Friday, 30 September 2011

Andrei Konchalovsky: Uncle Vanya - Дядя Ваня (1970)

Director: Andrey Konchalovskiy
Writers: Anton Chekhov (play), Andrey Konchalovskiy (screenplay)
Stars: Irina Anisimova-Wulf, Sergei Bondarchuk, Irina Kupchenko


 Award of the International Organization for promotion of culture and art cinema facilities at the II International Film Festival in Belgrade (Yugoslavia) (out of competition) (1972) - Silver medal at the VII International Film Festival in Milan (Italy) (1974) - Certificate of participation in I Film Festival in Tehran (Iran) (1972) - Prize "sink" at the XIX International Film Festival in San Sebastian (Spain) (1971) - Certificate of participation at the XIX International Film Festival in San Sebastian (Spain) (1971) - Certificate of participation in the ICF in Chicago (USA) (1971)

The movie with English subtitles here! 

Legendary Russian film director Tatyana Lioznova dies

On September 29, legendary Russian film director Tatyana Lioznova died in Moscow at the age of 88.
Lioznova is known, first of all, as the maker of the first Soviet series, titled “Seventeen Moments of Spring”. 
The plot is set in the last days of WWII, and the main character is a high-ranking official in Nazi Germany, who really is Russian and works for Soviet intelligence services.
Shot in 1973, this film was a tremendous success.
Another well-known work of Tatyana Loiosnova is “Three Poplars at Plyuschikha Street,” a sad and touching love story.
Liosnova has shot only 9 films. However, critics say that “The Three Poplars” alone is enough to call her a genius.
Tatyana’s life was not easy. In her youth, she was sent down from the Institute of Cinematography with a strange formulation “for lack of life experience.” However, Tatyana never imagined another career for herself that that of a filmmaker. But it took her gigantic efforts to prove that she was quite capable of being a film director. She wrote film scenarios, staged theater productions, worked as a film director’s assistant. Sometimes, she had no work at all, and had to sew and sell dresses to earn her living. But she never gave up and never complained.
Finally, success came. Tatyana was allowed to make films and even series.
Lioznova had a rare talent for choosing actors. She could see an actor’s hidden talents like no one else.
She shot her last movie in 1986. ...

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Leonid Trauberg: Dead Souls - Мeртвые души (1960)

Director: Leonid Trauberg
Writers: Nikolai Gogol (poem), Leonid Trauberg
Stars: Nina Agapova, Vladimir Belokurov,Aleksei Gribov

Screen version of satricial novel of the same name by Nikolay Gogol.

Leonid Trauberg was one of the founders of the notorious Factory of Eccentric Actors in St. Petersburg in 1921. With G. Kozintsev they joined their careers for decades, working on and off as a collaborative duo. Their names are often mentioned in connection with Formalists, together they attempted to create the Russian equivalent of Futurism, Surrealism or Dada. Among their collaborative work the most famous became their last silent film "The New Babylon / Novyi Vavilon" (1929), written and directed by both of them, inspired by the writings of Emile Zola. Their other common works include titles: "Shinel" (1926), "Bratishka" (1927), "Odna" (1931), "Vozvrashcheniye Maksima" (1937), "Vyborgskaya Storona" (1939). Shortly after the government banned their last collaborative work, post-war drama "Plain People / Prostyye lyudi" (1946), they split up and went their separate ways. Trauberg for few more years continued with directing and made 3 more films (Soldiers Were Going / Shli soldaty, 1958; Dead Souls / Myortvye dushi, 1960; Wind of Freedom / Volnyy veter, 1961). "Wind of Freedom" was his last film, after which he took the position of director of the Higher Course in Direction and later wrote books about popular culture, operetta, and cinema.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Konstantin Buslov: Loot - Бабло (2011)

Director: Konstantin Buslov
Writer: Konstantin Buslov
Stars: Maria Bersenyova, Roman Madyanov, Gia Gogishvili

In 1991 there appeared money in Russia. In 2011 money decides everything… Moscow. Modern days. A bag with one million of euro was stolen from the car of an authoritative and very rich businessman with “great connections” . Cash changes its owner very quickly, from one person to another… And the story began when Grigory an oligarch refused to pay taxes fairly. ...

 Best first film Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Russia, 2011


What connection is there between Lev Tolstoy’s final novella, The Forged Coupon (Fal’shivyi kupon, 1911), and Konstantin Buslov’s first feature film, the gangster black comedy, Loot (Bablo, 2011)? The Forged Coupon is remarkably cinematic with its episodic structure, strong, bold character sketches, a criss-crossing, circular narrative structure, emblematic situations and, in the spirit of Gogol’s Dead Souls and Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, an attempt to capture the tortured soul of all of Russia - from the Tsar to the lowliest peasant in one highly morally conscious epic tale. Similarly, Loot is a multi-stranded, relay narrative of numerous colorful episodes that connect disparate groups across all social strata all captured by the contemporary zeitgeist of corruption, crime and hope in the salvation of money that appears out of nowhere. The Forged Coupon, described by Viktor Shklovskii as “the first film script written in the world,” (Shklovskii 1982) has been adapted or reimagined numerous times for the cinema: The Counterfeit Note (Chardynin, 1913), Die Abenteuer eines Zehnmarkscheines (Viertel, 1926), L’Argent (Bresson, 1983), Paha Maa (Louhimies, 2005). And now without direct attribution, but with clear resonances comes Loot, an expertly crafted crime genre film that borrows narratively and thematically from Tolstoy's last tale.

The Forged Coupon is such an important work for film history as it gave rise to the recent fascination with modular, complex narratives through its sophisticated structural model of an accursed object being passed on from one person to the next in a kind of enchanted relay where only an extreme non-vengeful response can break the evil chain and lead to redemption. It influenced the narrative structure of myriads of films about objects passing through history and their impact on their temporary owners, objects that range from cars (Kopeika, 2002) to violins (Red Violin, 1998) as well as the transitory moments of connections in the films of Preminger, Altman and Shakhnazarov.

