Thursday, 30 June 2011

Eldar Ryazanov: A Girl Without an Address - Девушка без адреса (1957)

Director: Eldar Ryazanov
Writer: Leonid Lench
Stars:Svetlana Karpinskaya, Nikolai Rybnikov, Erast Garin

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Mikhail Karzhukov, Aleksandr Kozyr: Battle Beyond the Sun aka The Heavens Call - Небо зовёт(1959)

Directed by Mikhail Karzhukov, Aleksandr Kozyr.
Starring Ivan Pereverzev, Aleksandr Shvorin, Linda Barrett.

The Heavens Call is not only the first Soviet science fiction film about a (failed) space expedition to Mars – it actually appears to be the first Eastern European SF movie at all about outer space after the launch of Sputnik in 1957.

Review by Matthias Schwartz here.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Vera Storozheva: Compensation - Компенсация (2010)

Director : Vera Storozheva
Cast: Gosha Kutsenko, Love Tolkalina, Vladimir Epifantsev, Pauline Kutsenko, Irina Gorbachev

A winner of the Moscow film festival’s main prize, also belongs to the art-house category. The film is a story about two sisters who travel from the province to the capital, after the death of their mother, in a search for their father who left them many years ago.

Vera Storozheva’s film Compensation is about the perennial Russian problem of the “second family.” Two sisters living in Tambov have just lost their mother. Their father, Sergei, left ten years earlier and since then they have struggled with poverty and illness: the younger sister has a congenital heart condition that needed surgery and medication, and as a result, the family could not afford music school for the older daughter; and in the meantime, the mother has been dying of cancer. By chance, the sisters stumble onto information about their father, now a successful businessman living in Moscow with his second family (gorgeous wife, talented daughter). He is profiled by journalists, his Moscow apartment comes straight off the pages of glossy magazines, he drives an SUV—in other words, he is the very picture of glamour and success that, for the last ten years, he has mistaken for happiness. The daughters, now orphaned, decide to go to see their father, presumably to be reunited with him, reforming the happy family broken so many years before. They borrow keys to an empty apartment and, like all stock Russian film characters, arrive in Moscow from the provinces. Unsurprisingly for the viewers, when the two sisters, dressed in pretty pastel summer dresses with ribbons in their hair, suddenly show up at his front door, the father does not welcome them with open arms.

At this point, the film turns into a story of revenge and “compensation.” The oldest daughter, Lena—a tough tomboy with short hair who used to be an “Elf”—comes up with a plan to kidnap their half-sister and demand a ransom of two million “u.e.” [uslovnaia edinitsa, equivalent approximately to one dollar] that will help to alleviate the pain of their broken home and unhappy childhood. The police get involved, the father proves to be a good guy, the new wife proves to be a bad guy, and in the end there is remorse and the fatal outcome of bad decisions. And throughout, the film returns to the same unanswered fundamental question: why did the father leave the mother ten years before? Who, in other words, is to blame?

Reviewed by Lilya Kaganovsky © 2011 in KinoKultura

Official movie site Compensation

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Sergei Bondarchuk: War and Peace - Война и мир (1967)

War and Peace (1965-1967)

Directed by Sergei Bondarchuk.
Starring Sergei Bondarchuk, Lyudmila Savelyeva, Vyacheslav Tikhonov.

1969 - Academy Award - Best Foreign Language Film
1969 - Golden Globe - Best Foreign-Language Foreign Film
1969 - National Board of Review Award - Best Foreign Language Film
1968 - New York Film Critics Circle Awards - Best Foreign Language Film

It would be tempting to compare this film adaptation to western epics like Gone With The Wind but that would do Bondarchuk a disservice on three grounds. Firstly, Gone With The Wind was a pulp novel unlike the literary sacred cow of Tolstoys. Secondly, although Selznicks production was epic, Bondarchuks is even more ambitious. Finally, Bondarchuk delivers a film that does justice to the source but is also supremely satisfying in its use of cinematic style and verve. Bondarchuk is not content to deliver a slavish love poem to Tolstoy, but he also delivers a film of tremendous technical ability and intelligence. The brio of some of War and Peace is breathtaking, in the battles of 1812 there is one sequence of tracking shots which goes almost without stop through about 15 different scenes, and in the ballroom sequences in the second episode the sheer size and sweep of the choreography matches the far different choreography of the huge battle scenes. Bondarchuks film is also at home in the more personal scenes, the second episode which concentrates on Natasha and her growing up is as transfixing and involving as the parts which deal with the cataclysm of war. The film making throughout is very skilled and unorthodox - Bondarchuk uses askew set-ups in emotionally darker moments, and is daring in his dream sequences. Mixage is regularly used to show images of peace and conflict in paradox, and the black humour of war gives way to its horror so that the viewer won't start to celebrate the magnificently orchestrated battles. ...

Friday, 24 June 2011

Katya Shagalova: Once Upon a Time in the Provinces - Однажды в провинции(2008)Trailer

Director: Katya Shagalova
Writer: Katya Shagalova
Stars: Leonid Bichevin, Elvira Bolgova, Alexandr Golubev

Katia Shagalova’s second feature film, Once Upon a Time In the Provinces, was one of the highlights of Russian cinema in 2008. Filmed in the city of Podol'sk outside Moscow, it provides a mostly realistic portrait of Russian life that seldom reaches the big screen. It features actors both new and established, and the level of their performances is overall quite high. The film was awarded the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) prize at the 2008 Moscow International Film Festival, although it was passed over by the festival jury. Its reception has not been without scandal due to the perception among some Russian critics that it gives a too negative portrayal of the Russian “provinces.” Shagalova both directed and wrote the screenplay for the film, and the work that has resulted clearly carries a distinct authorial message. This review, therefore, will be oriented around that traditional Russian approach to any work of art: What is the author trying to teach us?

