Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Russian film festival opens in Australia

16 new films and animated cartoons will be represented at the annual Russian Resurrection film festival which opens in Sydney on the 1st of September.
Lovers of Russian films will have an opportunity to see the work of directors whose names are often heard at international festivals. They are Andrey Zviagintsev, Alexander Kott and Timur Bekmambetov.
Children will undoubtedly enjoy films in the 3D format, among  them The Nutcracker and the Rat King by Andrey Konchalovsky.
The best Russian comedies will be shown in the retrospective nomination.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Leonid Gaidai: Operation "Y" and Other Shurik's Adventures - Операция «Ы» и другие приключения Шурика (1965)

Director: Leonid Gaidai
Writers: Leonid Gaidai, Yakov Kostyukovsky
Stars: Aleksandr Demyanenko, Aleksei Smirnov, Vladimir Basov


 The film consists of three independent parts: "Workmate", "Déjà vu" and "Operation Y". The plot follows the adventures of Shurik (alternative spelling — Shourick), the naive and nerdy Soviet student who often gets into ludicrous situations but always finds a way out very neatly. Operation Y and Other Shurik's Adventures was a hit movie and became the leader of Soviet film distribution in 1965. ...

Monday, 29 August 2011

Iya Savvina - R.I.P.

Well-known Russian actress Iya Savvina died on Saturday, August, 27th, aged 75.
 In 1958 Iya Savvina suddenly became famous after playing in the students theatricals Such Love. Having no vocational training she quickly won love of spectators. The actress gained nation-wide popularity with her roles in the films The Lady with the Dog (1960), The Story of Asya Klyachina (1966), Two Comrades Were Serving (1968), The Garage (1979), and others. Iya Savvina joined the Mossovet Theater in 1960 year and MKhAT (Moscow Art Academic Theatre) in 1977. Until recently the actress had continued playing on stage, which she could not have imagined her life without. On March, 2nd, 2011 Iya Savvina celebrated her 75th anniversary on the theatre stage.

The lady with the little dog


 Прощайте, Ия.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Russian film industry struggles to survive

Russia celebrates the Day of National Cinema this Saturday. Sadly, as it turns out, there is not much to celebrate. A recent poll shows that one-fifth of movie goers in Russia –-18 per cent – share a negative attitude towards films that come with the tag “made in Russia”. The most active part of the audience – youngsters between 18 and 24 years of age – either do not watch Russian films at all or happen to turn up at a Russian premiere once in a lifetime. Even worse is that domestic films keep losing audiences month after month, year by year, while Hollywood blockbusters are gaining momentum, owing their popularity to simple factors. “The main torrent of films that end up getting on the big screen these days fall into four or five categories,” one of Russia’s most important directors, Aleksey German, explains. “The lead character is either seeking revenge for somebody or is looking for the money. There are just as many films about a bad cop and a good cop; films about somebody who saves a city or the whole world; last but not least, there are movies about fighting. And after this we still wonder about the origin of teenage cruelty. Our moviegoers have been hooked on the needle, [addicted] to popcorn,” he laments. While American adventures dominate the Russian market, 42 per cent of moviegoers in Russia do not care about the origin of films they choose to watch, which means the fight between domestic and foreign films over filmgoers is settled by way of tough competition. Only the strongest survive. The creator of Twenty Days Without War says there is a way out though, and sets the French practice of film distribution as a good example. ...

Evgeniy Bedarev: The New Year Calling Plan -Тариф Новогодний (2008)

Director: Evgeniy Bedarev
Writers: Yelena Laskareva, Anastasia Volkova
Stars: Valeriya Lanskaya, Maksim Matveev,Svetlana Sukhanova

Performing the traditional New Year`s call on the unknown phone number Andrey didn`t even suspected, that just after his return to Moscow, he had bought a magic starting packet of cellular communications operator. Getting through to the deserted in New Year`s eve Alyona, Andrey almost falls in love with her, but there exists a temporal problem. Alyona is celebrating coming 2008 year and Andrey is going to meet 2009.

Trying “to set a contact” with Alyona`s «future variant» he comes to know the terrible truth about the events, that appened in the end of 2008. Now the main goal of Andrey and all his friends – to prevent the awful tragedy and to turn into reality the meeting of Alyona and Andrey. ...

Friday, 26 August 2011

Nikita Mikhalkov:Anna from six till eighteen - Анна: от 6 до 18 (1993)

Directed by Nikita Mikhalkov.
Cast: Anna Mikhalkova, Nikita Mikhalkov, Nadezhda Mikhalkova.

Juxtaposing macrocosm and microcosm, the film sets the collapse of the Soviet Union against the growth of Mikhalkov's daughter Anna over the course of 13 years, beginning in 1980. Every year, starting at age six, Anna is subjected to an interview centering on the same five questions. Her personal evolution is interwoven with archival footage and propaganda films tracing the death throes of the Soviet Empire from the last years of the Brezhnev regime through Gorbachev's perestroika reforms to the first steps toward democracy under Boris Yeltsin. ...

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Samson Samsonov: Miles of Fire - Огненные версты (1958)

Director: Samson Samsonov
Writer: Nikolai Figurovsky
Stars: Igor Savkin, Margarita Volodina, Vladimir Kenigson

The White Guard Army led by General Anton Denikin are laying siege to a southern city in order to prevent a rebellion. They are also blocking the railway, but Chekist Zavarzin is in a hurry to travel south. In a flash of inspiration, he decides to use tachankas or machine gun carts to reach his destination, and attracts an unusual group of equally desperate fellow travellers.
The Burning Miles is influenced by railroad Western films like John Ford's classic Stagecoach, because of the diverse set of characters thrown together in desperate circumstances. Zavarzin's companions on his journey include the doctor Shelako, the nurse Katya and a mysterious white guard officer Beklemishev, disguised as a veterinary surgeon. This formula gives the film an extra psychological dimension as the characters' progress towards their destination echoes the resolution of their problems and transitions in relationships. ...