Loot follows the spirit of Tolstoy’s narrative only the size of the forgery is bigger—a briefcase with 1 million forged Euros intended as a bribe for tax inspectors is stolen by some Georgian petty thieves and then stolen again by a corrupt cop and stolen again by another group of criminals and then stolen again... The briefcase goes on a journey from Moscow to Kharkov and back to Moscow and everyone who comes in contact with it dreams of what good things they will do with the money before being deceived and having the case stolen in an endless chain of events. The plot is remarkably simple for such an expertly crafted and convoluted story involving so many different characters. The case is anxiously being tracked by the cops, businessmen, tattooed sex workers, Georgian petty crims, Ukrainian mafiosi, Russian heavies. In fact, everyone is searching for the slippery million Euros. Displaying a remarkably astute investment strategy, some plan to use the money to open a petrol station, others dream of a hotel in Spain while others just want to grab the money and run. They are all searching for the briefcase, but no one can hold on to the loot for long before losing it to someone else. The plot is not nearly as important as the individual episodes that explode with astounding character performances by a large and inventive cast. ...

Reviewed by Greg Dolgopolov © 2012 in KinoKultura

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Mikhail Brashinsky: Black Ice - Гололед (2003)

Director: Mikhail Brashinsky
Writers: Konstantin Murzenko, Mikhail Brashinsky
Stars: Viktoriya Tolstoganova, Ilya Shakunov,Konstantin Yushkevich


 If Aleksandr Sokurov presented the longest tracking shot in the history of a cinema with his film Russian Ark, Mikhail Brashinskii's debut film Black Ice transforms Sokurov's record into the opposite. His 70-minute film contains no less than 1011 cuts, when the average for a 90-minute picture constitutes 600 cuts. Such analytical calculation of his own montage would probably be expected from a director, who previously worked as a film-critic. But this statistical evidence remains the only technical information in the press-release. Overall, Black Ice is very intelligent film, which investigates different aspects that hint at the search for a new cinema. Black Ice is far from examining the weather conditions in Moscow, but the emotional condition of contemporary Muscovites. Somewhat, the film is about the freezing of the feeling of love. The plot is not developed; in the film we see a man (he) and a woman (she) who, in fact, are neither connected nor familiar with each other; they casually met in hospital. "She" (Viktoria Tolstoganova) is a lawyer; she has left the husband, and sees another man, while her former husband (Egor Pazenko) still loves her. She does not see that she is in danger in connection with her plan to use a tape with illegally made recordings as compromising evidence in court. Or rather she appreciates this danger, but has not yet decided what to do, seeing neither the possible consequences, nor the significance of her own actions. Besides, she fails to realize the constancy of the love of her former husband. "He" (Il'ia Shakunov, an actor of the Petersburg TYuZ) is a gay translator who, after the random meeting with her, is pursued by her image which frequently pops up in front of him. As a consequence, his relationship with a young boy no longer satisfies him. Both he and she lose sight of the meaning of life, because of their own inability to see others and to see love, as perception relies on proximity instead of distance. In film there are numerous missed chances and possibilities, because people have lost the overall view and the capacity to look at things from a distance. The theme of vision and perception is emphasized in the film. Not only do the characters experience difficulties with vision (several layers of contact lenses, the use of an acid instead of a cleanser for lenses), but neither the viewer is allowed an overall perspective on the events. Brashinskii uses as a number of short close-ups, which are followed by a few wide angle shots, an approach which creates some degree of irritation for the spectator. The convulsive and jerky movements of the camera provoke a certain dizziness in the spectator, and the characters are even sick from the proximity of objects. The use of close-ups denies the possibilities of a surveying view and coincides with the director's desire not to tell a story.

 Reviewed by Birgit Beumers ©2003 in KinoKultura

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Slava Ross:Siberia, Monamour - Сибирь, Монамур (2011)

Director: Slava Ross
Writer: Slava Ross
Stars: Lidiya Bairashevskay, Nikolai Kozak, Sergey Novikov

First prize, International debut film festival, Russia, 2011
Best directing, Window to Europe Film Festival, Vyborg, Russia, 2011
First prize, Festival Russian kino 'Moscow Premier Screenings', Russia, 2011