The story revolves around a rather complex cast of characters. The first part of the film seems organized around the fraught relationship between two sisters. Nastia (Iuliia Peresil'd) is a young but apparently already washed up television actress, who has come to the provincial town to seek refuge with her sister, Vera (El'vira Bolgova), who is married to and regularly abused by her war veteran husband, Kolia (Aleksandr Golubev). We quickly come to realize that all three of these individuals are profoundly damaged: Nastia is suffering not only from the collapse of her acting career, but more deeply from the guilt she feels for her sister’s banishment from the family and for her brother-in-law’s conscription and deployment to a war zone. Kolia is quite literally damaged from a brain injury suffered during military service; he is consumed with justifiable hatred for Nastia and otherwise prone to violent outbursts of physical violence. Vera’s masochistic love for her husband grows only stronger the more that he batters and torments her. Nastia’s intermittent and clumsy attempts to intervene in her sister’s sad life do nothing but raise the tension in the household.

Reviewed by Gerald McCausland © 2009 in KinoKultura

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Moscow Film festival: embracing the boundless

From June 23 to July 2, Moscow hosts the 33rd annual International Film Festival. It seems that the organizers of the festival want to embrace the boundless – the program of the festival lists 400 films from all over the world.

This year the festival will open with the first screening of “Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon” in 3D format. On this occasion almost the whole production team, headed by one of the most commercially successful directors, Michael Bay, has come to Moscow.

The full list of the festival’s guests has not been unveiled, yet among those whose participation has been confirmed are British actress Helen Mirren, Italian actor and film director Michele Placido and the former President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel. By the way, Havel comes to the festival to present his first film, which is participating in competition.

The festival comprises 25 film programs. The Gala Screenings presents the most successful films of the year. “8 ½ Films” is the program dedicated to the eternal search for new cinematic language.

“Savage Nights” is a new program at the Moscow Festival. It offers films that are not suitable for daytime screening. These movies are not recommended to “very sensitive people” but also promise “all the joys of life”.

2011 sees the Russia-Italy and Russia-Spain cross cultural years and the Moscow film festival offers two programs dedicated to the cinematography of these countries - “Made in Spain” and “Focus on Italy”.

Voice of Russia

Monday, 20 June 2011

Dmitri Meskhiyev: The Man at the Window - Человек у окна (2010)

Director: Dmitrii Meskhiev
Cast: Iurii Stoianov, Kristina Kuzmina, Sergei Garmash, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Mariia Zvonareva

The film’s protagonist, Aleksandr Sergeevich (Shura) Dronov has an unremarkable theater career and a sagging family life. His real passion is watching life outside the windows, an obsession for which he has an uncanny explanation. Shura’s accidental meeting with a young woman and her New Russian boyfriend changes Shura’s life and profoundly affects the lives of those around him.

Shura Dronov is played by Iurii Stoianov whose persona as an actor has been cemented by the popular comic TV show Gorodok (Little Town), in which Stoianov has played a variety of contemporary types, most prominently rather corpulent women. In Man at the Window, he appears in the uncharacteristic role of a tragic-comic lover boy. Meskhiev, however, smartly uses Stoianov’s talent for comic skits. Delivered at the subtle border between performance and authenticity, Shura’s monologues are surprisingly captivating. Likewise, Sergei Garmash and Vladimir Vdovichenkov act out of character and succeed in their roles. The director claims that, in trying to make a feel-good-movie without any art cinema tricks, he was not afraid of clichés and banality. Simple stories of love, adultery, jealousy, loyalty, sacrifice, and kindness have indeed been on the back-burner of recent Russian cinema. Meskhiev tells a story of human relationships and has the language to do it.

Shura is a fool-in-Christ character, a voice of prophetic and benign irrationality. The genealogy of this character goes back to Dostoevsky’s Prince Myshkin (Shura is repeatedly called an ‘idiot”) and El'dar Riazanov’s Iurii Detochkin (Beware of a Car, 1966). Meskhiev’s Shura actually endures all the plot turns of Riazanov’s comedy: he is suspected of insanity, then is declared to be a social idiot, plays a Robin Hood-like character, and finally is tried and sent to jail. Illuminated by a divine wisdom of sorts, Dronov turns well-entrenched social norms upside down. These include the racist treatment of migrant workers, misogynistic treatment of women in modern-day families, and corruption as the main way to socialize children. The film, however, neither relishes its cultural references nor aspires for the status of a social problem film. It delivers its social critique indirectly, via the means of genre cinema: comedy and, above all, melodrama. ...

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Ivan Pyryev: The Ballad of Siberia aka Tale of the Siberian Land- Сказание о земле Сибирской (1947)

Director: Ivan Pyryev
Writers: Ivan Pyryev (story), Yevgeni Pomeshchikov,
Stars: Vladimir Druzhnikov, Marina Ladynina, Boris Andreyev

His right hand having been wounded during the war, concert pianist Andrei Balashov is unable to perform his art.

This film was so successful that a second color musical film, Cossacks of the Kuban was made two years later by the same director and cast. ...

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Igor Talankin: Introduction to Life - Вступление (1962)

Director:Igor Talankin
Writers: Vera Panova (screenplay), Vera Panova (story)
Stars: Boris Tokarev, Nina Urgant,Yuri Volkov

1 win & 1 nomination

Igor Talankin was a talented Soviet director and a mentor to others. Many of his films are set during the Second World War and discuss moral issues, but his greatest international success – and an Oscar nomination – came with his biopic of Tchaikovsky in 1969. It is perhaps his least-subtle film; with the composer played by Innokenti Smoktunovsky, the best-known Russian actor of the time, and its safe – not to say leaden – approach to the genre and the subject, it was nominated for Best Foreign Film Oscar. Bizarrely it also qualified for original score, its music being a patchwork of original and pastiche Tchaikovsky by the producer Dmitri Tiomkin who, before becoming a successful Hollywood composer, had been a concert pianist in post-Revolutionary Leningrad.

Industry Vasilevich Talankin was born in Noginsk about 20 miles east of Moscow, at a time when it was common to give children names that reflected the excitement of post-Revolutionary technology. He later chose the more mundane moniker Igor.

After graduating in scriptwriting from the state film school, he co-directed Seryozha (1960) with actor-director Georgi Daneliya. Adapted from Vera Panova's story, it charts a young boy's relationship with his stepfather. Soviet directors' graduation films often feature children, and this is one of the more charming entries. Husband and wife Sergei Bondarchuk and Irina Skobtseva played the adult leads, the first of several occasions on which they worked with Talankin.

