Sunday, 31 July 2011

Samvel Gasparov: The Sixth - Шестой(1981)

Director: Samvel Gasparov
Writer: Ramiz Fataliyev
Stars: Sergey Nikonenko, Mikhail Kozakov,Vladimir Grammatikov

The Civil War in Russia has just finished. The sixth chief of militia came to a small town in the south. Five Glodovs predecessors had been killed by a gang of elusive Vakhromeyev. Now Glodov and his crew are going to have a mortal combat with the smart gangster. IMDB

The Sixth
is a parable about lawlessness and bureaucracy in the aftermath of the Great October Revolution. The film could be categorized as a "Western" type of movie, with a lawman hero who faces up to corruption against the odds, although no one around has any faith in his abilities.It is set in 1923 and the Russian Civil War has come to an end, although the situation is still dangerous in some regions. An elusive band of White guards is hiding in the mountains, raiding Soviet institutions and making short work of the representatives of local government. Five chiefs have already been killed by the "whites" and the intimidated townsfolk believe the sixth one is also doomed. ...

Kira Muratova: Brief Encounters - Короткие встречи (1967)

Director: Kira Muratova
Writers: Kira Muratova, Leonid Zhukhovitsky
Stars: Nina Ruslanova, Vladimir Vysotsky, Kira Muratova

Nadja, a country girl moves to the city and becomes Valya's maid. Valya, a member of the District Soviet. ...

Kira Muratova's film, Brief Encounters, is structured as two interspliced narrative lines. Together, they tell the story of how two women-the urban, city council official Valentina and the rural cafe waitress Nadia-love the itinerant and restless geologist Maksim, played by the chansonier cult figure Vladimir Vysotsky, for many years an actor at Moscow's Taganka Theatre.
The lives of these two women intersect when Nadia comes to the city to find Maksim, whose address she had been given on a slip of paper. There she encounters Valentina, who assumes Nadia has come to be interviewed for a housekeeper position and hires her immediately. The subtly comic pairing of the two women and their unintentional love triangle with the missing man are infused with a lyric sensitivity, as the film's episodic flashbacks narrate each woman's emotional dependency on the absent Maksim.

Director Kira Muratova, who also plays the role of Valentina, the city bureaucrat, provides a psychological depth and complex richness to her character that contrasts starkly with the more traditional femininity of her foil, played by actress Nina Ruslanova, for whom this was the first film role. The relationship of the two female characters contrasts city and country, as well as differing class expectations, and normative gender roles.

The film's nontraditional structure, avoiding linear narration and a single, unambiguous perspective, proved ideologically problematic upon its completion in 1967. The film was shelved until 1987, when it was released during the perestroika period, together with such delayed films as Aleksei German's Trial By Road and Aleksandr Askol'dov's Commissar.

Muratova's work, from her early Brief Encounters to the more recent Three Stories and Second-Class People, has challenged viewer expectations that Russian culture, and cinema in particular, has an ethical responsibility to present an unambiguous moral message. Unlike a number of her prominent colleagues, notably Aleksandr Sokurov and Nikita Mikhalkov, Muratova has resisted both spiritual and patriotic aspirations in her work, opting instead for a dark and brutal humor that does not readily lend itself to a redemptive reading. Although her work retains few traces of the "provincial melodramas" from the earlier period to which Brief Encounters belongs, she continues to prefer disrupting and disturbing the genteel norms of her audiences, rather than satisfying their love of a predictable, well-wrought story. ...

Friday, 29 July 2011

Andrei Zvyagintsev: Elena - Film Review

After suffering a bad case of the dreaded 'sophomore slump,' Russian maestro Andrei Zvyagintsev now stages a spectacular recovery with Elena, amply confirming the vast promise of his 2003 debut The Return. That picture's Venice Golden Lion sparked comparisons with countrymen such as Andrei Tarkovsky but his 158-minute, excessively enigmatic follow-up, The Banishment (2007), suggested he'd taken far too much notice of his debut's glowing reviews. Clocking in well under two hours, Elena shows Zvyagintsev wisely concentrating on plot, character and social/political context rather than portentous atmospherics. The cumulative impact is stunning.

Bafflingly (one might even say 'disgracefully') absent from Cannes competition, it did win Special Jury Prize in Un Certain Regard, the first stop on what will be a long, successful festival-circuit career. One of 2011's most accomplished films from any country, Elena emphatically warrants widespread arthouse and upscale-TV exposure.
Sixtyish, uneducated Elena (Nadezhda Markina, who resembles an older, doughier Frances McDormand) shares a spaciously luxurious city-center apartment - but not a bed - with her older husband, Vladmir (Andrei Smirnov). The pair met a decade before when Elena was a nurse and wealthy Vladimir her patient. Now she's clearly as much caretaker as spouse, the daily grind visible on her wrinkled face and shoulder-slumped frame.

Elena only comes alive when she treks cross-city to visit with her son Sergei (Alexey Rozin) and his family in their cramped, crumbling quarters. Unemployed, slobbish Sergei relies on Elena for cash handouts, which Vladimir grudgingly tolerates as he provides similar assistance to his wild-child daughter Katya (Elena Lyadova). But when extra money is needed to ensure Sergei's son Sasha (Igor Ogurtsov) dodges the army draft in favor of an (undeserved) university place, Vladimir refuses, compelling Elena towards drastic action.

While an unmistakable example of high-end, slow-paced art cinema, Elenastands out by harking back to classic noir thrillers, especially those in which inconvenient, wealthy husbands stand in the way of their wives' financial and/or romantic imperatives. The most potent recent Euro variations are the terse dramas of Germany's Christian Petzold, who adapted James M Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice into Jerichow (2008). ...

The Hollywood Reporter

One of the best reasons to go to any film festival is the thrill of a brilliant but under-promoted movie, something to cheerlead and encourage in its ongoing adventure around the world.

Making a pit-stop at the wonderful Tromsø festival in Norway's Arctic Circle is a sensational Russian drama called Elena, by Andrei Zvyagintsev, who debuted to great acclaim with The Return in 2003.

Somehow, his new film – which I'm not alone in considering superior in every way – still finds itself without firmed-up plans for UK distribution. This is a hopefully rectifiable state of affairs, but a sad one all the same: I hope it doesn't go the way of Maren Ade's lauded German relationship drama Everyone Else, which premiered in 2009, but has still yet to see the light of day in Britain.

Elena has the taut dramatic structure of a Dostoyevsky parable, matched with mesmerising long-take technique, a hushed, disquieting soundscape, and images that jangle in your head for days.

Zvyagintsev's memorable opening shot watches the sun rise on a plush Moscow apartment through the bare branches of a tree outside, on which a single bird nestles, until another one flutters down and joins it. We watch the morning routine of the title character, a late-middle-aged grandmother sleeping apart from her wealthy but difficult second husband Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov), who draws his purse-strings tight and his heart-strings tighter.

Elena's son Sergey (Aleksey Rozin) is an unemployed slob living in cramped surroundings with his wife and two sons, one of whom is in danger of being drafted off to Ossetia, unless the right people can be bribed to get him into college. Elena's gentle pleas to Vladimir, who could easily remedy this situation if he didn't resent it so much, aren't helped by her needling reminders that his own daughter is childless and never bothers to get in touch, at least until a shock heart attack that leaves the question of his inheritance uppermost in everyone's thoughts. ...