Monday, 22 August 2011

Marlen Khutsiyev: I Am Twenty - Мне двадцать лет (1966)

Director: Marlen Khutsiyev
Writers: Marlen Khutsiyev, Gennadi Shpalikov
Stars: Valentin Popov, Nikolai Gubenko,Stanislav Lyubshin

In Soviet culture, Marlen Khutsiev's Mne dvadtsat' let (I Am Twenty) is the cinematic equivalent of Sherlock Holmes' dog that didn't bark. One of the most significant films of 1961, when it was completed under the title Zastava Il'icha (Ilyich's Gate, the name of a Moscow neighborhood), it was not released until 1965, and then in a truncated form. Because of the delay, the film no longer seemed startlingly original: other films with similar themes and aesthetics were already in distribution. Now, nearly four decades later, Mne dvadtsat' let looks like the very heart of the Soviet Union's cinematic Thaw of the 1960s, poised on the cusp between the hopeful idealism of the early thaw years and the disillusion and cynicism that followed. There is a chance to reassess the film at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Rose Cinema, during their Soviet '60s Series, running from 3 to 20 December and including other great Thaw films such as Neotpravlennoe pis'mo (The Letter Never Sent, 1959), Grigory Kozintsev's Gamlet (Hamlet, 1964), and Ilya Averbakh's rarely-screened Monolog (1972).[1] Khutsiev (b 1925) was the paradigmatic Thaw director. He made his first film before Stalin's death, collaborating with fellow student Felix Mironer on Gradostroiteli (The City Builders, 1950). Released at a time when "even a hint of contemporary life as multi-layered and contradictory was unthinkable,"[2] the picture at least suggested the density of reality, and therefore attracted attention to these novice filmmakers. In 1956, the two men worked together for the second time to make Vesna na Zarechnoi ulitse (Spring on Zarechnaya Street), a variant of the standard Soviet "reeducation" film, as pervasive a genre in Soviet cinema as Westerns in Hollywood, in which labor, or its individual representatives, can reform and improve everything, including human beings. Khutsiev and Mironer manipulated the banal elements of the story with the detachment that came to be the hallmark of Khutsiev's style in all his later films. At a time when the concept of "totally remaking human beings" dominated Soviet life,[3] Khutsiev and Mironer refused to create model protagonists: neither their worker-hero nor their teacher-heroine is right, neither is guilty. Moreover, with its gritty, textured details of muddy streets and crowded rooms, Vesna reflects actual Soviet life far more truthfully than the lacquered, pristine surfaces characteristic of earlier Soviet films. Except for a few carpers, critics as well as audiences praised Vesna, the last such wholehearted praise vouchsafed to Khutsiev. Two years later, he ran seriously afoul of the authorities with Dva Fedora (Two Fyodors). The charge? Pessismism. Other filmmakers felt the same sting (for instance, Tengiz Abuladze for his first film, Chuzhie deti [Someone Else's Children, 1958]), but Khutsiev exacerbated his offense because he dealt with the immediate post-war period, a moment when—by convention—"festivity reigned, [...] war itself had been conquered."[4] His unsmiling hero, unsettled by the instability and loneliness of post-war life, gropes for human contact and establishes an alliance with a young orphan, a relationship Khutsiev depicts without the easy sentimentality otherwise so commonplace in Soviet literature and film. At the Kiev Ministry of Culture, discussion verged on ludicrous: "You can't tell what country [the film] is set in. If it's ours then why don't the school children wear red ties? And what sort of hero is this—sullen, taciturn, unsociable? That's not what our people are like."[5] An influential critic, Yakov Varshavsky, castigated Khutsiev for failing to furnish the "moral armaments" needed to conquer the "fronts" of life.[6] ...

Mark Zakharov: Formula for Love - Формула любви (1984)

Director: Mark Zakharov
Writers: Grigori Gorin, Aleksei Tolstoy (story)
Stars: Elena Valyushkina, Aleksandr Mikhajlov,Aleksandr Abdulov

A young aristocrat, Aleksei Fedyashev, is languishing in his family's country estate, spending his days reading poetry and confessing his love...IMDb

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Russian films at Canadian festival

Seven Russian films are taking part in the Montreal World Film Festival from the 18th to the 28th of August. The Russian films will also participate in the competition programme. One of such films is a drama called “Once There Lived a Woman” made by well-known actor and director Andrey Smirnov. This film touches upon a theme which is absolutely undeveloped in Russian cinema: Russian peasants’ resistance to the Bolsheviks’ power in the 1920s, Russian peasants’ riots. The plot revolves around the tragic fate of an ordinary Russian woman. Andrey Smirnov says that he started thinking about this plot 20 years ago . He was sure that after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Soviet power his colleagues would snatch at formerly closed and tabooed historical subjects but he was mistaken. On the contrary, serious historical films went out of fashion. The screens of Russian cinemas were flooded with foreign and first of all Hollywood productions. “The idea to take such a plot could come only when we were sure that there would be no censorship any more, - Andrey Smirnov remembers. – This idea came in 1987 and I started writing the script in the 1990s, with long intervals. While I was writing it, Russian cinema was rapidly changing before my eyes. I understood that I would have viewers who were absolutely different from those I had in my previous years. These viewers have been brought up by Hollywood. My film started to take shape when I realized that the main character should be a woman, an ordinary Russian village woman who bears the nightmare of the civil war and all social catastrophes.” Another Russian film on the Montreal Festival’s programme is the documentary “Africa: Blood & Beauty” made by Sergey Yastrzhembsky, President Boris Yeltsin’s former press-secretary. After leaving politics, Yastrzhembsky went into film-making and photography. In his film he tells a story about the so-called primary peoples of the Black Continent, they are also referred to as forefather nations. Sergey Yastrzhembsky believes that those peoples are doomed either to assimilation or death. ...