Talankin's first solo effort was Vstuplenie ("Introduction", 1962), set in wartime Leningrad and based on another Panova story. In the freedom of Khrushchev's post-Stalin thaw, it was frank about wartime infidelity, and it went on to share the Venice Film Festival's Special Jury Prize with Louis Malle's Le feu follet. It also began another important collaboration, with composer Alfred Schnittke.

Dnevnye Zvyozdy ("The Stars of the Day", 1966) was based on poetess Olga Berggolts's autobiography. She was a difficult figure for the authorities: though she stayed in Leningrad during the siege making inspirational radio broadcasts, her more personal work was suppressed, even after her death. Suspended strangely between interior monologue, poetic recitation, exterior action and memory, it won an award at the Venice Film Festival. It also introduced Talankin to the actress Alla Demidova, who appeared in most of his subsequent films. In 1967 Talankin collaborated with Chingiz Aitmatov on Materinskoe Pole; it was Gennadi Bazarov's directorial debut, and over the next few years Talankin produced several first-time directors' films.

Vybor tseli ("Select a target", 1974) traces the development of the atom bomb in America, Germany and the Soviet Union. Like many Soviet historical films, it attempts a documentary feel, with ook-alikes for Hitler, Roose-velt, Stalin and Oppenheimer et al, but it is marred by clichéd wartime heroics and talk-filled conference scenes.

The stately pace continued in 1978 with his version of Tolstoy's much-adapted Father Sergius, starring Bondarchuk and, as with Tchaikovsky, choreographed by Talankin's wife, Lilia Mikhailovna. Zvezdopad ("Starfall", 1981) was more interesting. Again set during the war, it combines three stories by Viktor Astafyev and its dreamy interweaving of past and present is far more effective than the alternately formulaic and confusing Tchaikovsky.

Vremya otdykha s subboty do ponedelnika ("Time Off From Saturday to Monday", 1984) adapted Yuri Nagibin's story about a woman re-encountering an old friend who was thought lost during the war and is now disabled. After his classic or modernist scores, Talankin re-employed Schnittke but also included music by the rock band Centre, who also took some roles in the film.

Rock also features in 1988's Osen, Chertanovo ("Autumn, Chertonovo"), but the traditional film-making reflects its bleak, cold morality. A woman from that Moscow suburb with a husband and a lover has a series of one-night stands and is raped and killed. This traditional style predominated in Talankin's later career and from hereon he co-directed with his son Dmitri, who also scored their last film.

Though an adaptation of The Master and Margarita came unstuck, Talankin did manage Besy (1992), based on Dostoevsky's The Possessed. Similarly, a film about the poet Marina Tsvetayeva also collapsed but with Dmitri he turned the play into a musical.

His last film Nezrimyi puteshestvennik ("Invisible Traveller", 1999), traced the last days of Tsar Alexander I. After that Talankin retired from the director's chair to concentrate on teaching.

Industry (Igor) Vasilevich Talankin, screenwriter, director, producer: born Noginsk, Moscow 3 October 1927; married Lilia Mikhailovna (one son); died Moscow 24 July 2010.

Nikolai Ekk: Road to Life - Путевка в жизнь (1931)

Director: Nikolai Ekk
Writers: Nikolai Ekk, Aleksandr Stolper
Stars: Nikolai Batalov, Yvan Kyrlya, Mikhail Dzhagofarov

Road to Life (Original Title: Putyovka v zhizn) is a 1931 drama film, directed and written by Nikolai Ekk. The film won an award at the 1932 Venice International Film Festival, which went to Nikolai Ekk for Most Convincing Director. ...

One of the first Soviet sound films—with an imaginative sound track far ahead of its time—Nikolai Ekk's Road to Life was a smash hit both in Russia and in the West, where its impact generated some dozen spin-offs on its theme of "difficult" children. A Soviet critic, legitimising its official function, wrote that "the film's success depended on the social problems involved, problems of responsibility towards a new generation." But he added, more acutely, that the film broke new ground because "it did not merely manipulate the life stories of the people involved in order to illustrate social problems but let the problems grow out of these life stories and their dramatic development."

The film's theme is the reformation—or rescue—of one of the bands of besprizorni (homeless children) who roamed, and terrorised, city streets in the difficult post-civil war years. The gang loyalties are torn between Zhigan, a sort of Fagin character played by Mikhail Zharov, who urges them to carry on thieving, and Sergeev, the head of a "work-commune," played by Nikolai Batalov, who tries to lead them into the paths of righteousness. The children themselves were not from a stage school but were inmates, or pupils, of work-communes (reform schools or rehabilitation centres in which students were expected to work on real projects—in the film, the building of a railroad). Despite their superb performances, not one of these kids later became a professional actor, not even Ivan Kyrlya, who plays the gang leader Mustafa, whose Asian features, far from inscrutable, vividly expressed every emotion. Kyrlya grew up to become a famous poet, writing in Mari, his native language.

Highly professional, the actors who played hero and villain gave performances that seem equally natural and true to life. Zharov was no Dickensian villain, but used his powerful physical presence to portray a man governed by instinct, a man able to attract as well as intimidate his teenage thieves. His moments of melancholy rapture, whenever he picks up his guitar, made the songs he sings top of the contemporary pops. Although accused therefore of romanticising thieves and their slang, Ekk had no Brechtian intention of updating the Beggar's Opera by introducing underworld folksongs as "production numbers": as he intended, they come across as spontaneous expressions of the character and are an integral part of the film.

Read more: Putyovka Zhizn V - Film (Movie) Plot and Review

Dreaming of space - Paper Soldier

What exists on paper does not always have proper value in reality. Paper Soldier, a drama exploring one of the most exciting moments in Soviet history – the first human space flight - will be screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

­The film is expected to attract a festival audience of up to 100,000.

In Paper Soldier, space serves as a pretext to a focus on the dreams, fears and hopes of people living in the Soviet Union in early 1960s.

The main character of the film is not the legendary Yury Gagarin, but a medical officer who prepares the Soviet cosmonauts for their first-ever historic space mission.