Russian film to open new Horizons in Venice

Venice’s Orizzonti, the program aimed at exploring contemporary cinema and new experimental approaches in filmmaking, is to screen a Russian film, Birmingham Ornament.

­The film, made by director Andrey Silvestrov together with artist Yury Leiderman, raises anthropological questions and deals with metaphors and symbols. A good example of what is called “the other cinema” in Russia, the “new avante-garde”, as opposed to mainstream, incorporates both an artistic experiment and a refined cinematographic language.

Silvestrov and Leiderman began filming about five years ago in Birmingham, UK. What started as random film fragments eventually turned into an experimental movie project. According to the director, this diverse multinational city, and the relations between various ethnic communities there prompted the film’s title.

“[The project] consists of many different fragments. Each of them seems to us as a self-sufficient work of art. Some of the fragments were separately displayed on various festivals and art exhibitions. But the experiment of uniting separate fragments into one film was undertaken for the first time. We discovered that it revealed a new meaning…” director Andrey Silvestrov told RIA Novosti news agency.

Silvestrov says that fragments previously displayed to public have not been included into the film that is due to be screened in Venice, while some changes are still being made to the final work.


Rolan Bykov: The Scarecrow - Чучело (1983)

Director:Rolan Bykov
Writers:Rolan Bykov, Vladimir Zheleznikov (novel),
Stars:Kristina Orbakayte, Yuri Nikulin,Yelena Sanayeva

Relationships between kids, students and teachers and kids and parents. It's about a very sweet and kind-hearted girl who is new at school in a small Russian 80's town. The kids tease her but not too badly, it isn't until she makes a mistake of taking someone's blame unto herself that her whole class turns against her. Fascinating developed characters add a lot to this film. All the kids are just really different and fun to watch interacting. ...

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Rolan Bykov - Biography

Car, Violin and Blot the Dog
"For the first time I took the stage at the age of 4 – Rolan Bykov said – and never left it since then”. He played everywhere – in films, on stage, and in business. He played over a hundred roles, for which, though belatedly, he was given the title of the People’s Artist.
He directed a number of splendid films: Aybolit-66 (Oh How It Hurts 66) (1966), Sem nyanek (Seven Nursemaids) (1962), Vnimanie, cherepakha! (Attention, Turtle!) (1970), Avtomobil, skripka i sobaka Klyaksa (Car, Violin and Blot the Dog) (1974), and Chuchelo (The Scarecrow) (1983).
Rolan (Rowland) Antonovich Bykov was born on November 12, 1929 in Kiev (Ukraine). The son of a Red Army commander and a beauty from an intelligent family, he inherited rebellious blood from his father and the love of art from his mother.
In 1951 he graduated from the actors’ faculty of M. Shchepkin Theatre College and became an actor and stage director of Moscow Theatre for Young Spectators. Afterwards he moved to Leningrad Theatre of Leninsky Komsomol and then to the students’ theatre of Moscow State University.
Rolan Bykov debuted in cinema in 1954 with the film Shkola muzhestva (School of Courage). Since the early 1960s he indulged more and more into cinema: in 1960 he became an actor and film director of Mosfilm Studio and by the 1970s he was among the most favourite actors of the Soviet public.
Actually, there were not so many films starring Bykov, yet every his appearance on screen imparted some amazing charms and expressiveness to the film. Even his supporting roles became etched in the memory of viewers sometimes even better than the film itself. Rolan Bykov knew that he was a great actor, but did not like others to speak (especially with pathos) about his greatness.
"Twenty years ago I directed a mischievous and quite original for that time feature Aybolit-66 (Oh How It Hurts 66) (1966). My concept, “a fancy on the theme of a global philistine” and “inferiority complex of a ridiculous worthless creature in front of a great personality” found natural embodiment in the comical conflict”, Rolan Bykov, who played Barmalei, the main villain in the children’s film, says. ...

Dmitrii Korobkin: Yaroslav. A Thousand Years Ago

“Does the world need another painting of a leopard?” These are the words of one of the Chapman Brothers, the enfants terribles of Britart, when confronted with an amateur naturalist painting. The same question can be asked about Yaroslav. A Thousand Years Ago. “Does the world need another epic film?” Understandably, according to the Russian Ministry of Culture, the world does need another epic story, but the ministry chose Dmitrii Korobkin and the advertising agency Anni Domini—previously only known for its product placement—to film the story Prince Yaroslav the Wise. Since the film celebrates the 1,000-year anniversary of the city of Yaroslavl, it could also be argued that residents of Yaroslavl need this film about the birth of their city. And as such, the film fulfils its function. However, the problem that I have with this film is whose film is it—Korobkin’s or Yaroslavl’s? Is it Anno Domini’s film or the Russian Federation’s? Viewed as Korobkin’s film, it is a mediocre work, because it does not seek to add anything to the epic genre. But if it is Yaroslavl’s film, then the founders should be congratulated on their ability to generate publicity and visibility that could extend beyond the region and ensure a certain form of modern-day kino-tourism.

I will not go into details of historical inaccuracy, whether, for example, the word ‘Papa’ did exist at the time or not (as questioned by blogger ‘Dania’). Those who are interested in these inaccuracies can consult Komsomolskaya Pravda, who invited a history professor to see the film - with unsurprising results (Zaitseva). Neither shall I point to its modern narrative form and its borrowing from other more popular genres, such as the gangster movie. In particular, one sauna scene in Yaroslav is more redolent of post-Soviet Mafia bosses discussing their business affairs, than any situation “a thousand years ago.” Instead, I will concentrate on other matters, including the modern flat hairdos, musketeer moustaches, and a mise-en-scène of ancient villages.

The film begins with a slow descent from the skies to an animated map of Europe. The kingdom of Kievan Rus flashes before us and its lines are drawn. In a voiceover we hear that Vladimir the Great has brought Christianity to the Russians: he rules a kingdom that is divided into different regions, all controlled by his sons. More lines on the map... Together with Viking warriors of the north, the sons collect taxes and defend the local tribes. The region of Rostov is inhabited by Slavic and Finish tribes and is controlled by the young Prince Yaroslav, who is fast expanding his reign into the barbaric and “wild” East. But he is experiencing problems with both thieves and plunders who raid his territory, leaving only fear and distrust among the population. The deep forest and the virgin lands are without law: and only a powerful individual can rectify matters. How “ancient” is that?

Reviewed by Lars Kristensen © 2011 in KinoKultura

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Leonid Gaidai: The Diamond Arm - Бриллиантовая рука (1968)

The Diamond Arm (1968)

Director: Leonid Gaidai.
Cast: Yuri Nikulin, Nina Grebeshkova, Andrei Mironov, Anatoly Papanov, Stanislav Chekan, Nonna Mordyukova, Svetlana Svetlichnaya, Vladimir Gulyayev, Grigory Shpigel, Leonid Kanevsky, Roman Filippov, Igor Yasulovich, Andrei Fait, Alexander Khvylia.

The Diamond Arm is a 1968 Soviet comedy film filmed by Mosfilm and first released in 1968. The film was directed by slapstick director Leonid Gaidai and starred several famous Soviet actors, including Yuri Nikulin, Andrei Mironov, Anatoli Papanov, Nonna Mordyukova and Svetlana Svetlichnaya. The Diamond Arm has become a Russian cult film. It was also one of the all-time leaders at the Soviet box office with over 76,700,000 theatre admissions in the Soviet era. ...