Friday, 19 August 2011

Pavel Chukhrai: A Driver for Vera - Водитель для Веры (2004)

Director: Pavel Chukhraj
Writer: Pavel Chukhraj
Stars: Igor Petrenko, Elena Babenko,Bogdan Stupka

Set in the Crimea in the early 1960s, A Driver for Vera follows the personal and political dilemmas of a prominent Soviet general (Bogdan Stupka), his handicapped daughter Vera (Elena Babenko), and their driver Viktor (Igor' Petrenko). The film received the largest number of prizes at last year's Kinotavr festival including the prestigious Golden Rose award and the awards for best director, screenplay, and cameraman. The film was also Ukraine's official nominee in the "Best Foreign Movie" category for the Academy Awards in March 2005. Its plot is often compared by critics to Nikita Mikhalkov's Oscar-winning Burnt by the Sun (1994) and Ivan Dykhovichnyi's Moscow Parade (1992). ...

Moscow. 1962. A young Soviet Army sergeant looks into the camera and smiles. He seems to be addressing us, the viewers. The illusion is fleeting, however, as it turns out that the camera he is smiling into is that of a photographer whom the soldier has hired to photograph him as he poses in dress uniform alongside the polished black car that, as we soon learn, is his constant companion in service. The narcissism is inoffensive and even charming in context. The scenery and music suggest a holiday mood and the soldier’s face exudes the enthusiasm of a young man who can still look into the future with hope and excitement. Life is good, and thus beautiful. Or, perhaps, it is the other way around.

Игорь Петренко

The sergeant’s name is Viktor. He is soon to be transferred from Moscow to the Crimea at the request of General Serov, whom he will officially serve. Yet it quickly turns out that his primary function is to be the servant, supervisor, spy, and potential suitor of the General’s headstrong and prickly daughter, Vera. The relationship between Viktor and Vera develops along with two other plot lines already in progress: Vera is pregnant by a man she hardly knows, and her father has become a pawn in an increasingly brutal power struggle involving the command staff of the armed forces and the KGB. A fellow “servant,” the buxom young housekeeper Lida, spares no effort to turn the potential romantic couple into a triangle, while the General’s adjutant, Captain Savel'ev, quickly recruits Viktor to inform on Serov for the KGB, Savel'ev’s true master. While the plot is not overly complex, the passions and ambitions of these five characters make for an interesting and rich drama in which dilemmas of personal responsibility, loyalty, and ethics are resolved in sometimes surprising ways.

Despite this attention to political history and human character, a common concern in Pavel Chukhrai’s films, the central thematic glue that holds this new film together is the theme of beauty in all of its many manifestations. As Viktor takes in the sights of his new environment, the cinematography dwells on the stunningly beautiful seaside scenery of the coast and the lightly clad young women who walk along the town streets, both of which leave our young hero in wordless amazement. All the more striking is the expression of surprise and disgust that appears on his face at the sight of Vera’s physical disability. A crippling childhood illness has left Vera severely lame, able to walk only with great difficulty. For young Viktor, and one might suspect for Pavel Chukhrai, beauty and its opposite are not simply surface attributes of the physical world. They go to the core of human existence and inform our attitudes towards politics and morality, or, in this case, towards Russia and the contemporary course of Russian cinema.

Reviewed by Gerald McCausland©2005 in KinoKultura

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Karen Shakhnazarov - Biography