Siberia, MonAmour is the second film of director Slava Ross, who debuted with Dumb Fat Hare (Tupoi zhirnyi zaiats, 2006). It combines with a surprising professional conventionality and originality, stereotype and archetype, and has been deservedly recognized with the main prize at the IX edition of the exuberant “Spirit of Fire” festival in Khanty-Mansiisk for first and second films (19-25 February 2011). Certainly, watching a film about Siberia at a Siberian festival helps, although the modern architecture of the affluent city of Khanty-Mansiisk—the administrative centre of Yugra Autonomous Region, situated on a rich oil patch along the Irtysh river, close to its confluence with the Ob’—has very little to do with the hard and impoverished taiga life of the film’s characters. Unlike most Russian films in and outside of the main competition, Siberia, MonAmour quite comfortably displayed its identity of a mainstream film, flaunting sound and knowable characters, inhabiting an equally sound narrative, and an excellent camera work (by Iurii Raiskii and Aleksei Todorov), which does not shy away from sentimental, even trite juxtaposition of majestic Siberian panoramas and emotionally charged close-ups. At the centre of the main, realistic plot-line stands the little boy Leshka (the beguile child-actor Misha Prots’ko), who lives with his fiercely religious grand-dad Ivan (played by the veteran character actor Petr Zaichenko, who received the award for Best Actor) in a remote deserted settlement, called with sad irony “MonAmour.” Both survive on goat milk, some game, and on whatever the boy’s Uncle Iura—the brother of his deceased mother, who lives in a distant village—could smuggle past the watchful eye of his wife Anna, who objects not so much to helping the boy and the old man, but to her husband making those long and dangerous trips deep into the taiga, insisting that they leave MonAmour and move in with them and their three daughters. The twosome, however, especially the boy, are determined to stay put and wait for their long-gone father and son to finally return to the only home they have, unaware that he, once a decorated Chechen-war hero, has been knifed to death in a drunken brawl with his newly found criminal cronies. The mundane dynamics of the relationship between devoted grandfather and his precocious grandson, punctuated by Uncle Iura’s sporadic visits, is thrown into disarray by two criminal antiquarians, raiding the settlement’s abandoned houses for valuable old icons. It so happens that the only precious item they actually come across is in grand-dad Ivan’s house, where they are invited to spend the night. And in defiance of the sacred law of hospitality, the thugs steal the icon, leaving grand-dad almost dead after a skirmish, and the child alone to care for him. The original and self-sufficient main narrative is intertwined with a secondary, sensational and naturalistic plot line, highly influenced by the aesthetics of chernukha films, which is uncannily remindful of Sergei Loznitsa’s My Joy (Schast’e moe, 2010). This plot-line introduces a couple of military men in search of a woman they should deliver to the commander of the local base. The senior member of the search crew, the Captain (Nikolai Kozak), is a heavy drinking veteran of the Chechen wars, who always seems to bounce on the verge of some kind of major trouble—whether a nervous breakdown or a fatal shootout. His young driver, on the other hand, is a recent, wide-eyed recruit called Zhelezniak, who promptly falls in love with the young prostitute Liuba, whom they manage to buy off her pimps in order to deliver her to their lascivious base commander. Due to a sudden change of heart, however, upon arrival the Captain declares the girl is his niece and therefore off sexual limits. And when the commander pulls rank in his attempts to claim his ownership of her, the Captain kills him and flees with the young lovers. While the second plot line seems superfluous, it is easy to see its merits with regard to potential audiences—both Russian and foreign. It is rife with ethnic, sexual and gender stereotypes that have proven commercially successful since Aleksei Balabanov’s Brother (Brat, 1996): corrupt and disintegrating power structures, in this case the military; treacherous Chechen pimps and pub owners, who have reached as far as the heart of Siberia; devastating poverty, breeding prostitution and women trafficking, and, to top it all, the possibility of redemption, epitomized by the vigilante hero, who usually is a Chechen war veteran. Reviewed by Christina Stojanova © 2011 in KinoKultura

Mikhalkov's Burnt by the Sun 2 to Aspire to Oscar Prize

Nikita Mikhalkov’s film Burnt by the Sun 2. The Citadel will aspire to the Oscar prize as a representative of Russia. The commission under the chairmanship of Vladimir Menshov has nominated Mikhalkov’s film for Oscar in the best foreign film category. Among other aspirants for the nomination from Russia Elena by Andrei Zvyagintsev and Faust by Alexander Sokurov were also considered. Vladimir Menshov, the Head of the Oscar Committee, refused to comment on the commission’s decision, mentioning “I haven’t crossed my t’s yet”. ...

Film's Illusions: Kuleshov Revisited

FOR a century, moving images have been captivating millions around the world. Yet many of the attractions which bring people into cinema theatres and, more recently, which fix their eyes to television screens for hours on end, are only illusions. We say 'movies' but no movement exists in film -- it is produced in the spectator's mind. The mechanics of this illusion is explained today with reference to two optical phenomena: The persistence of vision, described theoretically by Peter Mark Roget in 1824, and the so-called phi-phenomenon, also known as 'stroboscopic effect,' discovered by the gestalt psychologist Max Wertheimer.(1)

These two effects permit the human brain to perceive a series of related static images (more precisely, motion phases) as a continuous motion. It is this illusion that permits the existence of moving pictures and, more recently, television. Unlike the motion pictures, which need only the illusion of motion, the electronic images of television and video create both the illusion of motion and image. These illusions are the sine qua non prerequisite of the audiovisual media. Without them, they would not exist. Yet they are not the only illusions which the film and television media produce.

There is also the illusion of depth (or the third dimension).(2) Both the celluloid film and the electronic image are by definition two-dimensional; they are projected and observed on a two-dimensional surface. Despite this, film (and television) audiences have the perception of depth -- or rather illusion of depth. The intensity of this illusion varies according to the technology and technique applied by the filmmaker. Since the early years of motion pictures, filmmakers have been aware of this phenomenon which they control through a variety of techniques. For example, the introduction on a massive scale of the long take technique (also called synthetic editing) through Orson Welles' Citizen Kane(3) brought about an increased illusion of depth. This technique has become one of the fundamental stylistic characteristics of the post-World-War-II cinema world-wide.(4)
The illusion of motion and depth in motion pictures, (including the illusion of image in tele-media) are fundamental factors in film and television's intrinsic disposition to produce in the viewer an intense illusion of the real world. The affinity between the projected image and the surface reality creates a strong persuasive pressure on the audience who easily accepts the film image as the image of reality.(5) This effect has been defined by the German film historian and theoretician Siegfried Kracauer: "Struck by the reality character of the [resultant] images, the spectator cannot help reacting to them as he would to the material aspects of nature in the raw which these photographic images reproduce."(6) Paradoxically, this "reality character" of the film image may have little to do with the truth.

There are further reasons why the film audience tends to submit easily to the power of the cinematic illusion; one of them is the very nature of film viewing. In the cinema a person watches the screen in relative isolation -- cut off from the outside world by the darkness of the auditorium and seating arrangement. This creates a distinctive atmosphere which the German psychologist Hugo Mauerhofer calls the "cinema situation."(7) The "cinema situation" intensifies the hypnotic power of the film image.

