Monday, 31 October 2011

Igor Voloshin: The Bedouin - Бедуин (2011)

Director:Igor Voloshin
Cast: Olga Simonova, Serafima Migai, Mikhail Yevlanov, Remigijus Sabulis, Dorzhi Galsanov, Anna Mikhalkova, Dinara Drukarova, Sergei Svetlakov, Alisa Khazanova

Reviewed by Volha Isakava © 2012 in KinoKultura 

Bedouin is a heart-wrenching drama that follows the plight of a mother attempting to save her twelve-year-old daughter from cancer. Due to the need to raise money, the heroine Rita, played by Ol’ga Simonova, leaves her native Ukraine to go to Saint Petersburg, where she becomes a surrogate mother for a gay couple, before embroiling herself in the criminal underworld. Her attempts fail and in a final act of desperation she takes her daughter, Nastia (Serafima Migai), to Jordan to live with the Bedouins, whose unconventional medicine of mixed camel milk and urine becomes her last hope. The film is a tour-de-force of desperation as we follow the heroine in her journey. It seems that many mainstream Russian films look at today's urban life as tech-savvy, connected, glamorous and comfortable, examples include the genre blockbusters Hooked (Na igre, dir. Pavel Sanaev, 2009), the comedy Lovey-Dovey (Liubov'-morkov', dir. Strizhenov, 2007), or the so-called youth film Heat (Zhara, dir. Rezo Gigineishvili, 2006). In contrast, Bedouin's use of technology implies grief and despair, as we see Rita talk to her sick daughter via low-tech videochat. Bedouin is also focused on the “lower depths,” showcasing the gritty realism of life amidst marginalized lower classes in the contemporary metropolis. The film is populated with dock workers, small-time gangsters, illegal immigrants and struggling lower-class professionals, like Rita herself or Rita’s only friend, Zina (Anna Mikhalkova), the train attendant. Their struggle for survival is filmed against the background of shabby cafes that serve as a home for immigrant families; dockyards, where blue-collar workers negotiate with the Chinese mafia; uniform suburban housing projects; and unkempt underground crosswalks. In its focus on the dangerous and undignified life of the lower classes, Bedouin is similar to other contemporary films that deal with social issues, such as The Spot (Tochka, 2006) by Iurii Moroz about the lives of street prostitutes. Bedouin weaves quite a few controversial social issues and critique into one story, which progresses from bad to worse. The controversial issues in Russia today, such as surrogate motherhood and gay parenting, are accompanied by the exposure of familiar social ills: the gang violence that plagues working-class neighborhoods and the failing health care system that extorts money from patients. In its bleak vision of society and human relations, the film harks back to the perestroika era social dramas that also emphasized the plight of the “little man” crushed by an inhumane social system. It also reminds of perestroika chernukha films, in which the insurmountable hardships often led to almost phantasmagorical unraveling of events that crushed the struggling heroes. Similarly, the plot of Bedouin starts as Rita secures herself a surrogate motherhood deal to raise money. Lonely and isolated, always barraged by bad news from home, she forms an ambiguous relationship with her neighbor Zhenia (Mikhail Evlanov), a sailor with mafia connections. When the biological parents stand her up on one of the payments, she is willing to plunge herself into the porn business as advised by her lover, who with a change of heart promises to give her the money and punish "the gays." He wrecks their car, resulting in a fatal accident, which leaves Rita with a baby but without payment. The car accident is a diablo-ex-machina device—an arbitrary cruel chance that plunges the heroine to a new abyss of despair. Shortly afterwards, she finds out that all traditional medical procedures have failed for Nastia. As if that was not enough, the neighbor brings a violent gang shooting into Rita’s home, and at some point she is forced to shoot a Chinese Mafioso with a harpoon, delivering an emotional monologue that this is not what her life is supposed to be. Such a crescendo of violence and misfortune was very typical for perestroika-era dramas which paradoxically combined gritty social realism with a dark fatalism that vanquished any hope for the characters, often via random violent occurrences. As the unfortunate turns of events start to get bloodier and more incoherent, it does not seem like a stretch that Rita packs herself and Nastia up and leaves for Jordan on a whim. ...