In Aleksey German’s drama, a mission as significant as the launch of the first man into space brings pain and sorrow to a number of “ordinary people” – women who lose their husbands, family members who lose their loved ones.

The director was quoted as saying that he wanted to make a film about high expectations and human pain.

Judging by the feedback in Russia and overseas, it looks like film lovers from around the world did not find it difficult to relate to the pain the Russian director is talking about.


Friday, 17 June 2011

Stanislav Rostotsky: It Happened in Penkovo - Дело было в Пенькове (1957)

Director:Stanislav Rostotsky
Writers:Sergei Antonov (novel), Stanislav Rostotsky
Stars:Maya Menglet, Svetlana Druzhinina, Vyacheslav Tikhonov

About Stanislav Rostotsky

Stanislav Iosifovich Rostotsky, film director: born Rybinsk, Russia 21 April 1922; married Nina Menshikova (one son); died Vyborg, Russia 10 August 2001.

Stanislav Rostotsky rose to prominence as part of the generation of younger Soviet directors that emerged during the mid-Fifties, whose youth had been dramatically shaped by the Second World War. It provided a theme to which they often returned for material and for inspiration, while striving for a more humanistic treatment of the Great Patriotic War than the triumphalist juggernauts that had characterised the Stalinist era of film-making.

Rostotsky himself had gone straight from school to the front, had been seriously wounded in 1944, and was to make several contributions to the genre of the Soviet war film, starting with Mayove zvezdi (May Stars, 1959), a well-received Soviet-Czech co-production based on four novellas by the Czech writer L. Ashkenazi inspired by the liberation of his country by the Red Army in May 1945.

Na semi vetrakh (In the Seven Winds, 1962) paid tribute to the home front, while the two-part A zori zdes tikhiye (And the Dawns are Quiet Here, 1972) was a lyrical account of a woman's unit at the front, which was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Foreign-Language Film; as was another two-parter he made not long afterwards, Belyj Bim – Chyornoye ukho (White Bim, the Black Ear, 1976) from a story by G. Troyepolsky.

As a teenager Rostotsky had appeared in Sergei Eisenstein's famously broken-backed production of the Thirties Bezhin lug (Bezhin Meadow). He and Eisenstein remained friends ("Everything I have succeeded in I owe to Eisenstein," he later declared) and upon his return from the war he was briefly in his class at film school in Moscow before joining Lenfilm as a trainee director in 1946. He returned in 1950 to study under Grigori Kozintsev, graduated in 1952 and made his directing début with Zemlya i Lyudi (Land and People, 1955), scripted by Troyepolsky, which attempted to deal realistically with the impact on one collective farm of the radical central restructuring then taking place in Soviet agriculture.

Vsevolod Pudovkin : Admiral Nakhimov - Адмирал Нахимов (1946)

Director: Vsevolod Pudovkin
Writer: Igor Lukovsky
Stars: Aleksei Dikij, Yevgeni Samojlov,Vladimir Vladislavsky

Soviet film directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin, based on the life of Russian Admiral Pavel Nakhimov (1802-1855). In 1946 Pudovkin, Golovnya, Lukovsky, Kryukov, Dikiy, Simonov, and Knyazev received the Stalin Prize. ...

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Boris Ivanov, Alexander Stolper: Wait for me - Жди меня (1943)

Directors: Boris Ivanov, Aleksandr Stolper
Writers: Konstantin Simonov (poem), Konstantin Simonov (screenplay)
Stars: Boris Blinov, Valentina Serova, Lev Sverdlin

Three faithful friends promise before they leave for the front that they will meet after the war. The plane flown by Yermolov and Panov is shot down by the Nazis. Only Yermolov survives reaching a partisan division. Vainshtein is sent to partisans to interview the commander – and he recognizes his friend. Yermolov asks to take a note to his wife, but soon after he dies. Liza does not want to believe in death of her beloved and continues to wait for him to keep his promise and return after the war.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Bakur Bakuradze :The Hunter (2011) Trailer

Director: Bakur Bakuradze
Writers: Bakur Bakuradze (screenplay), Ilya Malakhova
Stars: Gera Avdochenok, Mikhail Barskovich, Vladimir Degilev

Farmer Ivan Dunaev gets up early. He feeds his piglets, does paperwork, fixes the tractor, and weighs the meat he'll take in his old pickup truck to the market to sell. He has a wife, a teenage daughter, and a young son. And he loves to hunt. His world revolves around these things. Then, one day, two new workers, Lyuba and Raya, on work release from the local prison colony, arrive on the farm. Ivan doesn't notice it at first, but something begins to change. ...

Hyper-naturalistic (fielding an entire cast of non-professionals), agricultural, and glacial in pace, Bakur Bakuradze’s second film The Hunter (Okhotnik) is unafraid to make demands of its audience over a two-hour-plus running time. Set on a pig-farm in Pskov in Russia’s Northwest, it is dramatically uneventful yet occasionally watchable - if the viewer buys into its policy of strict information-rationing.

Following up Shultes, which also received an Un Certain Regard berth at Cannes, Bakuradze has become even more elusive in his plotting. This deliberate setting aside of narrative combined with a sparseness in production (there is no score, for example, and hardly any dialogue) and lengthy running time will see The Hunter confined to the more rarified end of the festival circuit, where it may draw a following. Theatrical exposure at home would appear to be a challenge. ...

Best Film of Kinotavr Festival Created for More than 20 Years

The 22nd Kinotavr Film Festival in Sochi has come to an end.

The Grand Prize goes to Oleg Flyangolts’ film Indifference created for more than 20 years. The Best Actress prize goes to the nonprofessional actress Tatyana Shapovalova, starred in The Hunter, and the Best Actor is Konstantin Yushkevich with his role of a joker and boozer Vasily in the film Exercises in Beauty. The Best Direction prize goes to Bakur Bakuradze with his new work The Hunter. Exercises in Beauty by Gosha Kutsenko, Konstantin Yushkevich and Viktor Shamirov has taken the Best Scenario prize. As for the Best Soundtrack prize it goes to the film My Father is Baryshnikov by director Dmitry Povolotsky.