The intensity of the film-viewing experience can be illustrated by the fact that screen images may produce strong physiological reactions by the viewer, including increase of heartbeat rate, nausea, and vertigo. It is common knowledge that already during the first public film projection by the brothers Lumière in 1895, some front-row viewers panicked at the sight of the approaching locomotive in the Arrival of the Train. Extreme audience reactions (nausea) have been reported in connection with some horror films such as William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973). Nausea and vertigo have also been reported by audiences viewing images of vigorous motion (via aircraft, boat, rollercoaster, etc.), particularly those produced by large-screen and experimental projection systems such as Omnimax and Circorama; most of these systems stress the illusion of three-dimensionality. The extreme psychological effects of projected images provided the inspiration for the writer Anthony Burgess and director Stanley Kubrick who portrayed them through the "Ludovico Treatment" in their 1971 film Clockwork Orange.


Friday, 23 September 2011

The Annual Russian Film Week in New York Announces Siberia, Monamour by Slava Ross to Open the 2011 Event

 Today, the 11th Annual Russian Film Week in New York, presented by Global Advertising Strategies in partnership with Studio Clotho and the Russian Ministry of Culture, announced that Slava Ross' critically-acclaimed Siberia, Monamour, will open the 2011 event. Indifference by Oleg Flyangolts, My Father is Baryshnikov by Dmitry Povolotsky as well as Nikita Mikhalkov's Burnt by the Sun 2: The Citadel and Vladimir Kott's Gromozeka have also been added to this year's program. As previously announced, the 11th Annual Russian Film Week will run from October 28th through November 4th and will feature a diverse selection of modern Russian films. Founded in 2000, the Russian Film Week in New York has become the premier showcase of modern Russian cinema in North America. This year, the week organizers invited Katie Metcalfe, a programmer for the Sundance Film Festival, to curate the official selection. Katie's knowledge of the film festival audience will expand the Russian Film Week following and add exposure opportunities for participating filmmakers. An anticipated sophomore effort from Slava Ross, Siberia, Monamour, will kick off the week on October 28th at 7pm at the Village East Cinemas. Initially developed under the Cannes Residence Program, the film is co-produced by the legendary Luc Besson. The premier will include a post-screening discussion featuring Ross and the week's curator Katie Metcalfe. Following the screening, the film week will hold its official opening party at the Standard Hotel's High Line Room. A powerful story of life and death on the fringes of Russian society, Siberia, Monamour, centers around an old man and his grandson, residing in a deserted Siberian village. As they patiently wait for the boy's father, a pack of feral dogs hungry for anything alive, keep the boy and his grandfather isolated in the wilderness, far from the nearest village. Through this dangerous yet beautiful landscape wander a host of soldiers, marauders, prostitutes and drunks. Everyone is searching for an escape. "We are thrilled to introduce the week's audience to such an original and strikingly beautiful film," said Katie Metcalfe, the week's curator. "Siberia, Monamour, with its masterful direction by Slava Ross, will perfectly set the stage for the unique program of this year's film week. ...

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Stalingrad film to hit the big screen in 3D

The action takes place during the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942-43, one of the most bloody battles in history and a turning point in the Second World War. “It is a touching and dramatic love story. Of course, there will also be battle scenes,” says Bondarchuk. The movie, which will be shot in 3D technology, has a budget of $30m and is due to be released in 2013. The director’s The 9th Company (2005) took $20m (£12.2m) at the box office, a record for post-Soviet Russia. ...

Vladimir Khotinenko:The Moslem - Мусульманин (1995)

Director: Vladimir Khotinenko
Writer: Valeri Zalotukha
Stars: Yevgeny Mironov, Aleksandr Baluev, Nina Usatova

A Russian soldier, Nikolai Ivanov, returns home after seven years of captivity in Afghanistan. The film explicitly links his name with St. Nicholas. In Afghanistan, however, Nikolai converted to Islam and observes the rituals of his new religion in his home village. While he was away, his father committed suicide and his brother spent time in jail. In the new, postsoviet Russia, the villagers waste their days drinking and yearning for money. They call Nikolai "the Muslim" and violently oppose his moral way of life. Nikolai's brother juxtaposes his Orthodox faith, which is shown as non-existent, to the supposedly satanic and alien rituals of his Muslim sibling.

Set in post-perestroika Russia, the film boldly mixes the fragments of Russian Orthodox, Soviet, Western, postsoviet, and Muslim cultures in its search for an answer to the question: is it possible to articulate a narrative of coherent post-imperial identity?

In Russian history, there has always been a feeling that the world people live in is incomplete. And there has always been a desire to find something external which, if transplanted into this world, would somehow change it, turn it around and, thereby, make it more perfect. And this is the feeling we have now. There is an anticipation that someone will appear and somehow will make us live right. ...

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Leonid Rybakov: The Book Stealers - Похитители книг (2003)

Director: Leonid Rybakov
Screenplay: Leonid Rybakov
Camera: Eduard Moshkovich
Soundtrack: rock group Mumiy-Troll
With: Yulia Agafonova, Marina Oryol, Evgenii Sergeev, Maksim Maksot, Kseniia Belaia, Ramil Sabitov, Andrei Fomin.

Before Leonid Rybakov became a filmmaker and scriptwriter, he pursued a career as a nuclear physicist. Perhaps this is why his most recent film, The Book Stealers, constantly toys with the idea of narrative entropy. Rybakov’s first film, a short, Marakut’s Diploma (1993), brought him the reputation as of being a promissing young filmmaker and received a critics’ award from the Russian film studies journal, Kinovedcheskie zapiski. In 1998 Rybakov collaborated with Petr Lutsik on the film The Outskirts (1998). Book Stealers is Rybakov’s first feature film and it establishes him as a filmmaker trying to create a Russian counterpart to the European teen-flick. As Rybakov himself notes:

I wanted to make a fresh and contemporary picture attracting the young viewers who usually prefer to watch Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001), Lucía y

el sexo (Julio Medem, 2001), and Mondscheintarif (Ralf Huettner, 2001). (interview with Rybakov)

The Book Stealers could easily be renamed The Film Stealers. The characters name and display for us the stars and filmmakers whom the director chooses to incorporate into the film. Vera Kholodnaia and Jean Luc Godard merely open the endless list of references and allusions to films and cinematic styles, inlcuding Amélie, Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1970), Singing in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly 1952), and many others.