Karen Shakhnazarov is one of the leading Russian cinema masters endowed with a peculiar talent. The pictures created by the film director and scriptwriter are quite versatile in dramatic concepts and author’s messages; following traditions of genre cinema they all have distinct plotlines and explicit relations of the characters. Karen Georgievich Shakhnazarov was born on July 8, 1952 in Krasnodar. As a child Karen was keen on painting and wanted to enter the Art Faculty of VGIK (All-Union Institute of Cinematography), but that required an art school diploma, which he did not have. Thus he decided to study at the Film Direction Faculty. From 1969 to 1975 he studied under Igor Talankin. Afterwards, in 1973–1974 he worked as a production assistant. From 1976 he was a film director and from 1984 a production director at the Mosfilm Studio. In 1987 he became the art director of Creative Group ‘Start’, which was renamed into Kurier Studio in 1990. Since 1991 he has been the art director and Chairman of Administration Board of the Kurier Film Studio attached to the Mosfilm Concern. Since April 20, 1998 Karen Shakhnazarov has been combining his creative career with the far from easy duties of General Director and Chairman of Administration Board of Mosfilm Concern. The first independent film directed by Shakhnazarov was his graduate work, a short-length feature under the title Shire shag, maestro! (Step Wide, Maestro!) (1975). It was followed with two more short-length films, namely Na skolzkoy doroge (On the School Path) (1977) and Na ekrane Vasili Shukshin. Pozovi menya v dal svetluyu (Vasili Shukshin on Screen. Call Me to the Bright Faraway) (1977). In 1979 Karen Shakhnazarov directed his first full-length feature Dobryaki (Kind Men) that won a prize of the Young Filmmakers Festival. Then he also tried his wings as a script writer (jointly with Aleksandr Borodyansky, his collaborator in many works to follow) for Ivan Kiasashvili’s film Damy priglashayut kavalerov (Ladies Invite Gentlemen) (1980). However it was the musical My iz dzhaza (We're from Jazz) (1983) starring Igor Sklyar, Aleksandr Pankratov-Chyorny and Yelena Tsyplakova, which brought recognition and popularity to Karen Shakhnazarov as a film director and script writer. The film defined by viewers as the best film of the year, also took several international awards. His next popular film Zimniy vecher v Gagrakh (Winter Evening in Gagry) released in 1985 is also a musical comedy. The eccentric youth film Kurier (The Messenger Boy) (1987) both written and directed by Karen Shakhnazarov also received a great ovation. The author managed to grasp the features of the young generation that was growing up at the very end of the epoch of Stagnation and weird relations between people in those hard times. Karen Shakhnazarov’s fantastical tragic farce Gorod Zero (Zero City) (1988) starring Leonid Filatov also won a number of prestigious awards. In the historical feature Tsareubiytsa (The Assassin of the Tsar) (1991) Shakhnazarov dwells upon the tragic lot of Nicholas II and his family. The film boasts an amazing duet of actors Oleg Yankovsky and Malcolm McDowell. Following this the film director turned to the genre of satirical comedy: his Sny (Dreams) (1993) starring Oleg Basilashvili is a story of absurdity and nonsense of the post-Perestroika way of life in Russia. ...

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Cult Film Studio of St. Petersburg to be Edged Out by Elite Housing

The fate of the well-known Russian Film Studio Lenfilm is sealed: it has been placed to the hands of the businessman Vladimir Yevtushenkov. The sad news has spread upon the publication in mass-media of a "secret document" of the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation. The paper specifies that the film studio has been refused the subsidy requested by the Culture Ministry from the Ministry of Finance. The Studio may be moved to the suburbs of Petersburg, whereas the world famous pavilions will most likely give place to a business center and elite housing. Earlier the illustrious Russian film directors Alexander Sokurov and Aleksei German had addressed Vladimir Putin with the request to rescue Lenfilm Studio. Russia-InfoCentre

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Natalya Novik: Get That Girl - Отдамся в хорошие руки (2008)

Director: Nataliya Novik
Writers: Tama Janowitz (novel), Natalja Pogonischewa (script writer),
Stars: Marat Basharov, Aleksey Gorbunov, Vitaliy Khaev

Meet the Solntsevo family - three crazy kids with no parental supervision, living in a hovel in the middle of Nowhere-on-the-Black-Sea... IMDb

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Timur Bekmambetov: Irony of Fate, The Sequel -Ирония судьбы. Продолжение (2007)

Director: Timur Bekmambetov Writers: Timur Bekmambetov, Emil Braginskiy (idea), Stars: Konstantin Khabenskiy, Elizaveta Boyarskaya, Sergey Bezrukov

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Boris Durov: Pirates of the XXth Century - Пираты XX века (1979)

Пираты XX века (1979)

Director: Boris Durov
Writers: Boris Durov, Stanislav Govorukhin
Stars: Nikolai Yeryomenko Ml., Pyotr Velyaminov,Talgat Nigmatulin

A Soviet cargo ship carrying medical opium gets attacked by pirates of an unknown nationality. The crew is left to die on a sinking ship but they manage to escape and now must fight the pirates for survival. IMDb

The film was the leader of Soviet distribution in 1980 and had 87.6 million viewers. ...

Monday, 8 August 2011

Richard Viktorov: Moscow-Cassiopeia - Москва — Кассиопея (1973)

Director: Richard Viktorov
Writers: Isai Kuznetsov, Avenir Zak
Stars: Innokenti Smoktunovsky, Vasili Merkuryev, Lev Durov

n this children's sci-fi adventure, a crew of adolescents are sent to a distant star within the constellation Cassiopeia in the hopes that by the time they arrive as adults. However, they reach their destination much sooner than expected, and various teenage problems get in the way. ...


Premio for the Best Film for Kids of the All-Union Cinema Festival, Baku, 1974
Special Premio of the International Cinema Festival of Science Fiction Films, Triest, 1975
Special Prize of the International Cinema Festival (in the Children films category), Moscow, 1975
Platero Prize of the International Cinema Festival as the film for the Kids and Youth, Gijón, 1975.
Diploma of the Moscow Technical Contest of the Films, UNIATEK congress, Moscow, 1976
State Premio of RSFSR in the honour of Vasilyiev Brothers, 1977.

