers by the railroad tracks and returns to wilderness, only to encounter Arseniev again, years later, on another surveying expedition. However, time has begun to take its toll on the independent hunter. In an act of self-preservation, he shoots a tiger - an act which he is convinced would exact nature's retribution - and precipitates his physical decline. Unable to hunt for survival and plagued with guilt over the senseless slaughter of an animal, he accepts Arseniev's offer to live with his family in the city, and gradually fades... staring at the burning fireplace, lost in his memories, crushed in spirit.

Akira Kurosawa transcends the confines of traditional cinema with the startling imagery and camerawork of Dersu Uzala: the barren trees glowing red from the embers of the campfire; the ethereal blue smoke rising as Dersu points out his family's burial site to Arseniev; the long, static shot of the two men looking at the horizon, juxtaposed between the rising moon and setting sun; the seamless tracking of the soldiers aboard a raft, drifting down the river; the frenetic panning sequence as Dersu and Arseniev struggle to reap grass during the windstorm. To define Dersu Uzala as a story about an aboriginal tribesman is to describe humanity through a two-dimensional photograph. Dersu Uzala is an allegory for the environmental toll of civilization, a testament to a profound, enduring friendship, and a heartbreaking portrait of aging and obsolescence.

Aleksandr Borisov: The Meek One - Кроткая (1960)

Director:Aleksandr Borisov
Writers:Aleksandr Borisov, Fyodor Dostoevsky (story)
Stars: Andrei Popov, Pantelejmon Krymov, Pavel Sukhanov, Iya Savvina
Based on a novel of the same title by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Aleksey Batalov - Biography

Alexei Batalov (Aleksey Batalov)

Aleksey Batalov is the actor, whom the time itself needed and raised him to the summit of glory rivaled by few in the national cinema art. His “racy of the soil” charm combined with genuine inborn intelligence has brought back to the national cinema that unique tradition, which makes the world presume some special nature and sophisticated spiritual constitution of the Russians.

Aleksey Vladimirovich Batalov was born on November 20, 1928 into the family of actors in Vladimir town. His father, Vladimir Batalov and his mother, Nina Olshanskaya, were actors of the famous MXAT (Moscow Art Academic Theatre).

Alexei Batalov (Aleksey Batalov)

“I was always supported by the example of non-compromising people that surrounded me. As a rule, they were all poor from the material point of view, but their spiritual wealth made up for it. Anna Akhmatova, Mikhail Zoshchenko, Boris Pasternak, Joseph Brodsky – I knew those people, I saw their life”, Aleksey Batalov recalls.

In July 1941 Aleksey with his mother was evacuated to the city of Bugulma in Tatarstan. There Nina Olshanskaya soon founded her own theatre, where her 14-year old son worked as a stagehand and later was entrusted some small roles. Aleksey Batalov After the war the family returned to Moscow where Aleksey upon finishing school entered the School-Studio attached to MXAT.

By the time of graduation Batalov was already married to Konstantin Rotov’s daughter, whom Aleksey had known since childhood. They named their daughter Nadezhda.

Alexei Batalov (Aleksey Batalov) - Mikhail Ulyanov

From 1950 to 1953 the actor was serving the army in the Soviet Army Theatre in Moscow. Upon returning to the “civvy street” Aleksey got a splendid present from Anna Akhmatova: she gave him money to dress up from top to toe. However he used the gift in a different way, buying a car instead, and thus fulfilling his longstanding dream.

The same year saw another dream of his come true: Batalov was admitted to the troupe of MXAT. At the same time he was invited to star as the worker Aleksey Zhurbin in the feature film Bolshaya semya (A Big Family) (1954).

Alexei Batalov (Aleksey Batalov)

Experiencing powerful love drama as an actor in the film, Aleksey did not avoid the same in real life. In 1954 when playing in Iosif Kheifits’ film Delo Rumyantseva (The Rumyantsev Case) (1955) he fell in love with the Gypsy dancer Gitana Leontenko, whom he married in the early 1960s. Unfortunately their daughter Maria suffered from an incurable disease…

In 1957 the legendary drama Letyat zhuravli (The Cranes Are Flying) (1957) by Mikhail Kalatozov was released. Though the role of Aleksey Batalov (Boris Borozdin) was very short in screen time, it became one of the best roles in the actor’s biography. It was to a great extent his merit that the film became the only Soviet full-length feature awarded with the Golden Palm at Cannes in 1958. ...