The female protagonist’s subjective point of view defines the film’s diegesis: her loneliness in a big city and her name, Catherine, pronounced by the narrator in a French style with a stress on the last syllable, hinting that Amélie is the film’s primary model. In a typical Russo-Soviet claim for inventing everything in the world, one of the reviewers notes that Rybakov wrote the script about a girl with the French name “Catherine” long before the French even conceived of Amélie and only the lack of funding prevented the Russian filmmakers from releasing the Russian Amélie (that is, The Book Stealers), ahead of the French counterpart (see Svetlana Prygunova, “Chto pokhitili-to? ”;

While it is up to lawyers and historians to decide whether the French or the Russians came up first with the bestselling story of a lonely girl carnivalizing the daily routine of a big city, the Russian protagonist with a French name chooses a very Russian way of ending her boredom and loneliness: with the help of the printed word. The heroine of the film posts a personal ad in the newspaper: “I am dying from boredom. Help! Twelve noon sharp under the clock. Catherine.” Three soul mates respond to the message: Rita-the-hairdresser, Sasha-the-boxer, and Pasha-the-rich-kid. Rita, Pasha, and Sasha also serve as Catherine’s guardian angels: the angel of love, the angel of hope, and the angel of silence, respectively. With the assistance of these magical helpers, Catherine can take care of her essentials (her hair, her basic safety, and her finances) and initiate her carnivalistic journey around the city. The desire to transform the everyday city into a teen fantasyland informs this journey while the narratives picked up from stolen books propel the characters’ imaginations and change the cityscape. Catherine and her friends steal books from stores, read them, and cruise around the city, traversing a collage of media, genres, and narratives, including romance, comedy, melodrama, the chase film, an erotic, landscape, as well as portrait photography, animation, and music video.

In addition to the intertextual links with European cinema, Rybakov also emulates the domestic model of the musical cult film invented by Sergei Solov'ev in the late 1980s, above all Assa (1988) and Black Rose is an Emblem of Sorrow, Red Rose is an Emblem of Love (1989). Like Solov'ev, Rybakov turns the soundtrack of his film into one of its major attractions. Il'ia Lagutenko and his rock band, Mumiy Troll, the cult group of the 1990s, play the central role in The Book Stealers, just as Aquarium and Kino played the central role in Solov'ev’s films and guaranteed them cult followings in the 1980s. While Solov'ev, I would argue, managed to bring us along without losing control over the plot, Rybakov loses control of his picture. To be more precise, Lagutenko high-jacks Rybakov’s film.

Reviewed by Alexander Prokhorov©2005 in KinoKultura

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Pyotr Todorovsky: War-Time Romance - Военно-полевой роман (1983)

Director: Pyotr Todorovskiy
Writer: Pyotr Todorovskiy
Stars: Nikolay Burlyaev, Natalya Andreychenko, Inna Churikova

This film was directed by Pyotr Todorovsky and had an attendance of 14,000,000 when it was released in the USSR.
The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Inna Churikova won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 34th Berlin International Film Festival. ...

Probably only a Russian could get away with a film as soulful as "Wartime Romance" , and writer-director Pyotr Todorovsky succeeds beautifully with this sentimental story contrasting a man's all-consuming love with a woman's more realistic view. "Wartime Romance" is an Oscar nominee for best foreign-language film.

Alexander (Nikolai Burlyayev), a slight, unprepossessing young soldier on the front line during World War II, is transfixed by the sight of a beautiful field nurse, Liuba (Natalia Andreichenko), who is having an affair with a major. Alexander swiftly defends her honor when a comrade casually slurs her. Before the battle overtakes everyone, Alexander is able to declare his love for her and wish her and the major well. ...

Friday, 16 September 2011

Rezo Chkheidze: Father of a Soldier - Отец солдата (1964)

Director: Rezo Chkheidze
Writer: Suliko Jgenti (screenplay)
Stars: Sergo Zaqariadze, Vladimir Privaltsev, Aleksandr Nazarov

A tremendous achievement of Soviet cinema, very much in the style of silent Soviet cinema, Father of a Soldier (Georgian title: Djariskatsis mama*; Russian title: Otyets soldata) is a humanistic tragicomedy about war. Therefore, it may also have been influenced by Mario Monicelli’s The Great War (1959), which shared the Golden Lion of St. Mark at Venice with a far less antic film about war, Roberto Rossellini’s General della Rovere (1959). Written by Suliko Zhgenti and directed by Rezo Chkheidze, two names with which I am unfamiliar, Father of a Soldier is a behavorial comedy in the midst of combat; it is warm, humorous, humane, piercing. Its heart is keyed to that of its protagonist, Georgy Makharashvili, an aging Georgian farmer who ventures beyond his rural village in search of his son, Goderdzi, a tankman and army lieutenant during World War II who has written home that he has been wounded. Goderdzi’s mother tells her husband just before his departure: Do not come back without our son! The man’s odyssey takes him into battle, into war’s heart of darkness. Along the way, he also dons a uniform to become a soldier—and a good thing, too; for it is in Berlin, at its fall, that he reunites with his son. Briefly. Goderdzi, freshly wounded, dies with Georgy by his side. ...

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Pavel Arsenov: The Purple Ball aka Lilac Sphere - Лиловый шар(1987)

Director: Pavel Arsenov
Writer: Kir Bulychyov
Stars: Aleksandr Gusev, Natalya Guseva, Vyacheslav Nevinnyy

Alisa Seleznyova, her father professor Seleznyov and the captain Zeleny are traveling in space. They meet their old friend archaeologist Gromozeka, who's just discovered a planet all inhabitants of which died. It became known that they discovered a virus of hostility, got infected and killed each other. Gromozeka also discovered that they had left the virus on Earth 26000 years ago, and the virus is about to become loose. The only chance to save the Earth is to travel 26000 years back in time - to the epoch when witches, dragons and magicians lived along with usual people. ...