Sergei Gerasimov:The Men and the Beasts - Люди и звери (1962)

Directors: Sergei Gerasimov, Lutz Köhlert,
Writers: Sergei Gerasimov, Tamara Makarova (story)
Stars: Nikolai Yeryomenko St., Tamara Makarova,Zhanna Bolotova

Born in 1906 in Urals area of that days Russian Empire, Sergei Appolinarievich Gerasimov studied at the Leningrad (St. Petersburg) College of Arts and graduated from the Actors Department of the Leningrad (St. Petersburg) Institute for Stage Arts in 1928. In early 1920s he joined FEKS group, founded by Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg. Firstly he acted in the Grigori Kozintsev's silent films, such as The Overcoat and New Babylon. In early 1930s he became a head of Acting and Directing Master Class in Lenfilm Studios. First film he wrote and directed was "Twenty-two Misfortunes" in 1930. Later he was appointed to produce the screen versions of famous classics of Socialist Realism. "The Young Guard" (1948), based on the novel by Alexander Fadeyev, combined a panoramic view of war with detailed studies of individual personalities. Gerasimov's screen version of Mikhail Sholokov's novel ''And Quiet Flows the Don'' (1957)- the two-part film was praised inside and outside the Soviet Union as a significant contribution to the development of Soviet film. Both these films were considered as the exemplary works by soviet authorities. In his last film "Leo Tolstoy", he starred in the role of Leo Tolstoy together with his wife Tamara Makarova as Leo's wife. For this film he was awarded the Lenin Prize, one of the Soviet Union's top honors in 1984. Sergei Gerasimov was one of the most reputable film directors and screenwriters in the Soviet Union. The oldest film school in the world, VGIK, is named after Sergei Gerasimov. He died of a heart attack in 1985. ...

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Georgi Kropachyov, Konstantin Yershov: Viy or Spirit of Evil(1967)

Directors: Georgi Kropachyov, Konstantin Yershov.
Writers: Nikolai Gogol (story), Georgi Kropachyov (writer).
Stars: Leonid Kuravlyov, Natalya Varley, Aleksei Glazyrin

A young priest is ordered to preside over the wake of witch in a small old wooden church of a remote village. This means spending three nights alone with the corpse with only his faith to protect him. IMDb

Kirill Serebrennikov - Biography

Kirill Serebrennikov is one of the most talented theater and film directors of modern Russia. He holds Russian national TV, film and theater awards and a Grand Prix from the Rome Film Festival for his movie “Playing the Victim.”

Kirill Serebrennikov was born on 7 September 1969 in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. As a boy Serebrennikov dreamt of becoming a Soviet cinema star like Andrey Mironov, but his parents, a school teacher and a doctor, thought he should be something more traditional – such as a doctor or a scientist. When he was in school, Serebrennikov staged a school play, which gave him his first taste of directing and got him hooked for life.

At 17, Serebrennikov came to Moscow to enroll in a theater college, but as an outsider with no necessary connections in the world of theater, he was turned down. He returned home and pursued a degree in physics at the Rostov University, graduating with honors.

However, physics couldn’t kill his love of theater. While at university Serebrennikov started staging plays – first on amateur stages and then on professional ones. During the seven years following his gradation, Serebrennikov staged a dozen plays in nearly all of Rostov’s theatres.

At about the same time he began his TV career – directing music videos and documentaries and nearly 100 commercial advertisements. His daring staging of Aleksandr Pushkin’s “Little Tragedies” was so out of line with the classical interpretation, it made him a local sensation, attracting the discontent and admiration of theater critics. He won a prize for the staging at a regional theater festival.

His fame reached as far as Moscow where he was invited to work. The great breakthrough came with the staging of “Plasticin,” a tragic story of a small-town boy, raped by his peers, who dies at the end of the play. Because of the controversial content, none of the city’s directors or actors wanted anything to do with the play. Serebrennikov decided to take his chances, although he did somewhat change the original script. For the first six months the production appeared to be a failure, but then word about the scandalous play got out and soon it was impossible to get tickets to see “Plasticin.” It blew up the theater community of Moscow and kick started Serebrennikov’s career in the Russian capital. Since then he’s won practically every national film and theater award.

Serebrennikov has also enjoyed accolades as a film director. “Playing the Victim” won him the Grand Prize at the 1st Rome Film Festival in 2006. His success was followed by “Yury’s Day,” which won awards both at home and in the international arena.
Serebrennikov currently works under the roof of the renowned Chekhov Moscow Art Theater. He also continues to stage plays for other theaters in the capital. Some of his works include, “Threepenny Opera” by Bertolt Brecht, Tenessee Williams’ “Sweet Bird of Youth,” “Pillowman” by Martin McDonagh and “Some Explicit Polaroids” by Mark Ravenhill.
For a man who never received a formal education in theater directing, Serebrennikov is doing exceptionally well, perhaps because of it, not in spite of it. His out of the box thinking, which goes beyond everything traditional and accepted, guarantees an original interpretation of anything he undertakes. Serebrennikov has been invited to teach a master class at the Harvard Stanislavsky summer school of drama and he also teaches a directing class in Moscow, where he is raising a whole new generation of theater directors.
“I am often portrayed as a provocateur, but provocation for provocation’s sake is boring and useless. Provocation should be backed up by sense. Sometimes you need to pinch a patient’s nose to help him take the medicine. This is what doctors do… as do directors…” ...

Friday, 5 August 2011

Russian war documentary may run for Oscar

A Russian war documentary is to be nominated for the most prestigious cinema award in the States – the Oscars.
The chronicle of World War II – referred to in Russia as the Great Patriotic War – is scheduled to compete in the Short Subject Documentary category. The film’s nomination was timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II.

War: the Color of Time is not a traditional documentary as we know it. It does not feature narration, simply war chronicles and Soviet wartime songs. The idea behind the project was to show war as it was seen 70 years ago, in all its colors, horrors and moments of happiness.

The creators of this war tribute spent over 400 hours watching miles of archive film. Some 60 hours of wartime footage was picked out for further cutting and editing. The selected material was restored in an LA-based lab, and the colors recreate the atmosphere of the early 1940s. Each and every black-and-white shot was colored by hand and eventually made up a movie worthy of international appreciation.