Monday, 21 March 2011

Andrei Konchalovsky: Siberiade - Сибириада (1978)

Director: Arthur Peleshyan, Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky, Leonid Eidlin.
Scenario: Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky, Valentin Ezhov.
Cast: Alexander Potapov, Leonid Pleshakov, Alexander Yakovlev, Natalia Andreichanka, Ludmila Gurchenko, Ivan Dmitriev, Paul Kadochnikov, Mikhail Kononov, Elena Koreneva, Yevgeny Leonov-Gladyshev, Nikita Mikhalkov, Aleksandr Pankratov-Cherny, Vladimir Samoilov, Sergei Shakurov
Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival - 1979.

An auteur with many styles, Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky is an extravert filmmaker whose imagination often needs a wake-up call from the outside. He has banked on the literary classics (Turgenev's Nest of Gentry and Chekhov's Uncle Vanya); genre stereotypes (Romance of the Lovers); other directors' concepts (Akira Kurosawa's script for Runaway Train); and his own past (his 1994 Ryaba My Chicken is a "sequel" to his 1967 Asya's Happiness). In 1979, three years after the release of 1900, Konchalovsky made Siberiade, an epic as indebted to Bernardo Bertolucci's masterpiece as it was ambitious, beautiful, and uneven.

Like 1900, Siberiade scans several decades, from the early days of the century to the 1960s. Like 1900, it focuses on several generations of two families—one rich, one poor—which are the entire population of the village of Elan in the midst of the Siberian swamps. Like 1900, it is a Tolstoyan novel of a movie, overpopulated with well- and notso-well developed characters who appear and disappear like patterns in a kaleidoscope; broad and deliberately paced; keen on detail; determinist in its view of history; and in love with a landscape. Like 1900, it is exhaustingly long—3.5 hours—(in Russia it was first shown as a 4-part television mini-series) and hard to embrace at one sitting. It also contains at least one direct reference to Bertolucci's film in the scene where a boy, armed with a rifle, guards a village "capitalist" whose time has passed.

Every historical epic, from Quo Vadis to Gone With the Wind, from Intolerance to Apocalypse Now, is driven by a secret desire to exhaust the subject and the genre. Siberiade, whose title suggests nothing less than that we see its creator as a Homer of moving images, succeeds unyieldingly in this. The film is confidently directed by Konchalovsky who remains unintimidated by the scope of the story, breathtakingly photographed by Levan Paatashvili, and perfectly cast, with a stand-out performance by Nikita Mikhalkov, Konchalovsky's half-brother and director of Slave of Love, Dark Eyes, and Close to Eden. But the true meaning and charm of Siberiade comes from the tension that sets it aside from other epics—the tension between the film's ambition and the historical circumstances under which this ambition had to be realized.

The oblivious 1970s were hardly the best time in Russia to probe history, but inability to tell the whole truth, strangely, works for and not against Siberiade. To offset the film's historical stance, unavoidably official, Konchalovsky plays out history as a grand melodrama that stretches and strives to be a tragedy.

Bertolucci opened with Verdi's death and closed at the end of World War II, because in the first forty-five years of this century he found the arena for a tragedy of global proportions: the death of aristocracy, rebirth of the proletariat, and ruthless march of the Fascist bourgeoisie. Konchalovsky's chronology is more arbitrary: he skips the l950s and closes in the 1960s, but it says very little about his understanding of historical processes and logistics. While Bertolucci's drama served the history, Konchalovsky's history serves the drama.

In the heat of the decline of the communist empire, Soviet culture was made either by sell-outs, or by escapists. A totalitarian state gives its own interpretation to escapism—not from the hardships of life, but from tenets of ideology. Some artists, like Tarkovsky, escaped into cerebral esoterica of "auterism"; some, like Nikita Mikhalkov, into the stylized past; some, like the director of Moscow Doesn't Believe in Tears, Vladimir Menshov, into Hollywood-style melodrama; some, like Georgian filmmakers, into folklore. This may be why Russian intelligentsia adored Garcia Marquez, as a loophole into the world unconstrained by the laws of materialist dialectics.