Alexander Sokurov - a master artist

Famous Russian film-maker Alexander Sokurov, whose name the European Film Academy has put on the list of 100 best film directors of all times, is marking his 60th birthday (the 14th of June) with a new film, Faust, based on Goethe’s poem. Its first viewers will be the participants and guests of the Venetian Film Festival in September.

Practically all Sokurov’s films were shown either in Berlin, or in Cannes, or in Venice, and were always awarded prizes. His films did not go unnoticed in Russia either, Sokurov has enough Russian prizes to fill the shelves of several film-makers. However, there are mixed feelings about his work and himself among the cinematographic community and especially among the audience. This could hardly be otherwise, because Sokurov is associated with the most difficult genre - intellectual or philosophic cinema.

In his interview for The Voice of Russia, Moscow film critic Vyacheslav Shmyrov points out another feature of Alexander Sokurov’s character:

“Europeans definitely see him as Tarkovsky’s successor, - the expert says. – They think that he expresses the humanistic, moral and philosophic tradition which we have inherited from our great writers Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Tarkovsky used to be the symbol of a teaching artist. This means a fervent attitude to teaching when the artist becomes a preacher of humanistic and moral values. Sokurov has inherited all this and he plays this role even more ardently. Some people love him for this preaching tradition and some criticize him. This makes Sokurov a figure standing aside from the common cinematographic process”.

The great 20th century film director Andrey Tarkovsky helped Sokurov at the beginning of his career. His film “Man’s Lonely Voice” based on the stories by Andrey Platonov, was not recognised as a graduation work at the Moscow Institute of Cinematography. Tarkovsky helped the notorious graduate to be employed by the film studio of St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) in 1980.

The skills of the Russian film director are highly appreciated all over the world, he is often invited to carry out master classes in many countries, from Poland to Japan. Probably the world likes Sokurov because his views and interests are not restricted either by national or any other bounds. This is a logical development of his biography. He was born in Siberia and went to school in Poland and Turkmenia in Central Asia. He received a university degree in Moscow and became famous as a film director in St. Petersburg. For example, he made an amazing, unusual film “Russian Ark” in a burst of inspiration, without a single retake. The film shows a whole stratum of Russian history contained in the rooms and exhibits of the famous Hermitage museum.

Voice of Russia

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Venyamin Dorman:The Secret Agent's Blunder - Ошибка резидента (1968)

Director: Venyamin Dorman
Writers: Oleg Shmelyov (book), Oleg Shmelyov (screenplay)
Stars: Georgi Zhzhyonov, Mikhail Nozhkin, Oleg Zhakov

The first part of the cult saga about Soviet intelligence agents: "The Secret Agent's Blunder" (1968), "The Secret Agent's Destiny" (1970), "The Secret Agent's Return" (1982), "The End of Operation 'Secret Agent'" (1986).

The KGB's Foreign Intelligence Service receives the information that a secret agent of a foreign intelligence center, the son of a White émigré, Count Tulyev, has been planted in the country...

This first film, as the rest of the series, enjoyed great popularity thanks to the charisma of a wonderful actor, Georgy Zhzhyonov, who gave a brilliant characterization of the secret agent.(1969 box-office leader -- 35.4 million viewers).

Thank you

Silent Souls named best feature film at Mediawave Festival

The Russian film Ovsyanki (Silent Souls), directed by Aleksei Fedorchenko, was named best feature film at this year's Mediawave International Film and Music Festival in Szombathely, western Hungary, on Saturday.

The jury named Valami kék (Something Blue), by the Hungarian director Virág Zomborácz, best short feature.

The prize for best experimental film went to La Gran Carrera (The Great Race), from Spain, directed by Kote Camacho.

The Hungarian director Péter Forgács's film Amerikai álom (Sueno) took the prize for best documentary. ...

Monday, 13 June 2011

Sergei M. Eisenstein: Strike - Стачка, (1925)

Directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein.
Writers: Sergei M. Eisenstein, Grigori Aleksandrov,
Stars: Grigori Aleksandrov, Maksim Shtraukh, Mikhail Gomorov

Sergei Eisenstein was a brilliant and original film-maker and theorist, but his reputation has been eroded over the years. Yet as Ronald Bergan points out in his study of the director, A Life in Conflict, he was much more than a "cold-blooded montage maniac of the Russian Revolution who regarded the people as more important than individuals".

Eisenstein was an intensely cultivated man who preferred art and philosophy to political theory, and adored the best of Disney and Chaplin as much as he hated the worst of Stalin. But the fact that Bergan feels it necessary to defend him tells its own story.

The films do lack a certain humanity. Battleship Potemkin and October were masterpieces of technique, to which film-makers still bow today. Alexander Nevsky and the two parts of Ivan the Terrible were operatic and often grotesque, but classics too. Only Strike, his first feature, showed his basic humanity, and it is arguably his best because of it.

The film, which some people persist in thinking was only a rough sketch for Potemkin, but which has the freshness and audacity of something more than that, is the story of a strike by factory workers in the Tsarist Russia of 1912 and its brutal suppression. It was supposed to be the first of a series of films on the development of the workers' struggle but was the only one actually to be made.

It was shot almost entirely on location so that it seems like a reconstruction of genuine events, though its theatrical origins are obvious and its caricatures of the factory bosses are hardly realist - especially when dwarfs do a tango for them on a table groaning under caviar and champagne. But, though it was about "the workers" rather than individuals, and opens with a worthy quote from Lenin, several characters stand out, like the two young leaders of the strike and the worker who hangs himself when falsely accused of theft. ...

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Oleg Flyangolts: Indifference - Безразличие Trailer (2011)

Indifference (2011)

Russia’s “Kinotavr” film festival wound up in the Balck Sea resort city of Sochi on Saturday.
Its Grand Prix went to an Oleg Flyangolts film “Bezrazlichie” (Indifference).
The film tells about social problems of the Moscow youth in the 1960s. It took the director 20 years to finish the film.