Arguably one of the finest comedies of its time, The Diamond Arm follows “ordinary Soviet citizen” Semyon Gorbunkov (played by the legendary Yuri Nikulin) as he becomes the center of a diamond heist mix-up after two inept henchmen, Kozodoyev and Lyolik, mistake him for their courier on a cruise ship. Gorbunkov gets forced into an orthopedic cast with the contraband diamonds inside, and when the ship returns to the Soviet Union, he reveals what happened to the militsiya. Hilarity ensues as the militsiya captain goes undercover as a taxi driver and tries to use Gorbunkov as bait to catch the criminals. Meanwhile, Gorbunkov starts to see trouble at home when his wife suspects that he’s either having an affair… or he’s been recruited as a foreign spy. Since its 1968 debut, The Diamond Arm has since passed innumerable phrases like “Idiot is forever” and “I’m not a coward… But I’m scared…” into mainstream Russian culture. >>>

Gleb Panfilov:May I Have The Floor, Please -Прошу слова (1975)

Director:Gleb Panfilov
Writer:Gleb Panfilov
Stars:Inna Churikova, Nikolai Gubenko Ekaterina Volkova

1976 International Film Festival in Barcelona ( Diploma for Best colour — Alexander Antipenko)
1976 International Film Festival in Karlovy Vary (Special Jubilee prize of the festival – Gleb Panfilov)

A story of a woman who was promoted from an ordinary worker to the mayor of a small town. When she assumes her new position, previously occupied by a man, Elizaveta Uvarova suppresses her female instincts without a second thought, and sacrifices her personal life for the sake of society. Goal-driven and self-confident, Elizaveta is determined to improve the lives of those around her. Despite her contrition and noble intentions, fate punishes her in the cruelest manner – it takes Elizaveta’s son away. However, the paradox of Elizaveta’s nature is such that even this great tragedy does not destroy her spirit and her desire to improve the society. ...

Sergei Solovyov - Biography

He became a cult film director for the youth of the late 1980s. Drama, comedy, “adventurous” cinema – it looks like Solovyev is good at any film genre, from screen versions of Russian classical literature to “sketching from nature” of the present days.

Sergei Aleksandrovich Solovyov was born on August 25, 1944 in the town of Kem’ of Karelian region.

From 1960 to 62 he was a worker at Leningrad television; after graduating from the film directors’ faculty of VGIK (workshop of Mikhail Romm and Aleksandr Stolper) he started his creative activity at the cinema studio Mosfilm. In 1970 Sergei Solovyev debuted as a film director with the feature Semeynoe schastye (Family Happiness) after Anton Chekov’s stories. It was followed by the screen versions of Maxim Gorky’s play Yegor Bulychyov i drugiye (Yegor Bulychyov and Others) (1971) and Alexander Pushkin’s story Stantsionnyy smotritel (The Stationmaster) (1972).

In 1975 Solovyov released a touching, amusing and wise children’s film under the title Sto dney posle detstva (One Hundred Days After Childhood), for the first time starring Tatyana Drubich, his future wife. In 1976 the film director presented Melodii beloy nochi (Melodies of a White Night) about meetings of a Japanese pianist girl and a Russian composer. Tatyana Drubich appeared again in Solovyov’s film Spasatel (The Rescuer) (1980), which, however, passed unnoticed. Another joint work of Solovyov and Drubich followed soon. It was Naslednitsa po pryamoy (Direct Heiress) (1982), and in 1983 after filming together Izbrannye (The Chosen Ones) they got married.

The year 1986 saw the release of Chuzhaya belaya i ryaboy (aka Wild Pigeon) after Boris Ryakhovsky’s story, telling about the post-war time and childhood of the main character.

Solovyov’s film Assa (1987) made an important event in the cultural life of the Soviet Union of the late 1980s. For the first time it was featuring on screen the legendary rock musician Viktor Tsoy and Sergei Bugayev (aka “Africa”), a well-known avant-garde figure in underground circles. Many scores for the film were created by Boris Grebenshchikov. Sergei Solovyov developed his collaboration with the leaders of Russian rock culture in his next two movies: Chyornaya roza - emblema pechali, krasnaya roza - emblema lyubvi (Black Rose Is an Emblem of Sorrow, Red Rose Is an Emblem of Love) (1989) and Dom pod zvyozdnym nebom (House under the Starry Skies) (1991).
Russia InfoCentre

Monday, 25 July 2011

Ivan Pyryev: Tractor-Drivers - Трактористы (1939)

Director:Ivan Pyryev
Writer:Yevgeni Pomeshchikov (screenplay)
Stars: Marina Ladynina, Nikolai Kryuchkov, Boris Andreyev

Tractor Drivers is a fascinating work that manages to combine three Soviet obsessions of the 1930s: the enormous popularity of musical films, the Soviet glorification of technology, and the preparations for an impending war. Recently demobilized, Klim returns to his Ukrainian collective only to find his intended, Mariana, now a famed tractor driver complete with many male admirers. Klim bears down and masters tractor driving as well, and after a series of pratfalls and misunderstandings, the couple gets back together. But then the order goes out: all the young men are ordered back to their army units, where they’ll apply their tractor driving skills to the brand-new high-speed tanks fresh off the Soviet assembly lines. With music by Dmitry Pokrass, Tractor Drivers became the template for a considerable number of girl-boy-tractor romances, as well as the subject of innumerable parodies. ...

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Sergei Yutkevich - Biography

Yutkevich was born at the beginning of twentieth century, being a teenager he had gone through bloody events of revolution and civil war, was carried away by the changes that took place around him: collapse of the world to which his parents were accustomed and formation of a new world, not quite clear yet, but even more attractive because of that. He became a true revolutionary, but instead of painful breaking of social order he preferred a much more noble and gratifying way - searching for new forms in art.

In 1921-1923 Sergei Yutkevich studied at theatre decoration faculty of the Higher Art Workshop (VHUTEMAS as contemporaries named it as there was a tendency for loud abbreviations), and at the same time attended lessons at the State Higher Film Directors Workshop where Vsevolod Meyerhold taught at that time. The following way of Yutkevich in art was predetermined by this choice - he was to become film director-pioneer and art director, who tried to combine outward expressiveness typical of theatre performances of that time with profound content, to help the actors keep the acquired skills of complete command of their body and to add the skill to look natural on the screen, to give to each shot graphic accuracy and completeness.

Sergei Yutkevich began working as an artist at theatre workshop of N.Fogerer ("Mastfor") where he happened to work side by side with Sergei Eizenshtein. Sergei Yutkevich took part in performances of propaganda theatre groups "Dark Blue Blouse" not only as an artist, but also as director, and in 1922 Yutkevich together with G.Kozintsev, L.Trauberg and G.Kryzhitsky founded the Factory of Eccentric Actor, its manifest carried the name "Eccentrism". ... more

Awards for Sergei Yutkevich here.