Konchalovsky, in a rare attempt to materialize "magic realism," creates a world in which the truth comes not from the newspaper Pravda, but from a star, shining over the village of Elan as a reminder of a higher order, and from pine-trees that talk and weep. In this world, animals listen to people, and those who listen to animals don't age. That this world is a compromise between magic and dogma is an important part of what Siberiade is really about.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Andrei Tarkovsky on "Andrey Rublev" - Documentary

Ivan Pyryev: The Party Card - Партийный билет (1936)

Director:Ivan Pyriev
Actors: Ada Voytsik, Andrei Abrikosov, Igor Maleev, Anatoliy Goryunov, Mariya Yarotskaya

The working time of filming.  The camera is still very young Pyriev

Yasha, who likes Anna, accomodates siberian Pavel Kuganov, which later becomes a class-conscious worker in a factory. Anna refuses Yasha's offer of marriage and he therefore runs off to Siberia. After Pavel is hailed as a hero because he survives a fire accident in factory (which is in fact effect of his sabotage), Anna marries him. Pavel then becomes a reckless communist careerist, but only on surface. In fact, he is a traitor of the country and a spy, and gives Anna's party ID card to anti-communist movement. In spite of that, Anna is expelled from the communist party. Yasha returns from Siberia, only to find her love Anna desperate. They reveal the truth about Pavel (that he is a kulak who killed a kolchoz co-op leader), which means an end for Pavel. ...

Yevgeni Bauer (1865-1917) - Biography

"A titan of the early Russian cinema, Evgenii Bauer was born in Russia in 1865. His father was a renowned zither-player, while his sisters became actresses. Bauer graduated from the Moscow Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. Over the years, he was an amateur actor, a caricaturist for magazines, a newspaper satirist, a theatrical impresario, and an artistic photographer. He was especially recognized for designing sets for theatrical productions, a talent that eventually brought him into the cinema when he designed the sets for Drankov and Taldykin’s commemorative historical film, Trekhsotletie Tsarstvovaniya Doma Romanovykh (The Tercentenary of the Rule of the Romanov Dynasty), released in 1913. Encouraged by Drankov and Taldykin, Bauer, then 48 years of age, graduated to directing for their company. After making four films for them, he went over to Pathé's Star Film Factory for whom he made an additional four films. Then in late 1913, he moved to the Khanzhonkov company where he remained for the rest of his career. As an artist, he quickly came to the fore, with his films proving very successful with Russian audiences and critics. He worked in a variety of genres including comedies, patriotic subjects, social dramas, and tragedies of psychological obsession.
Among his comedies were several starring his wife Lina Ancharova, whom he had met when she was a dancer in one of the theatre groups that employed him. She demonstrated genuine talent as a comedienne in her films for Bauer. In Tysiacha v toraia khitrost’ (The 1002nd Ruse), filmed in 1915, she plays a flirtatious wife who successfully outwits her husband’s attempts to thwart her infidelities by hiding her lover in the closet. Lina Bauer’s delightful facial expressions and roguish, knowing manner perfectly matched the mood of this well-crafted bedroom farce.
Bauer’s series of patriotic war pictures were made in response to the conflict with Germany and included Slava Nam, Smert’ Vagram (Glory to Us, Death to the Enemy), produced in 1914 with the great star of the early Russian cinema, Ivan Mosjoukin, in the lead. Perhaps the most outstanding of these topical films is Revoliutsioner (The Revolutionary), made in 1917 just after the February Revolution overthrew the Tsarist regime. It deals with a revolutionary who is sent into Siberian exile in 1907 and is liberated a decade later with the fall of the Romanov dynasty. He returns to a hero’s welcome but finds himself at odds with his son, a Bolshevik who opposes Russia’s involvement in World War I. Eventually, the father is able to persuade him that a successful prosecution of the war will aid the revolution and the two enlist. The film was ground-breaking because it was the first Russian production to dramatize the tyranny of the Tsarist secret police and the harshness of Siberian prison life. It also demonstrated Bauer’s technical virtuosity, as in the interior scenes between father and son in a darkened room with chiaroscuro lighting illuminating their faces, or the shots of the two in Moscow on a parapet looking out over the city." more...