Monday, 12 September 2011

Russian Faust to bare his soul in London

The Russian presence in London will be as large as ever this autumn with a number of Russian films taking part in the London International Film Festival, including Aleksandr Sokurov’s award-winning Faust. The drama, which won the Golden Lion award in Venice earlier in September, was praised by film buffs and the jury, helmed by Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky, who described the film as “mind-blowing”. Made in German with German actors in the leads, Faust marks the final chapter in Sokurov’s tetralogy about the uneasy relations between man and power that once began with Moloch about Hitler, continued with Taurus about Lenin, then climaxed with The Sun about Japanese Emperor Hirohito. Among the cream of the crop of Russian movies to be played in London will also be a film from the creator of The Return, Andrey Zvyagintsev, whose psychological drama Elena picked up the Special Jury Prize at Cannes earlier this year. One of the most important and powerful Russian films of the decade is set in modern-day Moscow, with its fears and morals, sense and sensibility, crime and punishment in the 21st century. Twilight Portrait – a Russian drama about the conundrum of psychological and sexual relations between a rape victim and her abuser – will be screened at the 55th BFI The film, from New York-based Russian-born director Angelina Nikonova, received very positive feedback from film critics in Russia and Venice. The documentary program of the large-scale British festival will feature a drama about the fearless Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down in her apartment block in downtown Moscow in October 2006. The film director has known Anna Politkovskaya's family for three decades, and her film paints an in-depth portrait of a woman who had a heart of gold and felt people's pain more keenly than her own. The creator of the film is one of the most renowned documentary-makers, Los Angeles-based Marina Goldovskaya, whose credits include 28 award-winning productions. The 90-minute feature entitled A Bitter Taste of Freedom will be submitted for consideration for the 84th Academy Awards by the International Documentary Association.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Faust wins in Venice - "Faust" grabs Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival

A drama from nonpareil Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov has picked up the top honors - the Golden Lion award - at the world’s oldest film forum, the Venice International Film Festival.
His signature interpretation of Goethe’s Faust has also won accolades from the World Catholic Association for Communication. Apart from the SIGNIS prize, the Russian filmmaker has also received the Future Film Festival Digital Award.

Shooting of Sokurov’s latest masterpiece took place in Iceland and in the Czech Republic, with Icelandic and German actors in the leading roles.

Films by the Siberian-born St Petersburg-based director have been widely praised by critics from around the world. Sokurov’s thought-provoking dramas have been playing at the most prestigious festivals.

The award-winning director of Mother and Son, Moloch, and The Sun has always been interested by the phenomenon of power and conformity in his films.

One of them was a documentary about the first President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin; while three other features had Adolf Hitler, Lenin and Japanese Emperor Hirohito in the spotlight.

Venice Film Festival: 'Faust' wins Golden Lion award

In a surprise, Russian director Aleksander Sokurov's "Faust" won the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion prize on Saturday.
"Faust," which screened somewhat late in the festival, after many critics had left, bested 21 other films in competition, including Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of John le Carre’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” (with Gary Oldman as super spy George Smiley); George Clooney’s American presidential campaign drama “Ides of March;” and David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method.” Also competing were Roman Polanski’s “Carnage,” an adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s Broadway play “God of Carnage”; Steve McQueen's sexually charged "Shame"; William Friedkin’s “Killer Joe” (a drama starring Emile Hirsch and Matthew McConaughey); and Todd Solondz’s “Dark Horse,” starring Mia Farrow.  
"Faust" is screening at this week's Toronto International Film Festival, where it's likely to now become a hot ticket.
Darren Aronofsky, whose dark ballet drama "Black Swan" opened last year's Venice Film Festival, headed the jury for the 68th annual affair, which began Aug. 31 and wraps up this weekend. In 2008, Aronofsky's Mickey Rourke drama "The Wrestler" won the top prize at Venice.
The Venice festival is considered an important stop for many Academy Award hopefuls, but the Golden Lion is certainly no guarantee of eventual Oscar glory. Last year, Quentin Tarantino headed up the jury, which, in a controversial move, awarded the Golden Lion to Sofia Coppola's moody, faded-celebrity study "Somewhere." In 2009, the prize went to Samuel Maoz’s war drama “Lebanon.” Neither landed Academy Award nominations.
Faust is part of Sokurov's monumental “Men of Power” tetralogy, which kicked off with "Moloch" in 1999. Toronto programmers described the film as a "freestyle fantasy version of Faust, loosely based on the famed literary interpretations by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Thomas Mann." The film stars Johannes Zeiler, Anton Adasinskiy, Isolda Dychauk, Georg Friedrich and Hanna Schygulla.
Faust tells the story of a successful scholar who becomes impatient with the religious limitations imposed on scientific knowledge and is just about ready to sell his soul to the devil for some real enlightenment for a change.
Sokurov’s previous films in the series have concentrated on con­tentious historical icons of the 20th century including Adolph Hitler ("Moloch"), Vladimir Ilyich Lenin ("Taurus") and Emperor Hirohito ("The Sun").   ...

Nikita Mikhalkov: Dark Eyes - Очи Черные (1987)

Director: Nikita Mikhalkov
Writers: Aleksandr Adabashyan (story), Nikita Mikhalkov (story),
Stars: Marcello Mastroianni, Silvana Mangano, Marthe Keller


 Nominated for Oscar. Another 6 wins & 7 nominations

 Directed by Nikita Mikhalkov, Dark Eyes is loosely based on several short stories by Anton Checkhov and stars Marcello Mastroianni in one of the most masterful performances of his career.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Sokurov reminds Venice about the deal with the devil