Sergei Yutkevich Filmography here.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Mark Donskoy: The Childhood of Maxim Gorky - Детство Горького (1938)

Director: Mark Donskoy
Writers: Maxim Gorky (books), Ilya Gruzdev
Stars: Aleksei Lyarsky, Varvara Massalitinova, Mikhail Troyanovsky

For those who feel that classic Russian cinema is too often drowned in propaganda, nationalism and obsolete contemporary politics to be appreciated on anything but a formal level, then a film such as Donskoy’s The Childhood of Maxim Gorky may come as a pleasant surprise. Ostensibly, such a film would not make a good candidate for being a timeless work of art. It is, after all, about one of 20th Century Russia’s most famous writers, Maxim Gorky, who, himself, was a proponent of the socialist realism movement that sought to spread political philosophy throughout the art of communist/socialist countries. The film is even based on Gorky’s autobiography and exists in a time in which that socialist realist movement was in full swing.

It’s not so much that the film lacks the essential elements that made up the propaganda of socialist realism, but merely that it’s much better than most other examples at keeping the heart and soul of the film on a universal and interminably relatable level. It does this by eschewing overt politics in favor of characters and story, biased distortion in favor of phenomenal clarity and dictatorial narration in favor of a slightly more distant observance. It is tremendously helped by the fact that it anchors this observance to the life of a child who is completely ignorant of the sociopolitical context that surrounds him. Because his conflicts echo on a primal level—the struggle for survival, the need for love, companionship, guidance and knowledge—it drowns out any didacticism that marred so much great art that came out of the movement.

The film barely requires a plot synopsis, as this is one instance where the title is almost sufficient to describe what the film is about. It stars Aleksei Lyarski in the title role of a young Gorky who is sent to live with his domineering, Lear-like grandfather (Mikhail Troyanovsky) and loving, imaginative grandmother (Varvara Massalitinova) when he’s abandoned by his mother. He must also contend with his selfish uncles, Yakov (Vasili Novikov) and Mikhail (Aleksandr), who have little regard for him or for the fate of his grandfather’s failing dye business. This leaves Gorky to find friends amongst his grandfather’s workers, like the gregarious gypsy, Ivan, and the purblind Grigori. Gorky also makes friends amongst the boyhood tramps and falls in with a mischievous gang and even befriends a crippled boy with a menagerie of insects.

In the strictest sense, one couldn’t “children” a remotely comprehensive biography of a great man, though it might be unfair to even judge it on such a level since it was made as part one of a trilogy (the other two of which are scarcely available to be seen). Yet Donskoy’s film has the mark of most great cinema in that it’s able to suggest infinitely more through its truncations and ellipses than tens-of-thousands of words could accomplish. The result is a film that’s rather impressionistic, gleaning from lengthy scenes a distilled depiction of Gorky’s most important childhood memories. These impressions range from the jovial, such as the party upon his arrival, to the tragic, such as the death of his friends, to the dramatic, such as the burning of the village, to the mystical, such as his grandmother’s folk tales.

All of these pieces come together to construct one of the most vivid and lifelike films about childhood in the history of cinema—one that, despite its strong roots in a contemporary art and film movement, seem to be looking both near and far ahead to cinema’s future. In fact, it’s not difficult to see a profound similarity between two of the 1930s greatest cinematic artists, Jean Renoir and John Ford. Donskoy has Renoir’s socially impressionistic eye and a formal elegance that is paradoxically looking down on, looking up to, and even looking directly at its subjects. Unlike Renoir, though, Donskoy is more concerned with the lower, working classes in which largely rests Ford’s domain. One could call Childhood a Russian Grapes of Wrath, or perhaps a Russian How Green Was My Valley. Donskoy also has Ford’s lyricism, though tempered with Renoir’s more detached, occasionally cynical, observation.

Donskoy also seems to be looking farther ahead to the neorealists, and the subjective camera of a film like The 400 Blows. While the film frequently betrays its studio roots, it has the same grittiness that was so important to neorealism. There are plenty of films about the poor and impoverished, but Childhood is amongst the best that are able to render the dirt and mud, the straw and wood, so palpably through images. It also looks back to a film like Dovzhenko’s Earth, but replaces his representational poetry with something more (excuse the pun) earthy. But young Gorky is also an easy analog to Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel in how the camera depicts events through his naïve eyes. While Donskoy certainly presents the setting of socialist realism, the fact that it’s all seen and experienced through young Gorky takes the political sting out of it.

It’s an interesting question to ponder just how much Donskoy was consciously drawing from the world of cinema around him. His interests and studies from an early age weren’t in film, and he had, in fact, studied and practiced law for years before his interests shifted to film in 1925. He worked as assistant director for Eisenstein, which would certainly account for his adept understanding of the technical aspects of film, but this certainly doesn’t explain his humanistic tone which is almost contrary to Eisenstein’s taste for icy and dramatic technicality. What’s not in doubt is Donskoy’s affection for Gorky, whom he knew, and from who’s life and work he based many films. Perhaps the fact that Dosnkoy was never a member of the Communist party explains his ability to view the nationalism and social politics of his subjects with an eye that’s more compassionate and emotional, rather than abstract or theoretical.

Whatever the case may be, The Childhood of Maxim Gorky is an unusual, forgotten masterpiece from a country whose cinema seems harder and harder to pin down the more I experience it. An analog to Renoir, Ford, Truffaut and the neorealists is one of the last things I thought I’d find in a film from a country that’s most well-known from the technically brilliant cinematics of Eisenstein, Vertov and Kalatozov, or the visual poetry of Tarkovsky and Dovzhenko. Much less would I expect to find it in a film about Maxim Gorky who largely founded the movement that would have such a profound effect on all Russian art.

-- 27 Aug 2010 by Jonathan Henderson // © 2010

Mikhail Romm: Girl No. 217 - Человек №217 (1944)

Director: Mikhail Romm
Stars: Yelena Kuzmina, Vladimir Balashov,Tatyana Barysheva

1946: Cannes: Nominated for Palme d´Or (Golden Palm)

Girl No. 217 may well be the best effort of Russian writer/director Mikhail Romm, who usually turned out dull, unimaginative communist propaganda films. This disturbingly realistic drama concerns a Russian peasant girl named Tanya (Yelena Kuzmina) who, upon being captured by the Nazis in the early stages of WWII, is forced into slave labor. Sold to a bourgeois German family, Tanya is treated abominably, her physical and mental well-being methodically worn down by her insensitive new "owners." She is even robbed of her identity and forced to answer only to the name "No. 217." A series of subplots demonstrate the various indignities and atrocities heaped upon other Nazi POWs, but it is the plight of Tanya that lingers in the viewer's memory.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Russian animation: Laziness

Thank you Niffiwan

A 1979 satirical cartoon directed by Yevgeniy Sivokon (who later directed "The Tree and the Cat").
Based on a story by Aron Kanevskiy.
Animated by Aleksandr Tatarskiy and Igor Kovalyov.
Made at Kievnauchfilm

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Imperishable Moments of Tatyana Lioznova

Films by Tatyana Lioznova, one of the few Russian female film directors, have an amazing feature – they never grow old. People of any generation can find something concordant to their lives in her films. Her lyrical drama ‘Three Poplars at Plyuschihka’ still enjoying love of the public justly brought her fame. This work alone would be enough for her to take a place of honour in the history of Soviet cinematography.