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Alexei Balabanov: Dead Man's Bluff -Жмурки (2005)

Director Aleksei Balabanov.
Cast: Dmitry Dyuzhev, Nikita Mikhalkov, Aleksey Panin, Sergey Makovetsky, Viktor Sukhorukov, Dmitry Pevtsov, Garik Sukachev, Tatyana Dogileva, Renata Litvinova, Viktor Bychkov, Aleksandr Bashirov, Grigory Syatvinda.

After a three-year hiatus and two unfinished projects Aleksei Balabanov has finally finished a new movie.[1] Dead Man’s Bluff [Zhmurki], a film for those (as the tagline adds) who lived through the 1990s, premiered on 27 May 2005 in New York and opened one day later in Moscow.[2] Its simplistic plot can be summed up easily: Mikhalych (played by Nikita Mikhalkov), a mafia don dressed in the iconic raspberry-colored sports coat (a hallmark of New Russian wealth in the mid-1990s), sends his two undependable trigger-happy lackeys, Sergei (Aleksei Panin) and Simon (Dmitrii Diuzhev), to exchange a suitcase of money for a suitcase of heroin. News of the suitcase spreads quickly among the various criminal groups and the narcotics are intercepted by three hacks. The remainder of the film focuses on Sergei and Simon’s search for and recovery of the drugs. As Koron, the leader of the thieving trio played by Sergei Makovetskii, explains to his two bumbling sidekicks immediately before they agree to the heist job: money is running out and they have no prospects. Their decision to take on the job is based on pure financial necessity. The result of their decision? A game of dead man’s bluff and, ultimately, death. One has to wonder whether Balabanov, perhaps, found himself in a comparable situation when embarking on this film.

The new phenomenon of box-office hits in Russia has led film critic Viktor Matizen to hypothesize the death of the director. He argues that the age of the director has given way to the age of the producer. [3] This shift marks the end to auteur filmmaking and the beginning of a film industry that values profit over all else. The genesis story of Dead Man’s Bluff supports Matizen’s thesis. According to Ekaterina Barabash’s article in Nezavisimaia gazeta, former soccer player Stas Mokhnachev wrote the screenplay as a bet. He then, on another bet, brought the screenplay to producer Sergei Sel'ianov. Sel'ianov turned the project over to Balabanov (not, as one might expect, vice versa), and the film was shot in the course of one and half months.[4]
Certain aspects immediately reveal the film as typical of Balabanov, starting with the film’s production. Balabanov and Sel'ianov continue to maintain their almost decade-long partnership; like all of Balabanov’s films since Brother [Brat, 1997], the CTB studio produced Dead Man’s Bluff. Second, two of the director’s favorite actors play supporting roles —Viktor Sukhorukov, who has been cast in the majority of Balabanov’s films since Happy Days [Schastlivye dni, 1991], and Sergei Makovetskii, who joined Balabanov’s cast of favorites in 1998 when he played the lead role in Of Freaks and Men [Pro urodov i liudei].

The list of features atypical of Balabanov’s filmmaking is longer, however. For the first time, Balabanov is not the principle writer of his film’s screenplay. It is also his first time orchestrating a film with such a long list of famous actors, including Aleksei Panin, Dmitrii Diuzhev, Nikita Mikhalkov, Viktor Sukhorukov, Sergei Makovetskii, Andrei Panin, Iurii Stepanov, Kirill Pirogov, and Renata Litvinova. And, a third first: with Dead Man’s Bluff Balabanov makes his debut as a director of a comedy. The result is a film minimally reminiscent of Balabanov’s filmography.

Without any of his typical pretension or professed contempt for profitable filmmaking, Balabanov unapologetically labeled Dead Man’s Bluff a kassovyi, or commercial, criminal comedy during a press conference held at the Kinotavr Film Festival. This classification helps to explain the atypical star-studded cast: the film is a production prank. In other words, if the goal is to make a commercial comedy, then the film needs to have selling power. What better way to draw in the masses than to pack the movie with stars? Mikhalkov, who in years past criticized Balabanov, referring to him as a potentially dangerous director, now applauds him for his choice of actors. He observes that Balabanov makes no attempt in this film to introduce new actors. Instead, he correctly, in Mikhalkov’s opinion, invited famous actors to play small rolls and used them to comic effect. [5] Mikhalkov, who usually drips with saccharine pathos, gets big laughs for his comedic caricature of a provincial mafia boss. However, like many of the film’s characters (with the notable exception of the principle duo—Sergei and Simon), Mikhalkov has minimal on-screen time and virtually disappears in the second half of the film, returning in the film’s epilogue as the dethroned leader of the gang. Sukhorukov’s character is killed off too early to provide laughs to the end of the film and Makovetskii (also eventually killed off) gives one of his worst performances to date. The reliance on this group of well-known actors, the majority of whom have only brief cameo appearances, does not result in a well-acted film. ...