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Film Review: Hipsters Retro Russian musical has its moments

For movie details, please click here.
As the remake of Footloose fades from theatres, fans of musicals could do worse than seeHipsters, a Russian-made production that mixes classical and modern elements. What the film lacks in originality or wit, it compensates for with solid craftsmanship, a pleasing look and sound, and a great ending.

Adapted by screenwriter Yuri Korotkov from his book Boogie Bones, Hipsters is set in 1955 Moscow, when Communism still had a firm grip on every way of life. Against this oppressive backdrop, a young student, Mels (Anton Shagin), yearns to break away from his Komsomol shock-troop job patrolling the streets and nightclubs, trying to control or stop various forms of Western-influenced dancing (like jazz and boogie-woogie). His group leader, Katya (Evgenia Brik), even demands the colorful, revealing clothing the rebellious youngsters wear be cut and destroyed.

Mels eventually meets and falls for one of the underground hipster dancers, Polly (Oksana Akinshina), creating a major rift with Katya and his other friends. Soon, Mels leaves school and becomes a well-liked hipster in the clubs, but when Polly becomes pregnant, Mels’ life changes yet again. His responsibility as a new father is tested when he is faced with some startling news.

The tension between the repressive establishment and free-spirited youths is one of the oldest of musical-comedy motifs—even Footloose is about this. The Romeo and Juliet storyline has also become routine ever since it was applied to West Side Story. What sets Hipsters apart, at least somewhat, is the intelligent way it updates and refashions its “old-school” musical sequences into the narrative. In this regard, the film is more entertaining than, say, Dancer in the Dark, Moulin Rouge or any number of modern musical homages to Hollywood’s heyday. At least director (and co-writer of the “libretto”) Valery Todorovsky allows the singing and dancing to coherently survive the MTV-style editing while still giving the “spontaneous” musical outbursts a satiric edge—right up through the rousing, deliberately anachronistic finale.

If Todorovsky’s approach imitates anything, really, it is the actual Communist musicals of the 1950s (well documented in 1997’s East Side Story) and maybe a few of the over-the-top, brightly designed nostalgia pieces of more recent times—e.g., Absolute Beginners and Hairspray—though the director knows his subject of Soviet life demands the occasional dark or tender moment (the last couple of reels are particularly heavy). Roman Vasyanov’s sophisticated widescreen cinematography keeps up with the shifts in tone, even nodding toward Soviet Realism, and may be the best aspect of the production. The performances are engaging, though no one stands out as a star and much of Konstantin Meladze’s original score is surprisingly forgettable.

In any case, Hipsters is fun to watch and a laudable example of a revisionist genre piece.

Film Review: Hipsters

Sergei Loznitsa: My Joy - Счастье мое (2010)

Director: Sergei Loznitsa
Writer: Sergei Loznitsa (screenplay)
Stars: Viktor Nemets, Vladimir Golovin, Aleksey Vertkov

3 wins & 1 nomination

Best directing Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Russia, 2010
Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics Prize Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Russia, 2010
Best Screenplay Sergey LOZNITSA , Film Festival of CIS countries, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia "Kinoshock", Russia, 2010
First prize Kyiv International Film Festival 'Molodist', Ukraine, 2010
Best first film Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Russia, 2010

A man drags a body through snow, then dumps mud over it. We see a close-up of a shovel truck's mouth churning forward. Another man exits his car to show his documents to a border cop, while in front of them another cop demands a woman bend over so he can ogle her ass.
These are some of the early images in My Joy, former documentarian Sergei Loznitsa's debut fiction feature. Its protagonist is a trucker making a sort of pilgrim's progress through Russia, accompanied by a revolving motley crew of good and bad country people. The film unfolds as a sequence of episodic bits in which the Soviet state is attacked, in ways both tragic (an old man tells how Stalinist officers forever separated him from his bride) and comic (the trucker walks up to a gas station, sees a sign that says "No petrol," asks for diesel, and sees another sign that says, "No diesel").
The handheld camera often sticks close to the back of the trucker's neck. Cinematographer Oleg Mutu, who shot the great Romanian journey-through-medical establishment-hell drama The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, stays tight and close to people, as though doing so might reveal documentary truths.
The film is willing to—and very often does—shoot off into tangents to reveal these truths. The trucker quickly becomes a pretense for the movie, rather than its focus, as Loznitsa abandons him for long stretches in order to follow underage whores down a highway as they patrol for clients, or soldiers dragging a farmer off so that they can shoot him and ransack his house. The film eventually gives its leading man up altogether, and ends with a horrific massacre (captured in one tremendous long take) of people we've barely just met.
Many of these segments are powerful, but they don't do much to enrich each other. It's useful to think of some of the best pan-societal critiques from the past decade, dazzling films like Code Unknown, The Circle, and even Lazarescu, in which we roam across a culture with a small group of recurring characters. Each sequence in these films illustrates a point about a central theme (respectively, a society's treatment of racial and ethnic minorities, of women, and of the sick). By contrast, Loznitsa's film seems to be trying to attack everyone and everything it can look at, which proves too much for one movie. If the aforementioned films are arguments, then My Joy is a list. Loznitsa's documentaries are mainly compilations of archival footage, so it makes sense that his first fiction film is also essentially a compilation, an array of dynamic, aggressive bits rather than one coherent text. ...