A visually impressive film starring Fedor Bondarchuk and Alexander Bashirov, "Indifference" presents Moscow through the lens of the New Wave, combining the romance of the 60's, the recklessness of the 80's and the wisdom of the 00's. Originally filmed in 1989, "Indifference" was created as a declaration of love to Italian cinema, architecture, Moscow and a beautiful girl. After a twenty year hiatus, director Oleg Flyangolts was able to return to the film using new ideas and new technology to improve the footage captured, and at the same time managing to preserve a youthful atmosphere and mood. Subtle, intelligent and beautifully made piece of art.

Director: Oleg Flyangolts.
Cast: Fyodor Bondarchuk, Alexander Bashirov, Olga Shorin, Sergei Bragin, Artem Prokin

Official site here.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Russia's main animation studio celebrates 75th jubilee

The one and only, the animation studio that raised generations of Soviet and later Russian kids is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

The one and only, the animation studio that raised many generations of Soviet and later Russian kids is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

The studio that once was the stronghold of Soviet animation and one of the greatest in Europe is going through hard times in contemporary Russia. Lack of funding, young professional animators and tough competition are among the biggest problems of today’s Soyuzmultfilm. After the fall of the Soviet Union Soyuzmultfilm suffered dramatically, ever since producing only a few films and losing most of its personnel. However, those lucky people who grew up during Soyuzmultfilm’s glory days say that it produced the best cartoons in the world.

Founded in 1936, the studio was home to dozens of Soviet and then Russian animation legends. And the reason is obvious – there simply was no other company where they could work. Over decades it scored international praise and respect, with its animated films and their creators winning numerous awards both at home and abroad. It made a total of over 1,500 short films and animated series.


Alexander Faintsimmer: Gadfly - Овод (1955)

Director: Alexander Faintsimmer
Composer: Dmitri Shostakovich
Actors: Oleg Strizhenov, Marianne (Marina) Strizhenova, Nikolai Simonov, Vladimir Etush, Simon Svashenko Paul Usovnichenko,

Ethel Lillian Voynich Boole is the author of the novel "Gadfly" which was enormously popular in the Soviet Union. The Russians even named a crater of the Venus planet after it.

The novel set in Italy in the 1800's, which was a time of revolt and uprisings and features the hero as a mysterious satirist who is only known by his pseudonym Gadfly. At once a romance, tragedy and heroic story, it's got passionate characters, dark secrets, betrayal and atonement, and expertly incorporates them into the author's controversial theme - the criticism of the church.

The movie was a great success, partly due to the charisma of young Oleg Strizenov in his screen debut. He was very convincing as romantic and tragic Arthur as he moves from being a theological student with Padre Montanelli (his father figure - powerful performance by Nikolai Simonov) to the life of a satirist, revolutionary, and great enemy of the church. The best Soviet actors played in the movie; the novel was adapted into the screenplay by very famous (and deservingly so) writer, Victor Shklovsky. But the real treasure of the film is the music written by Dmitry Shostakovich. He composed an orchestral suite for The Gadfly. ...

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Valeriya Gai Germanika: Everybody dies but me - Все умрут, а я останусь (2008)

Everybody Dies But Me (2008)

Director: Valeriya Gay Germanika
Writers: Yuriy Klavdiev (screenplay), Aleksandr Rodionov (screenplay)
Stars: Polina Filonenko, Agniya Kuznetsova, Olga Shuvalova

2 wins plus Nika Award

"Everybody dies but me" is an ordinary children's statement of confidence and consolation. There is no death. Rather, it is there, of course, but I shall never die. Perhaps someone else will die, maybe. Even for sure, people die. Both close people—grandmothers and grandfathers, parents, brothers and sisters, and people in the street and in the metro. Probably everyone will sometime die. But this does not concern me. Everyone will die. But I shall stay.

Actually, the process of growing up involves, among other things, the understanding that life is finite. Thus the title of Valeriia Gai-Germanika's film is in some sense a universal formula of a childhood that has yet not ended, but is already doomed by the first knowledge of death.

However, the issue of the title is not all that simple. It is certainly challenging and provocative. The film had the working title “KVZh” (the names of the three heroines, Katia, Vika and Zhanna); and another working title was “Three Girls”. I like the final version, but my mind returns here to the legendary Soviet “school” film made exactly forty years ago, which could have prompted something, or most likely did, in the young Gai-Germanika. Even if only the spread of the action. Stanislav Rostotskii's We'll live until Monday (Dozhivem do ponedel'nika, 1968)—an important cult film for the understanding of the late Thaw and early Stagnation era, the time when tanks rolled in the streets of Prague and when the fight against any non-official ideas erupted again—was full of expectation. Even the title suggested some usual school days— in expectation of Monday. Gai-Germanika also shows some usual school days—until Saturday when an event of universal school scale will take place: the first disco of the academic year. ...

Reviewed by Aleksandr Kolbovskii© 2008 in KinoKultura

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Mikhail Agranovich and Oleg Jankowski: Come Look at Me - Приходи на меня посмотреть (2000)

Directed by: Mikhail Agranovich, Oleg Jankowski.
Cast: Yekaterina Vasilyeva, Irina Kupchenko, Oleg Jankowski, Natalia Shchukin, Ivan Jankowski.

This chamber comedy concerns a dying mother who is certain that she will depart "any day now." She expresses her grief that she has not lived to see her only daughter, Tania, get married or have children. A chance knock on the door by a wealthy entrepreneur bearing champagne and roses who has the wrong apartment block for a date gives Tania a sudden flash of inspiration to put a happier spin on the surely imminent and sad demise of her beloved ma. The man, played by Yankovsky himself, decides with some bemusement to go along with the scheme. ...