Oksana Bychkova: Piter FM - Питер FM (2006)

Director: Oksana Bychkova
Writers: Nana Grinshtein, Oksana Bychkova
Stars: Yekaterina Fedulova, Yevgeni Tsyganov,Aleksei Barabash

Masha works as a DJ for a popular Petersburg radio show; Maksim is a young architect. Masha’s getting ready to marry her old classmate, Kostia; Maskim has won an international competition and has just been offered work in Germany. Neither he nor Masha, however, are sure about things. Masha still doesn’t know if she loves Kostia or has simply got used to him. Maksim is scared that working in Germany will spoil his lifelong dream to design an amazing building in Petersburg. And who knows what would’ve happened, if Masha hadn’t lost her cell phone — and Maksim hadn’t found it…? (Promotional text)

Romantic comedies fix things; they find lost cell phones and put them back in the proper pockets. The classic three-act, seven-beat structure of a romantic comedy is invariably designed to illustrate a loss and then correct it, even if it didn’t happen in the first place. This essential scaffolding must not, however, overshadow the unexpected artfulness of something other than structure, be it fickle human nature or the equally erratic workings of fate itself. If a screenwriter “hits” his or her structural beats too hard in the closing moments of a third act, the audience is left wondering: What degree of arbitrary, unnerving existence outside the plot caused this insistent imposition of form? Oksana Bychkova’s debut film speaks to this classic conflict between destiny and design,between choice and chance.

Before Piter FM was even released, providence and planning were evident in the project’s early conception. Bankrolled by television company CTC, this feature was explicitly designed to inspire feelings of “hope” in its audience. Faith in providence (come what may) is, after all, part and parcel of a typical evening’s lineup on CTC. Many of the station’s browbeaten, love-starved, or provincial heroines strive admirably—and adorably!—against the constant blows of destiny. [1] CTC Media president Aleksandr Rodnianskii said Bychkova’s film would respect this format, whilst playing upon the structural clichés of situation comedy. It would be an innovative “dramedy”—even though this term had already been applied by Moscow’s press to another CTC show, If You Weren’t Born Pretty… (Ne rodis' krasivoi…). [2]

Dramatic elements in the comedy of Piter FM come from the outside world, from the busy, unpredictable intentions of the Big City. The little social connection of Masha and Maksim’s love affair tries to define itself against something much bigger. It steps into the rubric of quixotic films such as A Girl Without an Address (Devushka bez adresa; dir. Èldar Riazanov, 1957) or I Stride Through Moscow (Ia shagaiu po Moskve; dir. Georgii Daneliia, 1963). In these movies happenstance is a vital, cheerful counterweight to the rigid structures of Stalinist planning: the little plans of the Thaw get lost in big crowds and do happily.

Reviewed by David MacFadyen© 2006 in KinoKultura

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Boris Khlebnikov - Biography

The young film director Boris Khlebnikov already honoured with numerous cinema awards has produced only two full-length feature films: Koktebel (2003) and Svobodnoe plavanie (Free Floating) (2006). He states, however, he has made only one and a half films, because the first one, Koktebel was created jointly with his friend Aleksei Popogrebsky.

“Neither Koktebel nor Free Floating is a great work of art boasting vivid and unique language. I am happy with my films, but they are not outstanding. There is probably some theme but I do not presume to settle it in definite terms”, Klebnikov says.

Boris Khlebnikov is a certificated cinema critic, who had set about directing films rather of mere curiosity. One of the initiators of the Russian project Kinoteatr.doc, highlighting new genius film directors he has turned out to be one of the geniuses.

“I have not any super goal. I am not going to reclaim anyone. When Tolstoy was writing Sevastopol Stories he was a merry officer who enjoyed carousing and wrote brilliantly. By the end of his life he felt himself a messiah and became an awful bearded guy who walked barefoot and wrote only the Bible for Children and the story Bul’ka. He wanted to educate and teach, but became just a stupid spiteful old man. Feeling oneself a messiah is a true death. A serial maniac set upon killing all blondes with breasts of DD size and a man who is eager to reclaim everybody are generally the same thing”, the film director asserts.

Boris Khlebnikov was born on August 28, 1972 in Moscow. For two years he studied at a biological faculty, and then worked as a laboratory assistant at a rat vivarium, sold garments at Luzhniki market, and digged trenches for house foundations. Later he entered the cinema criticism faculty of VGIK (All-Russian State Institute of Cinema) in Moscow. During the studies he directed the 2-minute long film Mimokhod (By the Way) jointly with Aleksei Popogrebsky. Afterwards Khlebnikov made another short-length film under the title Khitraya Lyagushka (A Sly Frog).

Boris Khlebnikov debuted in full-length cinema with Koktebel (2003), a joint work with Aleksei Popogrebsky. The Son (Gleb Puskepalis) and The Father (Igor Csernyevics) are striving to reach the sea. Now they go in a freight car, now in a long-range driver’s cab, sometimes walk from house to house, through fields and woods. They have nothing left in Moscow. Far away, by the sea, there is a hope for a new happier life. For the Father this journey is a chance to revive his self-confidence, and his son’s trust and friendship. The Boy’s dream is the seaside town of Koktebel, where albatrosses are soaring in the never falling wind. When in the midway the father finds a place he wants to call a new house, the Boy has to choose between his father’s happiness and his own dream. ...