Friday, 28 October 2011

Yaropolk Lapshin: Before the dawn - Перед рассветом (1989)

Director: Yaropolk Lapshin
Writer: Gennadi Bokarev
Stars: Valeri Ryzhakov, Aleksandr Pankratov-Chyornyy,Yevgeny Mironov

Yaropolk Lapshin died in Moscow on October 26.

Svetlana Shimanyuk: Varvara’s Weddings - Варварины свадьбы (2007)

Directed by Svetlana Shimanyuk
Cast: Maksim Averin, Irina Lindt

The prize for the director's work in the film "Varvara's Wedding" - Svetlana Shimanyuk, IX Shukshin Film Festival, 2007;
Award for Best Director - Svetlana Shimanyuk, the festival "Baltic Debuts" in Svetlogorsk, 2007

 Irina Lindt

"Varvara's Wedding" consist of 11 short stories about weddings.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Karen Oganesyan: Five Brides - Пять невест (2011)

Director: Karen Oganesyan
Writers: Yuriy Korotkov, Sergey Kaluzhanov,
Stars: Elizaveta Boyarskaya, Aleksey Dmitriev,Andrey Fedortsov

May of 1945. The whole country is celebrating the victory and hopes to start a new life. Soviet soldiers, that managed to conquer Berlin, are dreaming about returning to their native land – as heroes. But right now they can’t leave. Five airmen – Vadik, Lyosha, Garik, Vanya and Misha – are devastated by this, as they fear that there will be no more pretty girls by the time they will finally come home. Suddenly Lyosha Kaverin gets lucky – he is sent with an assignment to USSR. And the friends come up with an adventurous plan: Lyosha should find brides for his comrades and even marry them, using their IDs. The problem is he has just one day to make all this ...

This breezy romantic comedy, by Armenian-born director Karen Oganesian, best known for his film The Ghost (Domovoi, 2008), is dedicated in the end credits to “Our Grandmothers and Grandfathers.” It is not really a nostalgic film about the Great Patriotic War, however: it is far too conscious a fantasy for that to be the aim. It is a modern farce about love in the time of war, and it trades on the moment when the war-weary population was looking forward to life after the war. It is a gift to grandparents—or perhaps grandmothers—whose war was surely unrecognizable to them on screen here: war without violence, love without sex, honesty without deception, marriage without consequences. In this film, beauty is never sullied and kisses are always chaste, men are always chivalrous and women always knowing, danger is never serious and Stalin “is not always with us” (ne vsegda s nami). This is a conscious evocation of those much-loved Soviet comedies, and of early postwar American and British war capers where real threat was absent. Those anodyne treatments of the war experience were always much more about the reconstruction of human values for the postwar world, and producers and directors see life in them yet judging by Five Brides, or by the intended remake of the 1955 film Dambusters, and George Lucas’s Red Tails (2012).