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Mikhail Chiaureli:The Fall of Berlin - Падение Берлина (1949)

Director: Mikhail Chiaureli
Music: Dmitrii Shostakovich
Cast: Mikhail Gelovani, Boris Andreev, Marina Kovaleva, Vladimir Savelev, Iurii Timoshenko, Nikolai Bogoliubov,

The Georgian director Mikhail Chiaureli’s The Fall of Berlin is perhaps the most important of the films that promoted Stalin’s “cult of personality.” Made in two parts by Mosfilm Studio and presented to Stalin as a 70th birthday gift, the film lasts over 150 minutes. It begins in the countryside near Moscow in June 1941 and ends with a highly fanciful victory parade attended by Stalin in Berlin in May 1945. The linking thread is the interrupted love affair between Natasha (Marina Kovaleva), the village schoolteacher, and Alesha (Boris Andreev), the Stakhanovite steelworker and recipient of the Order of Lenin for his achievements. She is captured by the German invaders and schlepped off to a concentration camp; he, shell-shocked during the invasion, recovers when he hears of her fate, and fights his way westward in the Red Army to liberate Europe. They are reunited in the final sequences of the film, but only recognise one another (well, it has been almost four years, and even undying love has its limits) in the context of their “unforgettable encounter” with the Great Leader Himself.

No expense was spared in the making of the film. Captured German tanks were refurbished and reused, a huge cast was deployed, and the final scenes were shot in the actual ruins of the German capital, although Stalin’s descent from the heavens is apocryphal! Indeed, there is anecdotal evidence that he found the film so persuasive that he wished he had flown to Berlin to celebrate “his” victory. The role of Stalin was played by his fellow Georgian, Mikhail Gelovani, who had been specialising in the role since the mid-1930s. Gelovani was famous for the precision with which he reproduced Stalin’s gestures and his Georgian accent when speaking Russian. Dmitrii Shostakovich was commissioned to write a largely bombastic score, parts of which he later reused in his Tenth Symphony to depict Stalin.

The film presents Stalin for the first time as a leader of the Soviet and world proletariat in his own right, with only one reference, in the final chorus, to Lenin. Stalin’s world role is justified by his achievement as saviour of humanity and civilization from the Nazi threat in his capacity as war leader and strategic genius....
Reviewed by Richard Taylor© 2007 in KinoKultura

Nikita Mikhalkov: Without Witnesses - Без свидетелей (1983)

Director: Nikita Mikhalkov
Writers:Ramiz Fataliyev, Nikita Mikhalkov
Stars:Irina Kupchenko, Mikhail Ulyanov

Film tracks a long night's conversation between a woman and her ex-husband when they are accidentally locked in a room.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Alexander Stolper: The Living and the Dead - Живые и мертвые (1963)

Director : Alexander Stolper
Script: Alexander Stolper
Operator : Nicholas Olonovsky
Artist: Steel Volkov
Country: USSR
Manufacturing : Mosfilm
Year : 1963
Premiere : February 24, 1964
Actors : Kirill Lavrov, Anatoly Papanov,
Alex Glazyrin, Oleg Efremov, Leo Lyubetskii,
Lyudmila Krylova, Ludmila Lyubimov,
Vasyl Makarov, Roman Homyatov, Zinovy Vysokovsky,

Epic of the months of 1941 in Russia during the first onrush of the Nazi invasion and the retreat of the Soviet Army.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Yakov Protazanov, Alexandre Volkoff: Father Sergius Отец Сергий (1917)

Directors:Yakov Protazanov, Alexandre Volkoff
Writers:Leo Tolstoy (novel), Alexandre Volkoff
Stars:Ivan Mozzhukhin, Olga Kondorova, V. Dzheneyeva

The life story of a young successful army officer, prince Kasatsky, who unknowingly falls in love with the mistress of the Czar. When he eventually finds out the truth about his soon-to-be-married wife (she wants to marry him to stop the rumors about her affair with the Czar), he is so shocked that he retreats to a monastery to become a monk (and after years Father Sergei). Later he battles with the temptations of sexual lust and the dreams of how things could have been.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Kira Muratova: Second Class Citizens - Второстепенные люди (2001)

Director:Kira Muratova
Writers:Sergei Chetvertkov, Kira Muratova
Stars:Natalya Buzko, Sergei Chetvertkov, Nikolai Sadnev

2 wins

Muratova’s film explores the theme of death: in the first scene of the film, we see a doctor attending to a critically ill patient. The reaction of the dying man’s wife sets the tone for Muratova’s approach to text, which functions as a musical accompaniment rather than a conveyor of meaning. The wife reads to the doctor the definition of the terms ‘coma’ and ‘agony’ (his diagnosis) from an encyclopedia. The doctor hardly needs a reminder of the meaning of medical terms, nor does the wife need to know the exact differences between the terms: her response elicits the meaninglessness of text when it comes to issues like death.

Second Class Citizens

The doctor is then called by another women, Vera: here, he encounters a man (whom she accuses of beating her), who falls onto the floor as he prepares to beat up the ‘intruder’, and lies there motionless. Vera and the doctor try to dispose of the body, and eventually pack it into a suitcase, which Vera deposits at the left luggage counter of the local railway stations after a series of farcical situations. In the meantime, the twin brother of the dead man drives his boss (a gangster) through the countryside, and refuses to kill the militiaman who is tied up in the boot of the car. When the boot is opened, the policeman has died. The real death of a character whose biography has been given in the previous conversation passes almost as a marginal note. In the meantime, the case with the dead body is retrieved from the luggage hold at the railway station, and when opened, the man is found to be still alive. Throughout the entire film the spectator follows the wrong character: the man about whom we know absolutely nothing other than that he is violent toward Vera, rather than the policeman, who actually dies. Muratova misleads the spectator, making a pertinent comment on the futile concept of death.

Reviewed by Birgit Beumers in KinoKultura

Muratova's latest film explores the theme of death: in the first scene of the film, we see a doctor attending to a critically ill patient. The reaction of the dying man's wife sets the tone for Muratova's approach to text, which functions as a musical accompaniment rather than a conveyor of meaning. The wife reads to the doctor the definition of the terms 'coma' and 'agony' (his diagnosis) from an encyclopaedia. The doctor hardly needs a reminder of the meaning of medical terms, nor does the wife need to know the exact differences between the terms: her response elicits the meaninglessness of text when it comes to issues like death.