Tatyana Mikhailovna (Moiseyevna) Lioznova was born on 20 July, 1924 in Moscow. Her father, an engineer and economist, volunteered to the army in the very beginning of the war and was killed in the same horrible year of 1941. Her mother, a representative of intelligentsia in the highest sense of the word, with whom Tatyana lived all her life, undoubtedly, had a great impact on her daughter and her creative interests. After school Tanya entered the Moscow Aviation Institute but soon left it. In the thick of the war, in 1945, she entered VGIK (The All-Russian State Institute for Cinematography) but after a trial semester was sent down. Her teachers decided her life experience was not rich enough for such an all-embracing profession as film-director. But Tanya did not give in: she stepped in the doorway of the institute in the way of her teachers and begged them into watching her study films. Thus she was allowed to continue studying.

In VGIK Tatyana studied at the workshop of Sergei Gerasimov and Tamara Makarova. For some years she worked as assistant of film-director in the filming of ‘Molodaya gvardiya / The Young Guard’ by Sergei Gerasimov (1948), ‘Tainstvennaya nahodka’/Mysterious Finding (1953) by Boris Buneyev, and ‘Zemlya i lyudi’/The Land and the People by Stanislav Rostotsky (1955).

The first independent work of Lioznova was released in 1958: it was ‘Pamyat serdtsa’ / ‘The Memory of the Heart’ after the script by Sergei Gerasimov and Tamara Makarova. ...

Imperishable Moments of Tatyana Lioznova

Sergei Loban: Chapiteau Show - Шапито-шоу (2011)

Director: Sergei Loban
Writer: Marina Potapova
Stars: Znamensky Aleksei, Kuznetsov Anton, Jim Avignon

Pretty, but lonesome girl meets a nihistic guy nicknamed Cyber Ranger on the Internet. First she drags him out of the virtual space on a real date, and then – to Cremea, where she continues to draggle him around with her – to the beach, dinner or discotheque – with fatal consequences for not so experienced in love affairs blogger.

In the second part of the film it is deaf young man Lyosha’s turn to come to the resort, together with a bunch of bohemian guys leaded by a impetuous Pioneer (the gang calls themselves a unit and wears red ties). Lyosha is followed by his old friends, who are also deaf and numb and ready to fight furiously for their right to stay the way they are in the face of the sounding world.

In the third novella the young and shy first-time director encounters his father – famous actor – after a long time of absence. The father wants his son to forgive and drags the boy to the wild nature – to be closer to wildlife and feel true spirituality.

Finally, in the last chapter of the movie an ambitious producer from Moscow takes his mentee, the look-alike of Viktor Tsoi for a tour, with the not so smart guy not aware of the fact that he is looking like an idiot in the eyes of the whole country.

The chapters of the films, named Love, Friendship, Respect and Cooperation, are crossed as the plot develops (the protagonists of one novella appear in others as extras) and rebound one from another with the same idea: that every given private tragedy feels like a banality, not only in the face of the eternity, but even being compared with another given private misery. This thought is also confirmed here by the fact that all of the protagonists of each chapter in the moment of crisis points say one and the same monologue, and the closer is the end of the films, the more piercingly those words sound.

The dramaturgy is interesting, but the way the screen space is organized is even more fascinating. Sergei Loban, who proved his talent of remaining realistic and precise in the bounds of grotesque genre in his previous work Dust, works here in the form of “quiet surrealism”. He takes reality as it is and doesn’t fabricate it, organizing it his own way instead, slightly turning the familiar accents. Having thrown away most of the fixations from which Russian cinema often suffers, the authors of the film are working with the most simple, most familiar details if life – Cremea, Tsoi, conversation about Jorge Luis Borges on the first date and constant drunken talks about ethics and aesthetics. The metaphors are also quite simple and obvious: in the moments of despair the real tempest hits the resort, in the moments of sincere yearning – the non-metaphorical fire happens. In some point of the story there appear a monstrous local producer, a wise cameraman, a miserable film director called Shpagin and another producer from Moscow, who is too sophisticated to realize that his stupid mentee gradually takes his life from him. The whole action starts looking self-ironical at the moment. At the very end of the film the miserable producer shouts: “By this gesture I wished to say…”, but, as it usually happens in such cases, he doesn’t have a chance to finish. Which is probably right. And from this point of view – not only this article should end right now, but to tell the truth, many it shouldn’t have been started at all. ...

"The Films of Sergei Paradjanov," "El Cid"

By Michael Atkinson in IFC News

A summoning of pagan energies if ever there were any in the era of television, the major features of Sergei Paradjanov have maintained a flabbergasting constancy in the Western filmhead cosmos — these prehistoric, narratively congealed Central Asian mutants have never been out of circulation in this country, as retro-able prints or video editions, and are now all available on DVD from Kino in newly restored versions, including, for the first time, his epochal international debut, "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors" (1964). It's intensely odd, because Paradjanov is one of the most hermetic, arcane and completely original artists in cinema history, and his films do not resemble those made anywhere else, by anyone. Perhaps their sui generis freakiness is their saving grace — and thus a sign of hope for the survival of adventurous film culture in this country. It's not too much to say that no effort at understanding the outer reaches of filmic sorcery can be complete without a confrontation with Paradjanov's world — a timeless meta-past of living icons, bristling fairy tale tableaux, stylistic extremities and culture shock.

Paradjanov was Georgian-Armenian by birth, cursed by fate to make films within a Soviet system that condemned him as a decadent and a "surrealist." He spent time in the gulag (released thanks to international outcry in 1978), but the Politburo wasn't wrong; Paradjanov was nothing if not a catapulting folklorist, recreating the primitive pre-Soviet era as it might've been dreamt of in the opium-befogged skull of Omar Khayyám. There could hardly have been a more oppositive reply to Socialist Realism. The films — "Shadows," "The Color of Pomegranates" (1969), "The Legend of Suram Fortress" (1984) and "Ashik Kerib" (1988) — are all based on folk tales and ancient history (Ukranian, Armenian and Georgian), but only "Shadows" is centered on narrative. It's also the most visually dynamic; unfolding a tribal tale of star-crossed love and familial vengeance in the Carpathian mountains, the movie is one of the most restless and explosive pieces of camerawork from the so-called Art Film era, shot in authentic outlands with distorting lenses and superhuman capacity, and imbued with a grainy, primal grit.

Utterly convincing as a manifestation of pre-civilized will and superstition, "Shadows" was still only a suggestion of the netherworlds Paradjanov would then call home. The next three films, separated by years of censorship battling and imprisonment, are barely narratives at all, but rather medieval art and life conjured up as a lurid, iconic, wax museum image parade, bursting with native art, doves, peacocks, Byzantine design, brass work, hookahs, ancient ritual, cathedral filigree, symbolic surrealities, ad infinitum. This is not a universe where quantities like acting and pace are issues; Paradjanov's vision can be read as the dynamiting of an entire cultural store closet of things. "Pomegranates" traipses through the life of 18th-century Armenian poet Sayat Nova, "Fortress" revives an age-old Georgian war legend and "Ashik Kerib" adapts an "Arabian Nights"-style tale retold by Mikhail Lermontov. Together, they represent one of the most unique usages cinema has ever been put to, employing the full range of native textures (scrambling Russian traditionalism with Turkish, Arabic, Indian, Chinese and Rom) and ending up, for all of their stasis and ornate compositions, with a party-hearty-Marty celebration of traditional culture and life in the unruly wilderness of Asian societies rarely if ever visible to American filmgoers. The four DVDs come with an array of background/profile docs, an impressionistic portrait comparing/contrasting Paradjanov with buddy Andrei Tarkovsky, and, best of all, several rare Paradjanov shorts. ...