Sergei Parajanov: Color of Pomegranates - Цвет граната (Sayat Nova) (1968)

Directed by Sergei Parajanov.
Starring Sofiko Chiaureli, Melkon Aleksanyan, Vilen Galstyan

The Color of Pomegranates (1972) is considered the director’s masterpiece, but it’s also one of his most challenging works. Nominally a biography of Armenian poet and troubadour Sayat Nova, the film opens with a series of striking tableaux vivant, most notably one in which the youthful Nova lies down in what looks like a concrete gully with seemingly endless books arranged around him, their pages fluttering fantastically in the breeze. Books are crucial in Paradjanov, not only because they contain and hold much of the world’s artistic history, but because much of his imagery is inspired by the ancient illuminated manuscripts that he always managed to obtain access to. (The church apparently liked him more than the government did.) Nova’s history is rendered as a kind of interiorized bildungsroman, tracing the boy’s progress from early bookworm to apprentice rugmaker to devotee of the female body. "I am the man whose life and soul are tortured," reads a subtitle repeated throughout the film, but Paradjanov’s colorful vision of a rich culture in which every dress is a tapestry and every man a handsome devil is far more upbeat than the phrase suggests. Kino has done justice to this work with a solid transfer and a slew of extras. The latter include a rare 1965 short (10 minutes) directed by Paradjanov, Hagop Hoynatanian, and Ron Holloway’s loving documentary Paradjanov: A Requiem, running nearly an hour and containing essential interviews, photos, excerpts from the oeuvre, and drawings.

Steeped in religious iconography, The Color of Pomegranates is a deeply spiritual testament to director Sergei Parajanov’s fascination with Armenian folk art and culture. It is also a controversial work, which, coupled with another of his films, Shadows of our Forgotten Ancestors, led to his arrest and imprisonment in a Soviet Gulag for four years. The Soviets insisted he was guilty of selling gold and icons illegally and committing “homosexual acts.” In reality, his only crime was offending the tenets of socialist realism, both in his daring surrealistic form and in his choice of subject matter. While many of the popular films of this era in Soviet cinema were largely propaganda designed to serve the ideological interests of the regime, Parajanov chose to focus on the ethnography and spirituality of the Ukraine, Armenia, and Georgia. ...

The Color of Pomegranates is a poetic, dreamlike film that sought to portray the life of Armenian troubadour Sayat Nova through images inspired by his life and poetry. Born Haroutiun Sayakian, he is remembered as Sayat Nova or “king of songs.” Raised in the Georgian city of Tiflis (as was Sergei Parajanov himself), Sayat Nova performed in the Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Persian languages. This brought him fame beyond the Armenian community and he was summoned to serve as Court Musician and Poet by Heracle II, the 18th- century king of Georgia. After falling in love with the king’s sister, Princess Anna, he was expelled from the court. He spent the rest of his life as a monk where he continued to write poetry and music. To the Armenian people, Sayat Nova is considered a martyr because he was executed by the invading Persians for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.

Parajanov’s decision to make a film about the life of an Armenian poet and martyr was a dangerous one. Armenian national identity was not to be prioritized—it was viewed as only a part of the Soviet Union. The idea of Armenian independence and secession from the Soviet Union was still dangerous and punishable by death. The lack of a Soviet presence, or any other typical themes of the propaganda films of the time, marked The Color of Pomegranates as a subversive work.

The text of the film, the poetry of Sayat Nova, and the life of director Sergei Parajanov are all reflections of the Armenian national identity, which is itself deeply connected to the Christian faith, as they were the first “nation” in the world to adopt the religion, in the year 301. Surrounded by largely Muslim populations, they were an easy target for invasion and subjugation by their neighbors. The paradigm of Christianity, the images of the suffering of Christ and subsequent salvation—most recently exacerbated by the Armenian genocide perpetrated by Turkey at the beginning of the last century—are at the core of Armenian individuality. ...

