Thursday, 14 April 2011

Mikhalkov and the self-combusting talent

Although for many international cineastes director Nikita Mikhalkov remains one of the biggest symbols of Russian cinema, the former golden boy’s native fan base is rebelling – and not even a recent court victory over royalty collection can quench the growing flames of hatred against the increasingly eccentric director.

Nikita Mikhalkov’s 2010 sequel to the Oscar-winning “Burnt by the sun” was panned by Russian critics and made very little money in the box office compared to its budget. Cinema observer Valery Kichin wrote at the time that “[Mikhalkov’s] movie has as much to do with our cinema as a migalka-bearing bureaucrat flying against oncoming traffic does with our people”. The director himself is a notorious migalka motorist, something else which makes him unpopular with the public.

Encouraged by designer and blogger Artemy Lebedev, Russian internet users meanwhile went to town on the promotional posters for “Burnt by the sun 2”, Photoshopping them into caricatures.

What was particularly offensive to moviegoers in Russia was the fact that the “Burnt by the sun 2” poster came with a tagline of “A great film about a great war”. Although Mikhalkov vehemently denied having had anything to do with the tagline in subsequent interviews, the director’s famous ego, long-documented by both industry observers and random people who have crossed paths with the man, meant that hardly anyone believed him.

Mikhalkov’s latest film, “Burnt by the sun 3”, is already dreaded by his critics. “Mikhalkov doesn’t see that he has become an evil parody of himself,” Kichin wrote recently.

Among Russian filmmakers, Mikhalkov is chiefly reviled for his autocratic leadership of the Cinematographers’ Union and what is largely seen as his monopolisation of government funding for new film projects. “Dislike of Nikita Mikhalkov has been building up for some time,” film critic Alyona Solntseva told The Moscow News. “It’s hardly a recent development – but now it’s growing exponentially.

“Mikhalkov is a kind of ‘bolshevik’; he likes to be in charge of the masses. For a while, those members of the Cinematographers’ Union who were opposed to him didn’t have a leader, as they were all very different people. The situation has changed now.”

Last year, a rival union, the Union of Cinematographers and Professional Cinematographer Organisations and Guilds of Russia, or, more simply, the Cinema Union, was established. It is currently presided over by young director Boris Khlebnikov.

Meanwhile, another organisation headed by Mikhalkov, the Russian Union of Rights’ Holders, has won a court battle to collect royalties on blank CDs, DVDs, memory cards and equipment that utilises such equipment. Opponents of the ruling point out that the Russian Union of Rights’ Holders was formed just a few weeks before the tender process was due to begin, painting Mikhalkov as more than a little opportunistic. ...

The Moscow News

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