Monday, 18 July 2011

Alexander Proshkin: Lomonosov - Михайло Ломоносов (1986)

Director:Aleksandr Proshkin
Writer:Oleg Osetinsky
Stars: Viktor Stepanov, Nikolai Boyarsky, Andrei Davydov

The film tells about the great Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov (1711-1765), one of the most prominent scientists of the the world ever. Lomonosov managed to anticipate the key trends of the science development for about 100 and more years in advance. He was first to formulate the kinematic theory of heat and to overthrow the idea of a separate heat-carrying substance (put forward by Boyle). According to Lomonosov's theory, heat is generated by the rotary movement of round corpuscles (molecules). He is considered the founder of physical chemistry. He was among those who framed the law of conservation of energy. In astronomy, he discovered the atmosphere on Venus. He greatly contributed to the development of optomechanics, instrument engineering, electrical theory, meteorology, geology, mining engineering, metallurgy and geography. He was an outstanding glass engineer. Lomonosov was not only a scientist but a great scholar, as well, he reformed the Russian poetry and historian. Finally, he was a prominent artist (glass and mosaic art) and a poet. Lomonosov is the founder of Moscow University (1755).
By his versatality of his interests and achievements Lomonosov ranks among the most versatile geniuses of human history.
Amazingly, Lomonosov came from the Russian Far North (from Russian old believers - Pomors) and was a man of common people, who were barred from education at his time. But he walked to Moscow and entered a scholarship academy, pretending to be a priest's son. Then he, found a great talent, was sent to study in a German university.

Interview: Alexander Rogozhkin talks about ‘Peregon’ (Transit)

Nationality: Russian. Born: Leningrad, 3 October 1949. Education: graduated in History from Leningrad State University, 1972; graduated from Director's Department at VGIK, 1982. Career: designer for Leningrad television, 1971–72; designer at Lenfilm, 1974–77; clip-maker for advertising, 1980–84; author of the very popular Russian television series Cops. Awards: Nika Prize, Russian Academy of Cinematography, for best director, 1995. ... more>>


Peregon (Transit) is the new film from prolific Russian writer-director Alexander Rogozhkin, which was presented In Competition at this year’s edition of the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. Several of his past films have screened there, including Zhizn Idiotom (Life with an Idiot) and the Chechen war drama Blokpost (Check Point), for which he won the Best Director Prize in 1998. Peregon is a story set on a secret military transit base in the remote Chukotka region, where planes from allied forces came in from Alaska, including quite a few with female pilots, which of course attracted the attention of the mostly male Russian crew at the base. Boyd van Hoeij, the editor of, met with Peregon’s director during the festival.

Where did the original idea for Peregon come from?
The idea came to me twenty years ago, but I thought I would do it differently. There were three ways used by the US to aid Russia at the time [during WWII]: through Persia, via the North and through Chucotka, though the Chucotka connection was completely secret, and the first publications about it only appeared at the beginning of the 1990s. I already had a script about this time and these people, but since it would probably have been impossible to shoot it [on location] in Persia, I changed the setting to Chucotka.

Are the characters complete fictional creations or did you model some of your characters on stories from actual people who worked at such transit bases in WWII?
I read a lot about the subject, but the characters are purely fictional. What surprised me when I was working on the script and doing research in the archives was that the people who worked at the military bases were very young; they were born in 1925 or 1927. In that time, the people who would participate in normal life were killed or hurt in the war. Kurt Vonnegut said of the First World War generation that the war had made them four centimetres shorter...

How did you decide on the structure of the film, which offers a panoramic view of many different characters?
The decision was quite easy, because I love novels and novelists from the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, such as Tolstoy, Faulkner, Updike and Dostoyevsky. In fact, I would call my film a “film novel”. Tom Woolfe, writing about Faulkner, said that the story is like a postage stamp: it is not the story that is important, but the inner life of the characters. I was very happy to be able to write about them, and I wrote the film as if it were a novel. The producers hate it, because they always want something shorter and when they translated the script in English, it became even longer: almost twice as long as in Russian! The film is a bit longer than originally planned, though. If I were more talented the film would have been shorter! [Laughs.] ... more>>

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Aleksey Fedorchenko: The First on the Moon - Первые на Луне (2005)

Director:Aleksei Fedorchenko
Writers: Ramil Yamaleyev (screenplay), Aleksandr Gonorovsky (screenplay)
Stars: Aleksei Anisimov, Viktoriya Ilyinskaya, Viktor Kotov


2005—Cottbus Film Festival of Young East European Cinema: First Work Award of the Student Jury and Special Prize
2005—Flanders International Film Festival: Grand Prix
2005—Venice Film Festival: Venice Horizons Documentary Award
2005—Warsaw International Film Festival: Special Mention
2005—Zagreb Film Festival: "Golden Pram" award
2005— "The best debut" prize, Kinotaur festival, Sochi, Russia
2006—Eurocon: Best performance

“The element of irony is very small, perhaps around five percent. The rest is something of an homage to the generation of our fathers and grandfathers, including their honesty, their genuine belief in an ideal.” [1] Thus the Ekaterinburg filmmaker Aleksei Fedorchenko summarizes the narrative stance of his mock-documentary First on the Moon. Fedorchenko’s career in Russian cinema is the story of survival. Survival defines the themes and aesthetic choices in his films as well. Fedorchenko started his filmmaking career at the documentary unit of Sverdlovsk Film Studio in 1990 when Soviet cinema was in its final hour. He describes his work in the 1990s as the struggle for the survival of the studio, including skirmishes with the local mafia. In 2000 Fedorchenko moved to Moscow and made two documentaries: David (2002), about a Jewish survivor of Nazi and Gulag camps, and Children of the White Grave (2003), about the survival of ethnic groups exiled by Stalin to Kazakhstan.

First on the Moon is also a story of survival. The filmmaker chose the genre of mock-documentary to tell a story of the “unknown” Soviet space program, which launched the first man to the moon in 1938. The film begins in Chile where the Soviet spacecraft apparently landed after its return from the moon and traces the fate of the first Soviet “cosmopilot,” Ivan Kharlamov (Boris Vlasov). This Zelig-like character travels from Chile across the Pacific, and then across China to Mongolia until he is finally captured by the NKVD and sent to a psychiatric ward. Eventually, he miraculously escapes from his cell and assumes a series of identities that allow him to hide from the secret police and to survive in the hostile and erratic environment of Soviet Russia.

In his interview with Viktor Matizen, Fedorchenko notes: “Viewers should have to figure out for themselves the rules of the game and decide whether they want to play according to them or not.” [2] The filmmaker’s perception of himself and the viewer as homo ludens provides one interpretive key to his new picture. Fedorchenko tries to return to Russian cinema the ludic spirit lost since the famous avant-garde projects of the 1920s. He seeks the path to such a playful mode of filmmaking via the genre of the mock-documentary. While the mock-documentary is well established in the British and American traditions, the genre is pretty much nascent in Russia. The novelty of Fedorchenko’s First on the Moon evinces itself in domestic critics’ exasperation when faced with a film refusing to fit inherited genre niches. Trying to evoke Western genre memory and to compare the film with its Western genre relatives, critics coined all kind of neologisms—such as nasmeshka nad dokumentom, literally “mockery of the document” (Matizen, ibid.); dokumental'naia drama (postmodernistskaia mistifikatsiia) “documentary drama (postmodernist mystification)” (film poster); poddel'naia dokumentalistika (“counterfeit documentary film”) [3] —all awkward calques or borrowings from English.