Sergei Parajanov Intervied by Ron Holloway and Documentary

Sergei Parajanov talks about his life and career

Interview with Ron Holloway

THIS interview formed the basis of our documentary portrait, Parajanov, A Requiem (1994). The American spelling of "Parajanov" is used, instead of the British-French "Paradjanov," to differentiate this documentary from a dozen others made on the Armenia-Georgian director. The interview took place on 1 July 1988 in his hotel room on the morning before the world premiere of Ashik Kerib at the Filmfest München. Parajanov was always aware of the tasks facing the cameraman; accordingly, he would shorten or lengthen his answers to keep the interview flowing. His last speech on the stage of the Carl-Orff-Hall is added because be was actually speaking to the camera on this occasion.
Since Parajanov makes frequent references to his films, I have included a brief bio/filmography at the end of this interview. On occasion, I have inserted extra production dates, first names, and term explanations in the text to prevent needless reference delay. However, the reader should be aware that Parajanov often speaks in visual terms; thus, certain words -- artistismus," "pathology," "cardiogram," "biblical," "plastic" -- have special meaning to him alone. Also, his references to the "Soviet Avant-Garde," "Socialist Realism," and "Socialist Neorealism" contradict definitions in both Soviet and Western film lexicons; in my opinion, his viewpoints are more accurate and reliable indices of the times.
Lastly, this interview was originally planned as the first half of a 90-minute documentary. The second half was to chronicle the shooting of Confession at his home in Tbilisi, a project he delayed until June of 1989, and then was not able to complete. We view this interview as complementary material to our 57-minute documentary on Parajanov, to which the subtitle A Requiem was added for the screenings at the Los Angeles and Venice film festivals.
Ron and Dorothea Holloway, Berlin, 8 December 1995.