In May 1945 a group of five decorated Soviet fighter pilots, stationed at an aerodrome in Berlin, are tired of the fight, long to return home, and are afraid that all the pretty girls will be taken by the time they get back. The entire film is essentially their wish-fulfillment. When one of them, Lesha Kaverin (Danila Kozlovskii), is given a 24-hour leave to return home to the Smolensk region, his friend, Vadim (Artur Smol’ianinov) hatches a cunning plan. He persuades Lesha to visit a girl, Nastia (Svetlana Khodchenkova) with whom he has been corresponding, marry her using his (Vadim’s) papers, and bring her back legally to Berlin as his wife. The stage is set for farce, when Lesha’s three other comrades persuade him to find them wives as well with the same ploy. Good-natured Lesha is fortunate to fall in with a tomboyishly pretty postal woman, Zoia (Liza Boiarskaia), who gives him a ride along the dusty road in search of Nastia, only to end up guiding his quest.

Reviewed by Frederick C. Corney © 2012 in KinoKultura

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Larisa Shepitko Documentary - 1/2

Savva Kulish: Tales ... Tales ... Tales Old Arbat - Сказки... сказки... сказки старого Арбата (1982)

Director: Savva Kulish
Writer: Aleksei Arbuzov
Stars: Igor Vladimirov, Zinoviy Gerdt,  Kirill Arbuzov

A prolific screenwriter and director who played a pivotal role in patching relations within Russia's shattered film administration structures in his final years, Savva Kulish had overseen meetings with Moscow's Union of Filmmakers within days of his death, also serving as leader for the troubled union in the final year of his life.
Making his directorial debut with Mertvyy Sezon in 1968, Kulish helmed eight films in his over 30 years in the film industry, also serving as president of Moscow's Guild of Directors and well-regarded for his strong diplomatic skills and precise problem solving methods. From stage to television and film, Kulish served in many facets of the entertainment industry, coordinating the "100 Films about Moscow" series in 1998 to celebrate the 850th anniversary of the Russian capitol. Kulish also began serving as a professor at the State Film Institute in 1986, schooling future generations of Russian filmmakers in the art of screenwriting and direction. Kulish received the National Artist of Russia award from the State Film Institute in 1995. ...

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Vladimir Kott: Gromozeka - Громозека (2011)

Director: Vladimir Kott
Writer: Vladimir Kott
Stars: Luisa-Gabriella Brovina

Funny, serious and touching at the same time, the film follows three parallel stories of old school friends and former fellow band members. Now a police officer, taxi driver and surgeon, all in their forties, they cross paths without realising it.

Gromozeka is the name of a band set up by three best friends in their youth. In the present day, these friends are in their forties and live in Moscow, but lost track of one another. Gromozeka is also a figure from the animation film one of them - the police officer - still seems to enjoy. Maybe because he can identify with Gromozeka’s words: 'I am so unlucky in life!' He is stuck in a rut with his work, his wife doesn't really care about him and his adult son cares even less.

The officer’s friends, a taxi driver and a surgeon, are no happier. The former finds out about the secret life of his only daughter, and thinks up a peculiar plan to deal with this. The latter, not being able to decide between his wife and his lover, finds out that the lover has taken destiny in her own hands, but later life has even more unpleasant suprises to spring.

The lives of these three old friends pass by in parallel, occasionally crossing over in sophisticated ways. This is the second film by one of the most talented Russian directors of his generation, following the international success of The Fly (2008). It’s mature, excellently acted and directed; it’s about men fighting the banality of everyday life, with its betrayals, love and aging. And about an ordinary man lost in the anonymity of a big city. ...

Fridrikh Ermler: The Peasants -Крестьяне (1934)

Director: Fridrikh Ermler
Writers: Mikhail Bolshintsov, Fridrikh Ermler
Stars: Pyotr Alejnikov, Mariya Blyumental-Tamarina, Nikolai Bogolyubov


 Read more about this film here.