Arguably the important precursors of Fedorchenko’s film include the mockumentary-style newsreel footage in Sergei Livnev’s Hammer and Sickle (Serp i molot, 1993) and Vitalii Manskii’s project Private Chronicles: Monologue (Chastnye khroniki: Monolog, 1999). [4] While Livnev’s experimental work tested the possibilities of the mockumentary as an aesthetic practice, Manskii’s film offered a new mode of filmmaking—a communal visual game. Both playfulness and self-reflexivity are essential for Fedorchenko’s film.

Reviewed by Alexander Prokhorov© 2006 in Kinokultura

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Eldar Ryazanov - Biography

Eldar Ryazanov is an outstanding Soviet and Russian film director, one of the classics of national cinema and a master of lyrical and satirical comedy and tragicomedy. His films are well-known and popular all over the former USSR.

Eldar Aleksandrovich Ryazanov was born in Samara on 18th November 1927. The family then moved to Moscow. His father was subjected to repression and Eldar’s mother had to take care of the boy alone. Since early childhood the future famous film director was crazy about reading books and dreamed of becoming a writer. In 1950 he graduated the Director's Faculty of VGIK (the All-Union Institute of Cinema), where he studied under G. Kozintsev. In 1950–1955 he worked at the Central Studio of Children’s Films as the director of newsreels and several documentaries. Starting from 1955 he worked as a film director at Mosfilm Studio.

Ryazanov created his first full-length feature film Carnival Night (1956) in the genre of a musical comedy-revue, however the satirical characters (namely the director of the club Ogurtsov played by Igor Ilyinsky and the Lecturer played by Sergei Filippov) turned to be true discoveries of this sparkling comedy. The film did not only head the list of box-office hits of 1956, but became an integral part of the “gold fund” of Russian cinema. It was this brilliant comedy that discovered the new film star Lyudmila Gurchenko for viewers.

Ryazanov’s following work – the lyrical comedy Girl Without an Address (1957) – again became a smash-hit. His attempt to integrate elements of fantasy and frank clowning into the comedy plot in Man from Nowhere displeased Soviet film censors: the adventures of the fanciful savage (played by Sergei Yursky) in modern Moscow were accused of being “senseless stunting” and “vulgarity”, and so the film actually remained inaccessible to viewers. The historical musical comedy Hussar Ballad was luckier and gained extreme popularity. The period of Eldar Ryazanov’s creative maturity was marked by his collaboration with the script writer Emil Braginskiy. The first fruit of the union of two talented comedy dramatists was the detective comedy < i> Beware of the Car (1966). The comic story about a selfless thief of cars was raised to the level of a topical comedy with satirical and lyrical motives, whereas its characters (first of all the lead - Yury Detochkin played by Innokenti Smoktunovsky) and reprises gained cult significance. Ryazanov has showed how varied his comedy talent is: Old Men: Robbers (1973), Unbelievable Adventures of Italians in Russia (1974), The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath! (1975), Office Romance (1977), Garage (1979). ...


Monday, 11 July 2011

Nikolai Lebedev: The Star -Звезда (2002)

Director: Nikolay Lebedev
Writers: Aleksandr Borodyanskiy, Yevgeni Grigoryev,
Stars: Igor Petrenko, Artyom Semakin, Aleksey Panin

5 wins & 4 nominations

The war film is a well-worn genre in Russian cinematography. The huge losses Russia sustained in the Second World War ensured that it would become iconic of the Manichean battle between good and evil in which Communism proved its political validity by triumphing in battle. Whilst these films are fascinating lessons in their use of political symbolism, they are neither historically accurate or particularly good cinema.

Here steps in director Nikolai Lebedev, who seeks with Zvezda (The Star, 2002) to salvage the Russian war film from its rather unglamorous past and present a lesser known side to the war—the world of intelligence officers working behind enemy lines.

The film has a solid literary background, being based on Emmanuil G Kazakavich's most famous short story, also called "Zvezda," written in 1947 and based on his own experiences in the Red Army. While war literature was glorified in the post-war years in much the same way war films were, Kazakavich never fitted in. His stories, quite simply, told the war as it was, rather than as an allegory of Soviet supremacy.

Zvezda follows a group of scouts as they assemble for a reconaissance mission to spy on the regrouping Germans. One of the new faces in the camp is a fresh-faced young wireless operator, who instantly falls head over heels for the commander of the scout team. As they push into enemy territory, every radio message sends her into near orgasmic rapture. The scouts themselves meanwhile have to contend with dodging detection by the Germans—no mean feat as the body count continues to rise. The team uncovers the preparations for a massive German offensive, but only after losing their radio. A desperate search ensues for a means to get the vital information about the coming attack back to base as the German army close in on them.

Despite its rhetoric of being a new kind of war film, Zvezda is remarkably clichéd. Eddie Cockrell, writing for Variety, lists where Lebedev has borrowed cinematic tricks from Spielberg and Scorsese,[1] but the most telling similarities are the ones with the films it seeks to be different from. ...

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Alexei Balabanov: Stoker - Кочегар (2010)

Director: Aleksey Balabanov
Writer: Aleksey Balabanov
Stars: Mikhail Skryabin, Yuri Matveyev,Aleksandr Mosin

Mikhail Trofimenkov: It seems as if your sense of world catastrophe grows greater with each film.
Aleksei Balabanov: Of course. My relatives are dying. I myself am aging. (Trofimenkov)

In better times, Yakut stoker Ivan Skriabin (Mikhail Skriabin) had a stellar military career: he had been a sapper in the Afghan war, a Hero of the Soviet Union, a Major with a chest full of medals. Now, retired from the military with a severe concussion, abandoned by his wife, and barely supported by an uncertain paycheck, he lives alone in his workplace, a vast factory basement where he keeps the furnaces running day and night. He spends his leisure moments sitting on his cot, typing out what he believes to be his own tale of good and evil. In fact, the story, entitled “Khailakh,” had been written many decades earlier by Polish ethnographer Wacław Sieroszewski. It is a story that Skriabin had once heard, but now mistakes for his own story, all the more so as it eerily anticipates Skriabin’s circumstances, a tale of Russian banditry and Yakut sacrifice.

Skriabin has a beloved adult daughter, Sasha. She co-owns a Yakut fur outlet with Masha, Russian daughter of Sergeant, a veteran-turned-gangster. One additional character completes the main cast. Bison, Sergeant’s fellow gangster, is Sasha’s boyfriend, or so she believes. In fact, Bison is the lover of both women, though neither knows of the other’s liaison.

And so Stoker, at its barest level, is the story of five people: two fathers and their grown daughters, who share a man. Even without Balabanov’s signature violence, this could not end well. When Masha discovers Bison at her rival’s apartment; she turns to her father for help. Balabanov’s script— laconic, dense, and brilliantly inarticulate—resolves this conflict in a mere eighteen pages; the film’s inspired musical selections account for much of the 87 minutes of screen time.