Holloway: Sergei, how did you become a film director?
Parajanov: I believe you have to be born a director. It's like a child's adventure: you take the initiative among other children and become a director, creating a mystery. You mould things into shape and create. You torment people with your "artistismus" - scaring mother and grandmother in the middle of the night. You dress yourself up like Charlie's Aunt, or as (Hans Christian) Andersen's heroes. Using feathers from a trunk, you transform yourself into a rooster or a firebird. This has always preoccupied me, and that is what directing is.
A director can't be trained, not even in a film school like VGIK (Soviet All-Union State School for Film Art and Cinematography). You can't learn it. You have to be born with it. You have to possess it in your mother's womb. Your mother must be an actress, so you can inherit it. Both my mother and father were artistically gifted.
What was your diploma film at VGIK about?
It was a short children's film: Moldavian Fairy Tale(1951). After (Alexander) Dovzhenko saw it, he said: "Let's see it again." For the first time in the history of VGIK, the examination board decided to watch a diploma film twice. (Rostoslav) Yurenev, now a successful film and art critic, said: "Parajanov has copied Dovzhenko. It is monumental and epic. Parajanov has seen Zvenigora(1928)."
Dovzhenko said: "You loudmouth! Sit down and listen to me. He hasn't seen Zvenigora." Then he said: "Where are you, young man?" I stood up, and he asked: "To tell the truth, have you seen Zvenigora?" I said: "No." "See, that's just nonsense!" Yurenev wasn't very well known at that time. He was a slim, slightly built young man, who ran from director to director.
Probably, my diploma film was pretty close to what I was prepared to bring to expression as a film director.
But your diploma film is lost...
No. It's at home.
Then why it isn't shown here in the retrospective?
I simply forgot It. Only Andriesh, the longer version was shown here -- not to children, unfortunately, but to an adult audience.
What was it like in the courses conducted by Alexander Dovzhenko and Igor Savchenko?
Dovzhenko and Savchenko were enemies. They were always fighting, didn't get along. Both were talented, prominent, exceptional. One worked in the style of the Polish painter (Jan) Matejko, experimenting with Renaissance styles. The other depicted an apple, an old man death, a stork that comes and flies away -- his art drew upon his epic childhood. And the clash of this aesthete with that archaic god-of-the-prophets provoked conflicts in Dovzhenko's studio.
Savchenko died young: he was only 43 years old. And lying in his coffin he looked like an old man. We have now survived him by 20 years. His students are older than their teacher was: (Vladimir) Naumow is 60 and I am 64. We've outlived him by 20 years. The loss of Savchenko grieved Dovzhenko to the depth of his soul. He took charge of our examinations and signed our diplomas. He was very generous. He was particularly enthusiastic about (Alexander) Alov and Naumov and the late (Felix) Mironer.
It appears that VGIK was packed with talent at that time.
There were several interesting people among us -- including, of course, Dovzhenko. I grieve for the dead, my fellow students. Four are no longer with us. We recently gathered together, set four empty plates on the table, like four candles, and thought of our friends who have left us: Alov, who spent his life filming with Naumov; Mironer, who made with (Marlen) Khutsiev Spring on Zarechnaya Street (1956); Grisha (Grigori) Aronov; and Seva (Vsevolod) Voronin. Four friends have left us, and who knows who will be next.
We were chosen by Savchenko, a gifted man. He loved and idolized us. And he inspired us. He waited for the day when we would perform a miracle. He was very happy when Khutsiev and Mironer signed a contract with GLKVK (Soviet All-State Film Distribution agency) for their first screenplay, Spring on Zarechnaya Street (1956). He drove with them in his "Mercedes" down Gorky Prospekt with the top down. They bought new socks, Khutsiev said. Savchenko made them take off their ragged socks, right there in the car. They threw them out of the car and put on new ones. Not only were they students, but filmmakers with money too.
Alov and Naumov co-directed Restless Youth (1958) and Pavel Korchagin (1957), also The Wind(1958). They pioneered the Avant-Garde.
What is film direction for you? Real life? A dream? A mystery?
Directing is fundamentally the truth as it's transformed into images: sorrow, hope, love, beauty. Sometimes I tell others the stories in my screenplays, and I ask: "Did I make it up, or is it the truth?" Everyone says: "It's made up." No, it's simply the truth as I perceive it.
Your first films were made in a realistic vein. What made you change your style?
I could work pretty much to my own satisfaction in those days. The times were realistic: the generation, the background, the canvas on which I worked.
I worked and suffered, under three despots. The despots were in the Kremlin. And today perestroika is seeking to become the cardiogram of the times. Perhaps, one day, a book will appear dealing with all those years, something like a cardiogram. As Stalin was on his way up, he lowered the price of socks. And people were content; socks were two kopeks cheaper. Every six months he would drop the price of socks and undershirts. But the price of bread didn't change. A cardiogram...
The Soviet films of that era -- and not just mine -- are like a cardiogram of terror. They are cardiograms of fear. The fear of losing your film, the fear of starving. You feared for your work
Are you a filmmaker? Or a graphic artist?
I'm a graphic artist and a director who seeks to shape images. Savchenko, our mentor, encouraged us to sketch our thoughts -- and give them plastic form. We all had to draw our thoughts at the film school. For the entrance examination we were brought to a room and told: "Draw whatever you like..."
Are you pleased with the reception your graphic work received here at the Filmfest München?
I'm very happy they are showing some of my work here in a workshop exhibition: my style of wall-exhibition, some wall-plates. I brought along about 20 works -- not very many, but enough to form an opinion. Among these is one with a bouquet of flowers, a collage dedicated to the mothers of Munich who lost their sons in the war. It's a bouquet of flowers placed upon a mirror -- a rather uncommon motif. For mothers who, like Soviet mothers, suffered terribly in the last war.
I'm taking some pictures, some really remarkable pictures, back home with me. I was invited to the Greek Orthodox (Ukrainian Uniate) church here in Munich. I attended the service and talked to the priest -- and on the wall of the clubroom they had a small exhibition of drawings by children. They had drawn the royal couple Prince Vladimir and Princess Olga. All the drawings dealt with this theme: wonderful, primitive drawings. They break the rules of Socialist Realism. Even Prince Vladimir is shown the way he was: lame and short-legged. They are delightful drawings. They are my best souvenirs from Germany, these children's drawings. ...

From Siberia with love

A film with a somewhat strange title “Siberia Mon Amour” is in the program of the International Festival of Independent Cinematography, which started in Rome on March 18 and will last till March 25. The film is by Vyacheslav Ross, a 44-year old Russian film director.

The film “Siberia Mon Amour” is the winner of the International Festival of Debut Films, which took place in the city of Khanty-Mansiysk, Siberia, in late February. This is not the first victory of Vyacheslav Ross – his first film, “Meat”, has won as many as 27 awards at international festivals.