Alexander Sokurov’s much anticipated “Faust”—inspired by Goethe’s classic interpretation of the legend and filmed in German—premieres today in the competition section at the Venice Film Festival. Critics say the film, which is widely considered a main contender for a Golden Lion, may well reaffirm his place at the table of great Russian film directors. But in an interview in his hometown of St. Petersburg over the weekend, Sokurov said he wasn’t looking forward to the whole festival experience. The filmmaker is a festival legend himself. His trilogy of films about dictators—Lenin, Stalin and Emperor Hirohito in “Moloch,” “Taurus” and “The Sun,” respectively—together form a prequel to “Faust,” the archetypal deal-with-the-devil story. His “Russian Ark,” filmed in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, wowed the international art-house crowd in 2002. Sokurov is scheduled to be in Venice Sept. 8, but that doesn’t mean he has to like all the fuss. “I have been to many festivals, to Cannes, to Venice. I don’t like being there. I don't like the system of competition,” said Sokurov, 60, speaking in a park near his home in St. Petersburg. “How can you say that I am better than someone else? Directors with a name should not compete with young cinema people,” he said, “We should give up our place for the young.” That is not his only criticism of the festival system. “How many times do you get a jury where you do not know two-thirds of the people? How can that be?” he said. Darren Aronofsky is the president of this year’s 7-member jury. He is best known for his recent psychological thriller, “Black Swan,” starring Natalie Portman, and “The Wrestler,” a sweet comeback for Mickey Rourke. Sokurov’s candor regarding the festival is typical: The director is known for saying what he thinks. His early films were banned by Soviet authorities, which in a way brought him more international attention. His film “Mournful Unconcern” was released in 1987. Sokurov says his serial obsessions with dictators and “Faust” itself, which is the culmination of the quartet of films, goes back 30 years. “It’s amazing that there is so little attention paid to Faust,” he said, “If any politician reads Faust everything is there. It's as if it is written in the 21st century, not the 19th century.” ...

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Vera Storozheva: Traveling with Pets - Путешествие с домашними животными (2007)

Путешествие с домашними животными (2007)

Director: Vera Storozheva
Writer: Arkadi Krasilshchikov
Stars: Kseniya Kutepova, Dmitriy Dyuzhev, Yevgeni Knyazev


 "Natal'ia means ‘natural,'" a priest observes upon learning the name of the new parishioner who stays disturbingly unmoved during her husband's burial service. Struck by the young woman's emotional numbness, Father Petr gives her a holy icon to take home with her. The icon, known in the Russian Orthodox tradition as “Softening of Angry Hearts,” is an image of the Mother of God with seven daggers piercing her chest. The heroine's home is a bleak trackman's hut decorated with railway safety manuals and situated on a busy railway track cutting through a barren winter landscape. The heroine has spent more than half of her life in this soul-destroying setting, ever since her deceased husband “bought her as a slave” from her orphanage at the age of sixteen. Incapable of fathering a child, the trackman exploited Natal'ia as a servant and farmhand, selling the products of her labor to passing trains. His sudden death during one such business transaction brings the heroine her unexpected freedom, along with the necessity to build a new life for herself. Staggering through the desolate surroundings rendered unfamiliar by her husband's death, Natal'ia initially resembles a sleep-walker feeling for her path in the spiritual darkness as she sets out on a journey to reclaim her individuality and “soften her heart” for the people and the world around her. She sells her cow, buys herself a goat, brings home a stray mutt, and befriends a charismatic truck driver. All these steps are significant stages in the process of the heroine's emotional awakening, but as her name suggests, her path will ultimately take her away from the mechanical universe of trains with its predictable schedules and fixed destination points to a spiritual communion with a spontaneous and ever-flowing nature. The theme of a personal search for a higher meaning in a morally disoriented and emotionally indifferent society has been widely explored in contemporary Russian cinema, most recently in such different road-centered films as Andrei Zviagintsev's The Return (Vozvrashchenie, 2003), Boris Khlebnikov and Aleksei Popogrebskii's Koktebel (2003), Aleksandr Veledinskii's Alive (Zhivoi, 2006), and Boris Khlebnikov's Free Floating (Svobodnoe plavanie, 2006), to name just a few. Vera Storozheva's Traveling with Pets shares several characteristics that define to varying degrees the above-mentioned films: movement through physical space that serves as a metaphor for the protagonists' inner processes of self-discovery and personal growth; plots that have elements of parable or magic realism; provincial Russia as a locale that is most conducive of inner reflection; natural and/or religious images as symbols of spiritual transformation or emotional maturation. With the significant exception of Alive , which tackles—however awkwardly—the moral state of Russian society in its direct connection to the long silenced Chechen war, these soul-searching films avoid engaging concrete social and political problems that plague Putin-era society, discussing instead their characters' morality in more universal terms. Traveling with Pets belongs to the latter category: references to contemporary, 21st century Russian reality are limited to a flat-screen television set and glossy magazines featuring Elton John and other western celebrities that the heroine brings home after a trip to the city. Storozheva's choice of a female protagonist is a welcome change to the male-dominated quest for the meaning of life in contemporary Russian cinema, even though in the end the best the film can offer is a stereotypical image of the heroine as a (Holy) Mother, which becomes especially evident when Natal'ia adopts an orphaned child and declines the advances of the entrepreneurial truck driver Sergei. The heroine's association with the image on the icon “Softening of Angry Hearts” further conflates her image with that of Mother Russia, a slumbering land with a great potential where emotional indifference, hard-heartedness, and preoccupation with the material world (portrayed as patriarchal attributes) that must give way to feminine values of Christian compassion, spiritual reflection, and the perception of the unique nature of each individual life.

Reviewed by Elena Monastireva-Ansdell© 2008 in KinoKultura

Monday, 5 September 2011

Vladimir Basov: The Turbin's Days -Дни турбиных (1976)

Director: Vladimir Basov
Writers: Vladimir Basov, Mikhail A. Bulgakov (play)
Stars: Andrey Myagkov, Andrei Rostotsky,Vasili Lanovoy

Based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s drama of the same name about the tragedy of Russian officers, sworn fealty to the tsar and forced to make their choice during the Revolution and the Civil War in Russia.