Stanislav Govorukhin: Not by Bread Alone - Не хлебом единым(2005)

Director: Stanislav Govorukhin
Writers: Vladimir Valutskiy (screenplay), Vladimir Dudintsev (novel)
Stars: Svetlana Khodchenkova, Mikhail Eliseev,Viktor Sukhorukov

In a recent interview, Stanislav Govorukhin described the excitement with which he read Vladimir Dudintsev’s 1956 literary sensation. Appearing in Novyi mir, the Bible of the Thaw, Not by Bread Alone became the most important literary text of de-Stalinization’s early stages. As a twenty-year old, Govorukhin waited impatiently for a library copy and devoured it. He has stated that he took it in “as a fresh wind, as the sweet word of freedom.” [1] For Govorukhin and other Soviet citizens who came of age during the Thaw, reading Not by Bread Alone became a defining moment in their lives, a cultural text that claimed a hallowed place alongside films such as Mikhail Kalatozov’s The Cranes are Flying (Letiat zhuravli, 1957).

Now Govorukhin has updated Dudintsev’s novel for contemporary audiences. As a film, Not be Bread Alone can be read on multiple levels. It represents another installment in Govorukhin’s personal attempt to explore Russia’s past, following his 2003 film Bless the Woman (Blagoslovite zhenshchinu) as well as his three non-fiction films of the early 1990s. It can also be placed as a third part of a loose trilogy—alongside Sharpshooter of the Voroshilov Regiment (Voroshilovskii strelok, 1999) and Bless the Woman—about Russian women and their symbolic role as bearers of Russian-ness. In addition, the film follows Govorukhin’s reliance on genre cinema drawn from literary roots. Finally and more broadly, Not by Bread Alone represents one of the increasing numbers of Putin-era films that wrestle with the Soviet past. It can therefore be compared to Pavel Chukhrai’s A Driver for Vera (Voditel' dlia Very, 2004), Sergei Ursuliak’s Long Farewell (Dolgoe proshchanie, 2004), Aleksandr Veledinskii’s Russian (Russkoe, 2004), and Aleksei Uchitel'’s Dreaming of Space (Kosmos kak predchuvstvie, 2005), just to name the most recent examples of this exploration.

Not by Bread Alone follows the basic plot of Dudintsev’s novel about the postwar Stalin era, though Govorukhin gives the tale a new ending (more on this below). Its hero, Lopatkin (Mikhail Eliseev), attempts (first in the industrial city of Muzga and later in Moscow) to invent a new tube-casting machine that will benefit Soviet industry. As a former war hero who has not joined the Communist Party and who holds individualistic ideas, Lopatkin runs afoul of Soviet bureaucracies at every level. His particular enemy, Drozdov (Viktor Sukhorukov), personifies the entrenched structures of Soviet power and the Stalinist values that governed this nomenklatura. In the middle of both the personal and political struggle between these two men is Drozdov’s wife, Nadezhda (Svetlana Khodchenkova, the “blessed woman” of Govorukhin’s previous film). Nadia has married Drozdov as a means to escape poverty and to obtain the lifestyle that only a wife of a connected bureaucrat can enjoy. She is, however, drawn to the younger, more attractive, more Russian, idealistic Lopatkin. Eventually she chooses him—and, thus, the proper morals—over her husband. As a result of this decision, Drozdov and his mother (played by veteran actress Valentina Berezutskaia) throw Nadia out of their luxurious Moscow apartment and brand her a whore. Drozdov and his cronies successfully steal Lopatkin’s inventions and have him arrested for crimes against the state. This ominous Stalin-era charge is “proven” because Nadia worked with Lopatkin on his latest project without proper security clearance. Thus, the personal and the political collide and have devastating costs. True to Thaw-era culture, which Govorukhin painstakingly recreates and evokes in the film, the end offers some hope. Nadia saves Lopatkin’s notebook from the attempt to burn his ideas, enlists the help of a sympathetic Soviet minister (played by Putin’s favorite singer, Aleksandr Rozenbaum), and bears Lopatkin’s child (whom she names for her lover). By making good on an earlier promise not to abandon Lopatkin and the ideas he stands for, Nadia has preserved not only a sense of morality that contrasts with Stalinist ideals, she also has ensured that these qualities will survive in future generations.
Reviewed by Stephen M. Norris© in KinoKultura

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Yuri Kara: Tomorrow Was the War - Завтра была война (1987)

Director: Yuri Kara
Writers: Boris Vasilyev (novel), Boris Vasilyev (screenplay)
Stars: Sergey Nikonenko, Nina Ruslanova,Yuliya Tarkhova

Based upon the title story by the classic of the national literature Boris Vasilyev (The Dawns Here Are Quiet Officers) this film recreates with an amazing authenticity the atmosphere of the 1930s-1940s Soviet Union which stirs at once the feelings of admiration and horror and thus mesmerizes and enticesThe year is 1940. A small provincial town. A 9-year schoolgirl Vika Lyuberetskaya recites poems by the banned poet Sergey Yesenin. Soon her father is arrested as an enemy of the people. The girl gets hunted at school after that and she commits suicide. And tomorrow the war starts and almost all of yesterdays schoolchildren are to die in its fire Somebody was burned in a tank somebody was hanged for participation in resistance somebody became an ace pilot. It is a great movie see it if you have an opportunity. ...

Awards 2

Mikhail Romm - Biography

The great Russian film director Mikhail Romm lived and worked in hard and troubled times of the Soviet regime. A man of iron will and indomitable perseverance he was a very kind person. He brought up a whole galaxy of brilliant film-directors, including Andrei Tarkovsky, Grigori Chukhrai, Vasili Shukshin, Nikita Mikhalkov, Georgi Daneliya, Aleksandr Mitta, Igor Talankin, Rezo Chkheidze, Gleb Panfilov, Vladimir Basov, Tengiz Abuladze, and many others.