Vyacheslav writes scripts for his films himself. “Siberia Mon Amour” is a screen version of his short story, which Vyacheslav wrote when he was a student of the Institute of Cinematography in Moscow. Vyacheslav was born in Siberia, and he knows this inclement but beautiful land and the nature of Siberians – reserved in emotions but kind-hearted – very well. Few people know that several small villages in Siberia, for some reason, bear French names. Mon Amour is also the name of a Siberian village, small and abandoned. However, as Vyacheslav Ross says, the film’s title, first of all, refers to the initial meaning of the phrase “mon amour” – “my love”. It is love for the film’s characters – disillusioned but still bearing some light in their souls – that inspired Vyacheslav while he was making this film.

Let Vyacheslav Ross himself speak of his film:

“An old man and his grandson live in the abandoned village of Mon Amour. The boy’s father is missing somewhere, and they are waiting for him to return, not knowing that he has long been dead. The old man passionately believes in God – but he has suffered so much that he doesn’t believe in people. The only person whom he still loves is his grandson, but it is hard for the old misanthrope to express his love to the boy. Once, the boy gets into trouble, and the old man has to go to people for help – though he hates people. Finally, the old man comes to realize that there can be no other way than people helping people. I hope that the film’s ending will inspire hope and faith in the spectators,” Vyacheslav Ross says.

“It is said in one prayer that mercy is always better than justice,” Vyacheslav continues. “For me, it is a key phrase. In today’s cynical world, only love and mercy towards each other can save us. The film’s characters, after all, do find strength to help each other, even risking their lives.”

Voice of Russia

Friday, 18 March 2011

Ivan Vyrypaev: Oxygen - Кислород (2009)

Director:Ivan Vyrypayev
Writer:Ivan Vyrypayev
Stars:Aleksey Filimonov, Karolina Gruszka and Varvara Voetskova

In one of his texts written in October 2001, Ivan Vyrypaev promised: “A time will come when people will realize that the most important thing in any text is letters arranged in a proper way. It will come, this time. It will return; it already was here. The time will come when plots will die out, and narrators’ voices will fade away. And only letters will captivate the reader. For the reader reads with a single purpose: to recognize familiar signs. This time will come” (Vyrypaev, 37). It certainly did in Vyrypaev’s Kislorod, a seventy-five-minute long visual “album” that includes ten musical “tracks” (kompozitsii) and two bonuses.

Written originally as a play in 2002, Kislorod has become a symbol and symptom of a generation of Russian playwrights associated with the New Drama movement. Privileging a documentary approach, new drama texts are often rooted in interviews with real people (using the so-called verbatim method), and New Drama acting is often envisioned as a way of commenting on the plot rather as a way of impersonating it.[1] First performed in Teatr.doc, Kislorod launched Vyrypaev’s career as an actor and playwright artist, and later as a filmmaker (his first film Euphoria was included in the program of the 2006 Venice film festival).

The cinematic version of the play was driven by a desire to move beyond a small circle of fans of the verbatim method (Zolotnikov). The requirements of the new medium and anticipated expectations of new audience clearly influenced the original text: the amount of obscene language was toned down, some original lines and themes were (unfortunately) cut out. In turn, the minimalist acting of the two narrators was interspersed with animation, documentary clips, and scenes shot in Damascus, Hong Kong, Rome, Paris, London, Havana, Moscow, and Serpukhov. And yet, despite all these changes and additions, the textual nature of the film remains prominent: the opening titles of Kislorod present it as “a text of Ivan Vyrypaev.” What kind of text is it?

Visually, the film has a double structure. Its backbone is a series of monologues, in which two young actors, Aleksei Filimonov and Karolina Gruszka, narrate their parts in front of a microphone in a recording studio. Static and sometimes monochromatic, these monologues are interesting not visually but aurally. Structured as songs, the “lyrics” of these texts are composed of strongly rhythmic units, which are articulated with high speed and are accompanied by electronic music (the names of composers pop up on the screen at the beginning of each track). While not rhymed, the lyrics are metered, and the repetition of phrases and word combinations makes only more apparent that the sonic structure of this recitativo accompagnato is the main artistic device that brings visual fragments of the tracks together. ...