The doctor is then called by another women, Vera: here, he encounters a man (whom she accuses of beating her), who falls onto the floor as he prepares to beat up the 'intruder', and lies there motionless. Vera and the doctor try to dispose of the body, and eventually pack it into a suitcase, which Vera deposits at the left luggage counter of the local railway stations after a series of farcical situations. In the meantime, the twin brother of the dead man drives his boss (a gangster) through the countryside, and refuses to kill the militiaman who is tied up in the boot of the car. When the boot is opened, the policeman has died. The real death of a character whose biography has been given in the previous conversation passes almost as a marginal note. In the meantime, the case with the dead body is retrieved from the luggage hold at the railway station, and when opened, the man is found to be still alive. Throughout the entire film the spectator follows the wrong character: the man about whom we know absolutely nothing other than that he is violent toward Vera, rather than the policeman, who actually dies. Muratova misleads the spectator, making a pertinent comment on the futile concept of death. ...

Friday, 3 June 2011

Movie classics roll into the digital era

The British Film Institute (BFI) is showing an unprecedented retrospective of Russian and Soviet films featuring classic and contemporary movies spanning more than a century of cinema.

Billed as КiиО (the half-Russian name given to the project is pronounced Kino, meaning cinema in Russian), the six-month event is big and bold, say the organisers, and brings the best of the past and present to British screens.

“Kino is huge and epic in its scope, and it covers the whole spectrum, from classic icons of Russian heritage right the way through to contemporary films,” said the BFI’s director, Amanda Nevill.

In a three-year project, the organisers of КiиО have collected, restored and brought back to life not only the gems of Russian cinematography but also the best original versions of the pictures, from the classics of early silent movies to notable works from the age of the auteur.

The flagship of the project is one of the all-time classics - Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925), which has particular resonance for its British fans: praised in Europe after its release , it was banned in Britain until 1954. “It seems the whole British Army would crumble like a house of cards just from the single word ‘Potemkin’,” critics wrote in the Twenties as they ridiculed the government’s decision to ban Eisenstein’s masterpiece.

The restored and digitalised version of the film has been released in eight British cinemas and art centres and is accompanied by the music Edmund Meisel played at its world premiere in Berlin in 1925. “It’s what we love doing here: we like to put things together that you couldn’t get anywhere else,” the BFI director enthused.

In 2005, the Berlin Film Festival premiered the film’s restored version, which featured lost footage and captions, in particular the censored words of Leon Trotsky in the prologue and out-takes from the scene on the Potemkin Steps in Odessa, one of the most iconic in film history. ...

Russia Beyond The Headlines

Aleksandr Zeldovich: Moscow - Москва (1999)

Directed by: Aleksandr Zeldovich
Written by: Vladimir Sorokin and Aleksandr Zeldovich
Starring: Ingeborga Dapkunaite, Tatyana Drubich, Natalya Kolyakanova, Aleksandr Baluyev, Viktor Gvozditsky

By Andrew James Horton in CER
Nowadays it is fashionable for a major film release to be accompanied by the publication of its screenplay. But for his film Moskva (Moscow, 2000), Aleksandr Zeldovich published the script, written jointly with the enfant terrible of Russia's literary establishment Vladimir Sorokin, before shooting even began. The result was a literary sensation, and the script was nominated for the Russian Booker Prize.
Taking the genre of the gangster film, Zeldovich and Sorokin used the dialogue to create a tense portrait of the 1990s and to evoke the changing power structures in a Russia, where Communism has given way to what Zeldovich terms the "new totalitarianism."
The film centres on Mike, a businessman in decidedly the "new Russian" mould. When Mike gets stung on a deal, his suspicions immediately fall on Lev, who receives the customary torture to make him reveal where the money has gone. When Lev doesn't confess, Mike's suspicions waver and turn to other quarters, but as a precaution he still keeps Lev close at hand, locked up in the nightclub of an old friend and lover, Irina....
Moskva is just one of a whole slew of gangster films to have emerged from Russia since the Soviet Union disintegrated, with film-makers inexorably drawn to depicting the sleazily luxurious life of the New Russians like moths to the light. ...

Vadim Abdrashitov: The Dancer’s Time - Время танцора (1997)

Scenario: Alexander Mindadze
Director: Vadim Abdrashitov
Actors: S. Garmash , C. Khamatova , Yu Stepanov , Z. Kipshidze, Vera Voronkova

Awards, nominations , festivals
The main prize for scenario " Mirror " , dedicated to the centenary of cinema ( 1996);
Film Academy Awards " Nika " 1997 in the category "Best Screenplay Work "( A. Mindadze ) , "Best Actress " (Z. Kipshidze ) Nomination prize " Nick -97 " in the categories of Best Feature Film , Best Director (W. Abdrashitov ) , " Best Actress "( C. Khamatova );
Award "Golden Aries " for 1997 in the categories of " Best Script " (A. Mindadze ) ,
"Best Film " prize "Hope " (actors V. Voronkov and A. Egorov ),
Grand Prix ORFF Kinotavr - 98 ( Sochi) ,
Special Jury Prize at Locarno International Film Festival - 98.
Prizes for Best Supporting Actor ( AZ Kipshidze ) and promising female debut ( V. Voronkov ) cast Film Festival "Baltic Pearl -98 " (Riga) ; UNESCO Prize "For the dissemination of ideas of culture of peace and tolerance " Film Festival " Stalker 98 " ( Moscow ).

Video here.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Alexander Sokurov: The Lonely Voice of Man - Одинокий голос человека (1987)

Director: Aleksandr Sokurov
Writers:Yuri Arabov, Andrey Platonov (novel)
Stars: Vladimir Degtyarev, Vladimir Gladyshev, Tatyana Goryacheva


Prize of the Leningrad Film Clubs Film Festival "Young Cinema in Leningrad."
Grand Prix of the Jury Bronze Leopard at the 40 th International Film Festival in Locarno, Switzerland.

The first full-feature film by Alexander Sokurov. It was originally filmed in 1978 and reconstructed in 1987 at the Lenfilm studios. The film is largely based on Andrei Platonov's River Potudan and Origin of the Master, although it is not a direct film adaptation in the traditional sense but rather a recreation of the spiritual nature of Platonov's prose. ...

Alexander Globin: Abnormal - Ненормальная (2005)

Director: Alexander Globin
Cast:Prokofeva Olga, Finjagin Andrej