Fridrikh Ermler: Turning Point - Великий перелом (1945) -

Director: Fridrikh Ermler
Writer: Boris Chirskov
Stars: Mikhail Derzhavin, Pyotr Andriyevsky, Yuri Tolubeyev


Grand Prix du Festival International du Film Cannes 1946.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Andrei Khrzhanovsky: Me and Joseph Brodsky

Grigoriy Dityatkovskiy as Joseph Brodsky in Room and a Half
Soviet exile Joseph Brodsky was never allowed back to his motherland, except in the mind’s eye of his writing. Master animator Andrey Khrzhanovsky tells Nick Bradshaw how he conjured the aged poet’s imagined voyage home again

“Of course, we all shared one toilet, one bathroom, and one kitchen. But the kitchen was fairly spacious, the toilet very decent and cozy. As for the bathroom, Russian hygienic habits are such that eleven people would seldom overlap when either taking a bath or doing their basic laundry. The latter hung in the two corridors that connected the rooms to the kitchen, and one knew the underwear of one's neighbors by heart…”
– Joseph Brodsky, ‘In a Room and a Half’

Before it exiled him in 1964 for ‘social parasitism’ (Judge: “Who recognises you as a poet? Who enrolled you in the ranks of poets?”), the Soviet state lodged Joseph Brodsky and his parents for the first 24 years of his life in the confines of a single room of a sub-divided, once-prestigious Leningrad apartment block.

As the future American poet laureate and Nobel prize-winner later described in his thumbnail memoir ‘In a Room and a Half’ (published in his 1986 collection of essays Less Than One), he attempted to privatise his corner of the family abode with a makeshift barricade of bookshelves and teetering suitcases, behind which “the gamin felt safe, and a Marianne could bare more than just her breast.”

Brodsky’s father was a photographer, and ‘In a Room and a Half’ is structured as a series of 45 written ‘photographs’ by which Brodsky attempts to rebuild that nest from half a world’s and half a lifetime’s remove. (The Soviet bureaucracy never let Brodsky’s parents travel to see him.) Children, the essay reflects, are always in a desperate hurry to leave their nest. “And one day a man realises that the nest is gone. The people who gave him life are dead. He realises that the only real thing in his life was that nest.”

Now – in the hands of Brodsky’s peer Andrey Khrzhanovsky, the great Russian animator – the photographic nest has become an animated journey back in time. Structured as a sort of fantasised sequel to Brodsky’s essay and life, Room and a Half puts the aged writer in reverential mood on a boat back to St Petersburg to revisit his youthful memories and haunts.

Much of the film takes the form of Fellini-esque live-action recreations of Brodsky’s old life: two young actors play Brodsky as he weathers the siege of Leningrad, dishonours Stalin at school, squires a succession of girls in his curtained half-room and eulogises the freedoms inherent in imported Tarzan movies at the height of the Khrushchev Thaw. But just as the film elides poetry, fantasy and reality, Khrzhanovsky throws in all manner of animated flights of fancy, from shadow-theatre Bolsheviks to a moving recipe book, Magritte-esque levitating musical instruments, ice-skating crows, flying Pegasuses and sundry Brodsky-surrogate cats. (The film’s animal motifs and folkloric treatment of memory bring to mind Yuri Norstein’s masterpiece Tale of Tales.)

Khrzhanovsky also mixes up the film stocks, including faux-documentary 16mm footage and real clips of Brodsky, for evocative effect, and jots a record of modern-day St Petersburg almost in passing. It’s an animated movie in the fullest sense, and as generous and entrancing a portrait of the artist’s soul as you could get. Even the Soviet judge might recognise the answers to his questions in it.

NB: What was your kinship with Brodsky?

AK: When I read ‘In a Room and a Half’ I realised that it was about me and for me. We lived at the same time in the same country in the same environment. We shared this understanding of a communal flat, this ‘room and a half’. We were both the only sons of parents who were no longer so young. We had the same friends, the same interests. Unfortunately I never quite managed to meet him personally. There was a time when he invited me to his house via some friends, but I didn’t take the opportunity, alas.

But I was in love with his poetry and his paintings, his drawings. He was a great painter, just as Pushkin was. And of course I loved his literature – it’s clear that he was the first and best poet of his era. I read a lot of his poetry, even before they began to print it in Russia – which they only did after the USSR collapsed. People used to copy and distribute his poems by hand; I recently found some copies in my own handwriting from half a century ago. ...