Andrey Tarkovsky: Nostalghia - Ностальгия (1983)

Director: Andrey Tarkovskiy
Writers: Andrey Tarkovskiy (screenplay), Tonino Guerra (screenplay)
Stars: Oleg Yankovskiy, Erland Josephson,Domiziana Giordano


 The film won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, the prize for best director and the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival.[1] Tarkovsky also shared a special prize called Grand Prix du cinéma de creation with Robert Bresson. Soviet authorities prevented the film from winning the Palme d'Or,[2] a fact that hardened Tarkovsky's resolve to never work in the Soviet Union again. ...

Andrei Tarkovsky by Maximilian Le Cain

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Alexander Sokurov : Faust (2010) - Trailer

Director: Aleksandr Sokurov
Writer: Aleksandr Sokurov
Stars: Hanna Schygulla, Antoine Monot Jr., Isolda Dychauk

The film is the final part in a series of films where Alexander Sokurov explores the corrupting effects of power. The previous installments are three biographical dramas: about Adolf Hitler in Moloch from 1999, Vladimir Lenin in Taurus from 2001, and the Japanese emperor Hirohito in The Sun from 2005. ...

Faust - Venice Film Festival 2011 
Golden Lion for Best Film -Venice award 2011

Filming in numerous beautiful locations throughout the Czech Republic and col­laborating with a wealth of talented actors (including legendary Fassbinder muse Hannah Schygulla), Sokurov opens the door on a world filled with metaphor and visual symbolism, represented by a flow of detailed dialogue expertly painted on a can­vas of characteristically elaborate camera movements. Faust takes us on a fast-paced ride into the absurdity of life itself in the company of an impossible demon who’s ready to satisfy his every wish — for a price, of course. All you have to do is forget everything you thought you knew about the Faustian legend and start fresh. Besides, what is the human soul if not the most uncharted territory of all? ...

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Andrey Zvyagintsev: Elena - Елена (2011)

Director: Andrei Zvyagintsev
Writer: Oleg Negin (screenplay)
Stars: Yelena Lyadova, Nadezhda Markina, Aleksey Rozin


 Andrey Zvyagintsev on Elena 

Zvyagintsev’s “Elena” tells the story of two worlds of society that meet within the realms of a marriage. We met Zvyagintsev in Cannes, where the film won the Special Jury Prize of the “Un Certain Regard” section…

One of the last images of the films shows the small baby of the family on the death-bed of the murdered husband. What future can this family expect?

That image is indeed a kind of new continuation of life. That interpretation is possible. That would mean that life is a cycle.

I think the family will obviously inhabit this place, they will make it their own. They will put marinated cornichons in the bathtub, they will construct a wall, so that they don’t have to listen to the boy crying. They will reclaim that space, which I show in the film in the sequence where they explain what they are going to do.

So they don’t loose their life, their individuality. They will not die by becoming different? 

No. They are like barbarians. They impose their rules of life into every sphere they enter. This is how they will behave. I even thought about giving the film a different title, even though the title Elena existed from the start. So at one point we considered calling the film “The Invasion of the Barbarians”. Of course this title would have been too reductive, but it is essentially that.

Can Elena live with her crime? 

I hope that the people who see the film will go in the same direction as I did. I tried to point out several stages concerned with her future and her mental state. For example, in the scene we did with the dead horse, when she is on the train; the scene when the light goes in her son’s apartment. Those are signs of a moral state that are almost unbearable and won’t lead to an end. She’s not indifferent to what she’s done. Those signs leave traces that she has to endure.

The horse did remind of one of Tarkovsky’s favorite metaphors… 

A strong parallel but also terrible, because for Tarkovsky the horse is always beautiful and strong. But here the horse is dead. I think the dead horse is characteristic of our time. There is an absence of faith, an absence of hope for the future.

What role does television play in the film?

I think that the television is so present because it prevents the characters from seeing themselves in the mirror. They look at the lives of others so that they don’t have to look at themselves. The television is a deformed mirror, that man chooses for himself because he doesn’t want to deal with his own personality.

I know that there are a lot of young people today who don’t watch television anymore. More and more people have stopped having television at home. Young people communicate via the internet and it is from the internet that they receive information about the outside world. Television is terrible in that it degrades the image of what is happening outside, which would explain this repulsion of young people against television. 

The television seemed to connect both worlds, that of Elena’s family and that of Elena’s husband. Are there other similarities? 

I don’t think there are other similarities. The two worlds are isolated. If you are in a car, and you are rich, you have tinted windows so that you are not seen by other people and, in return, you don’t see the life that is outside your car. If these people go and watch a movie, they don’t go into the same theaters, there are “VIP theaters” for people who have money. The two worlds don’t mix. The difference between these two worlds is colossal, the distance between them gigantic. Neither world has the chance to discover the other world. One world doesn’t have a reason to see how the other world lives, and the other world doesn’t have the means. ...

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Vladimir Rogovoy: Officers - Офицеры (1971)

Director: Vladimir Rogovoy
Writers: Kirill Rapoport, Boris Vasilyev
Stars: Georgi Yumatov, Alina Pokrovskaya,Vasili Lanovoy


 One of the most popular and favourite films in Russia. The film follows at length the lives of two friends – Alexei Trofimov and Ivan Varrava. In the 1920s they served together at a frontier outpost, fighting with the basmachs. It was there that the young men first heard, and remembered for the rest of their lives, their commander’s behest: “There is such a profession – defending one’s Motherland”. Then followed Spain, the Great Patriotic War, and peaceful time. The old friends reunite when they are already in the rank of generals.Awards: Box-office leader (1971, 1st place) – 53.4 million viewers Vassily Lanovoy – Best Actor of 1971 as voted by the readers of the “Soviet Screen” magazine ...

The Russian Movie About The Battle Of Stalingrad

The Russian Movie About The Battle Of Stalingrad: The summer is over and people need to forget about their vacations and get back to work. Thus, in the movie world the work is humming already. A Russian bank invested 20 million US dollars into kinematographing the movie ‘Stalingrad’. … Read more...