Balabanov is often considered a divisive figure. I belong to those who consider him a genius, but it is not my primary intent here to plead that case. His emergent talent is usually traced from the 1997 release of Brother (Brat), but his gifts for wry whimsy were evident already in Happy Days (Schastlivye dni, 1991). After all, who is Stoker’s Ivan Skriabin if not a later instance of the nameless hero of Happy Days, played by the young Viktor Sukhorukov? These two hapless, neurologically injured men inhabit the same city, but remain similarly homeless. They are also distant kin to the hero of Balabanov’s short film Trofim (Trofim”), his contribution to the collaborative feature Arrival of a Train (Pribytie poezda, 1996). Already we see several elements of his signature style: the clueless, little man, who rises up against the accumulated indignities of the world; the city as modernity’s id, a theatre for staging the hero’s destruction; the battered trams, replicated in one form or another in many films to come;[1] the tight narrative structure that interlinks characters in ways to which they themselves have little access; the preternaturally comfortable fit between brutality and sentiment. What Brother eventually adds is a military element: the debilitated city as the battlefield’s aftermath, its secondary killing field. Stoker continues this pattern.

Reviewed by Nancy Condee © 2011 in KinoKultura

Friday, 8 July 2011

Pavel Lungin: Wedding - Свадьба (2000)

Director: Pavel Lungin
Writers: Aleksandr Galin, Pavel Lungin
Stars: Marat Basharov, Mariya Mironova, Andrey Panin

Awards :
Special mention Festival de Cannes, Cannes (France), 2000
Best actor Andrei PANIN , Honfleur Russian Film Festival, Honfleur (France), 2000
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Andrei PANIN , Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Moscow (Russia), 2000
Prix du meilleur film au Festival "Une fenêtre sur l'Europe, Vyborg, 2000

Wedding (2000)

Tatyana (Mariya Mironova) tired of the glamour capital life comes back to her native urban village Lypki in Tulskaya region in order to marry her first love Misha (Marat Basharov). Misha like everyone here is a miner short of money due to the occasional salary payments, but the wedding has to be celebrated. The needed money will be digged up. And here starts unimaginable – the real Russian wedding in the village. It is quite an eyeful show!

Oleg Fesenko: The Power of Fear - Ведьма (2006)

Director: Oleg Fesenko
Writers: Nikolai Gogol (novel), Oleg Fesenko (screenplay)
Stars: Valeri Nikolayev, Yevgeniya Kryukova,Lembit Ulfsak

Horror film

Witch (2006)

Gay and handsome journalist Ivan is known for his passion for secular parties and public scandals. When his boss to go supernatural phenomena occurring in the remote town, with no enthusiasm. Intending to hurry away with him an assignment, Ivan hits the road.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Pavel Lungin to head Russian-French Film Academy

Russian director Pavel Lungin and French actress Carole Bouquet will become presidents of the Russian-French Film Academy of Motion Picture Arts.

­The decision regarding the foundation of such an academy was made by the Russian and French presidents at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in 2010. Final decisions regarding the founders of the new Academy were announced in May – the Russian Film Support Foundation and the French National Center for Cinematography.

The treaty that will officially start the creation of the academy will be signed by the Russian and French culture ministers on July 11 in St. Petersburg.

The French Minister of Culture Frederic Mitterrand revealed in November last year that the first filmmaker who suggested the idea of the Russian-French Film Academy was Russian film director Pavel Loungin (Taxi Blues, The Island, Ivan The Terrible). This fact contributed to the decision to make him the president of the due-to-be-founded institution.


Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Valery Todorovsky: Stilyagi aka Hipsters - Стиляги (2008)

STILYAGI [ PAL ] [ RUSSIAN LANGUAGE ONLY ]Director:Valeriy Todorovskiy
Writers:Yuriy Korotkov, Valeriy Todorovskiy (libretto)
Stars:Anton Shagin, Oksana Akinshina, Evgeniya Khirivskaya


17 wins  6 nominations

It's not often that a film festival offers free swing-dance lessons and a performance by a jazz-swing orchestra to celebrate a screening, but then Russian director Valery Todorovsky's toe-tapping take on the jazz counterculture of the 1950s Soviet Union, "Hipsters," is quite unlike any other Russian film made recently.The first Russian musical produced since long before the fall of the Iron Curtain, "Hipsters" unspools in Toronto's Vanguard section alongside such films as British director Andrea Arnold's "Fish Tank" and Canadian helmer Reginald Harkema's tale of the trial of Charles Manson, "Leslie, My Name Is Evil."
Quite unlike many independent films currently coming out of Russia, in which bleak nihilism is the dominant theme, Todorovsky's beautifully choreographed and scored film has a joie de vivre that transcends cultural and national boundaries. ...

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Vladimir Mashkov: Daddy - Папа (2004)

Director:Vladimir Mashkov
Writers: Aleksandr Galich (novel), Vladimir Mashkov
Stars: Vladimir Mashkov, Egor Beroev, Andrei Rozendent

“Daddy” Is My Debt to My Parents.”

Welcome: Vladimir, why did you make a decision to film “Daddy”? Why didn’t you give your preference to any action movie like “Night Patrol”?

Answer: As is known the film “Daddy” is based on the play “Matrosskaya Tishina” written by Alexandr Galich in 1946. However, the play was forbidden and remained out of law for about 30 years. Later the play was given to Oleg Efremov to be staged. But Oleg Efremov decided to give it to Oleg Tabakov. The latter staged the play and Evgheny Leonov, now the deceased, played the role of Abram Schwartz. But in the end the performance was not allowed to be released. A lot of years had passed before the ban on the play was removed. After my unsuccessful studies at Novosibirsk Theatrical Institute I was lucky enough to meet Oleg Tabakov. I must confess that it was difficult enough to cope with me at that period of time: my attitude to studies was rather cool. I think that Oleg Tabakov gave me a chance to play the role of Abram Schwartz for educational purposes. His decision impressed me a lot and I began to rehearse with great enthusiasm. But with every rehearsal I was beginning to realize that I would not be able to play that role. I was only 24 years old then. Some time passed, I became a father myself, and the role of Abram Schwartz became clearer to me. I started playing the role not only on stage, but also in real life. In general I performed this role over 400 times in different countries of the world: in Japan, Germany, France… I believe that a lot was written and said about maternal love. Unfortunately paternal love has not yet been praised enough. And then I realized that I had to make the movie “Daddy”. By the way it was Serghei Glinka, my friend from Chisinau, who convinced me of that. That became a dream of my entire life. At the same time I realized that a lot of money as well as long years needed to make my dream come true.

How many years did it take to film “Daddy”? Who became the producer of the movie?

I would like to emphasize that I was ready to wait for financial assistance as much as needed. But as a result money came unexpectedly from ordinary people such as miners and metallurgists of Kuzbass whose hearts were touched by this sad story. They gave money on a gratis basis. But I hope that we will get our money’s worth.

In Chisinau, for instance, the première of the movie was sold out. Why do you think that “Daddy” is not capable of getting enough takings?

Nowadays most of the elderly have stopped going to the movies because of the lack of funds. The young who have grown up on American erotic and action films mostly go to the cinema. “Daddy” is a psychological movie, difficult to understand, it has to be seen with your heart open. I believe that cinema is one of the most important arts and it has to educate. Every parent should advise their children to see this movie.