Mikhail Ilyich Romm was born on January 11, 1901 in Irkutsk where his father, a social democrat, had been exiled to. His mother was a passionate theatre lover and imparted her love for art to her children.

«From the age of nine I grew up in Moscow, —Mikhail Romm writes — I graduated from gymnasium in 1917 and entered the Moscow College for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. I decided to become a sculptor. However it did not prevent me from developing in the field of theatre, as an actor».

In the hard years of the so-called ‘war communism’ Romm found himself in the Red Army, as a soldier, then a telephone operator, and even an inspector.

In 1925 he graduated from the Faculty of Sculpture. Literature was another passion of his. In the 1920s Romm translated the French classics: Flober, Maupassant, and Zola. Moreover, he wrote novels, stories and short stories himself.

In the early 1930s Romm started working as an assistant of director. Later he was offered to direct a film himself, but under severe conditions. The result was Romm’s Boule de suif (Pyshka (1934)). This movie initiated Romm’s collaboration with cameraman Boris Volchek (1905—1974).

In 1936 marshal Voroshilov watched the Western movie The Lost Patrol (1934) by John Ford and suggested that Soviet cinematographers would make their own version. Mikhail Romm directed The Thirteen (Trinadtsat (1936)) that glorified a feat of the Red Army men. The only female role in this movie was played by Yelena Kuzmina (1909-1979), who became Romm’s wife “till the end of his life”.

The 1937-1939 saw the release of Romm’s famous dilogy about Lenin (Lenin in October (1937) and Lenin in 1918 (1939)). The official acknowledgment of these films put Mikhail Romm among the leading Soviet film directors.

Dream (Mechta(1943)) starring Faina Ranevskaya and other brilliant actors is considered the pinnacle of Romm’s creation. It was made right before the war. The film reveals deep spiritual crises, material and spiritual misery of inhabitants of a hostel titled Dream (Mechta). President Roosevelt said it was one of the greatest films in the world.

During the war Romm stayed in Moscow, while his wife was evacuated to Tashkent with a cinematographic group, and their daughter was in Ufa.

In 1945 Romm directed the film Girl No. 217 (Chelovek No. 217 (1945)) about a Soviet girl enslaved by fascists. The film took a prize at the Cannes festival and Stalin award. ...

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Leonid Gorovets: Ladies Tailor -Дамский портной (1990)

Director: Leonid Gorovets
Writers: Aleksandr Borshchagovskiy (play), Aleksandr Borshchagovskiy (screenplay)
Stars: Innokenti Smoktunovsky, Tatyana Vasilyeva,Yelena Kozelkova

Set in Kiev, Russia, on 29 September 1941, this feature chronicles the last 24 hours in the lives of a Jewish tailor and his family just prior to their deportation and execution at Babi Yar. IMDB


Leonid Gorovets' 1990 film Ladies' Tailor opens like a documentary, with the shot of a notice posted in Kiev on the day before the infamous massacre by the Nazis at Babi Yar:

On Monday, Sept. 29, 1941 at 8:00 a.m., all Jews of the city of Kiev and its surroundings are to report to the corner of Melnikovaia and Dokterivskaia Streets (by the cemeteries). To be taken along: documents and valuables, as well as warm clothes, underwear, etc. Any Jew who does not follow these instructions will be found and shot. Any citizens who enter apartments abandoned by the Jews and take their goods will be shot.
The notice itself shines brightly, in contrast to the amber hues of most of the movie, the action of which takes place in the hours from an autumn afternoon to morning the next day. Verisimilitude, however, is only one--and perhaps not the most important--impetus for the dark lighting choice in what turns out to be a highly symbolic, even allegorical study of the dark days of Soviet Jewry. As realism gives way to symbol, we are inclined to ask why Gorovets (and Aleksandr Borshchagovsky, on whose play this film is based) should choose a ladies' tailor as his hero doomed to Nazi destruction. Indeed, we might ask if this is principally a Holocaust film at all. Although the tailor's Yiddish affect and the remnants of his Hebrew ritual could still be found in war-torn Kiev, his milieu had essentially died much earlier in Soviet history, so that the Nazis killed many more Jewish engineers, teachers, and trolley drivers than Tevyes, tailors, and traditional Jewish tavern-keepers. In Ladies' Tailor, the director takes a figure reminiscent of the Sholem Aleichem world of the early 1910s, rather than the Soviet Union in the 1940s, and, [End Page 180] as we will see, propels him 30 years further ahead, to the mass Jewish emigration of the 1970s and 1980s. ...

Zhanna Prokhorenko

 May 11, 1940  — August 1, 2011 R.I.P.

Best known to European and North American audiences for her starring role in Grigori Chukhrai's 1959 film, Ballad of a Soldier.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Semyon Aranovich:Torpedo bombers-Торпедоносцы (1983)

Director: Semyon Aranovich
Writers: Yuri German (short stories), Svetlana Karmalita
Stars: Rodion Nahapetov, Aleksei Zharkov,Andrei Boltnev

1944. A marine air force regiment is stationed at a small garrison. This garrison is both front and hinterland at the same time. Pilots live here with their families. They give parties and go to concerts. And yet, any operational flight can turn out to be the last in their lives.

Silver Medal “Dovzhenko” to S. Karmalita, S. Aranovich, V. Ilyin, I. Kaplan, R. Nakhapetov and A. Zharkov (1984).
State Prize of the USSR to S. Karmalita, S. Aranovich,
V. Ilyin, I. Kaplan and R. Nakhapetov (1986). ...