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Friday, 21 October 2011

'Elena' Wins Top Prize at Ghent Film Festival

Today, October 19th, Director Andrei Zvyagintsev’s feature film Elena won the Grand Prix for Best Film at the 38th Ghent Film Festival. The international festival jury, chaired by Jessica Woodworth, announced the results of the jury’s deliberations at Ghent’s town hall. The other films that received awards are Nicolas Provost’s feature film, The Invader, (Best Music and sound design) and Pauline Gay’s short film, Demain, Ce Sera Bien. Mr Alexander Petrachkov (Consul General of the Russian Federation in Antwerp), Alexander Stebakov (Consul at the Russian Embassy) and Alexey Grigoriev (First Secretary, Cultural Attaché at the Russian Embassy) accepted the award on behalf of Andrei Zvyagintsev.

'Elena' Wins Top Prize at Ghent Film Festival - indieWIRE

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Alexander Zeldovich: Target - Мишень (2011)

Director: Alexander Zeldovich
Writers: Vladimir Sorokin, Alexander Zeldovich
Stars: Vitaly Kishchenko, Danila Kozlovskiy,Nina Loshchinina

A group of friends set off to the mountains in Asia in search of an abandoned astrophysical secret facility, where space particles were once studied and collected. It is believed that spending some time in its gigantic mirror-aerial could lead to various positive changes in a person, such as the reversal of the aging process, return of youth and all it is associated with - the sharpness of perception, desires and ambitions... The friends find the abandoned site and spend one night inside it. Indeed, on the return to Moscow, they start to feel some changes. They are getting younger, and their dreams start coming true. However, there is a price to pay for this. The protagonists lose control over themselves and their existence, and fast and unexpected changes engulf their lives.

As a rule, critics have learned from bitter experience not to expect revelations from Berlin, especially not from the flaccid and usually middle-brow competition selection. Surprises, if they come, will be from left field – and the one film I saw this year that can genuinely be called a UFO is a Russian science-fiction extravaganza, shown in the Panorama section. Target (Mishen) – ‘The Target’ would be a better translation, to make it sound less like an action thriller – is an extraordinary, flamboyant, hugely ambitious chunk of dystopian futurism.

It’s set in Russia in 2020, when the rich are even richer than now, when Chinese influence is in the ascendent, and there’s a superhighway running across the continent direct from Guangzhou to Paris. Characters include a customs officer – who, presiding over highway traffic, has become fabulously rich – Russia’s Minister of Natural Resources and his trophy wife (British actress Justine Waddell) and her manic reality-show host brother. They all leave a CGI-enhanced futuristic Moscow for a secret astrophysics site on the Mongolian border, in search for the source of youth. They find it, return home… and then things get strange, but certainly not in a predictable manner.

A sumptuously-designed, constantly surprising piece, Target uses the science-fiction genre rather in the way that Alphaville, Stalker and Fahrenheit 451 did, to philosophical effect – although in this case the production values are on a much more sumptuous, Spielbergian / Kubrickian level. Some of the social satire, notably some Fellini-style TV sequences, is heavy-handed, but Target is distinctive in being at once modernistically sleek and traditionally Russian; along with some Solaris-style oases of ruralism, this is one of those films where characters intermittently recite Lermontov poems to each other.

Part state-of-the-nation comment, part disquisition on good, evil, mortality and desire, and wholly a genre cult attraction extraordinaire, Target is a fabulously imaginative work. I’ve never previously encountered director Alexander Zeldovich, although he’s been around a while. Anyway, I’d love some bold UK distributor to take on a film so audaciously defiant of market logic, flouting established genre and art-house logic alike. ...

BFI London Film Festival 2011: 'Target'

5th Russian Film Festival in UK

On Friday 4th November, the 5th Russian Film Festival opens with the UK premiere of Generation P, the adaptation of Victor Pelevin’s cult novel. The film will be presented by director Victor Ginzburg and leading actors. The film portrays the complex and often absurd story of how today’s Russia came into being. The showing also coincides with The Russian National Unity Day. The main programme of the 5th Russian Film Festival will include the 10 best Russian feature films of the year, made by a new generation of Russian film directors. All films have received recognition at prestigious international and national festivals and have been specially selected for the Russian Film Festival by the programme director, Andrei Plakhov, President of FIPRESCI. Further, the Russian Film Festival in London is the only event where all these acclaimed films will be shown in one single place and presented by their world famous directors and actors, who will join us for Q&As and discussions. The festival gives a platform to Russia’s new wave of filmmakers and their award winning films: Elena by Andrei Zvyagintsev – Winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 2011 Cannes Indifference by Oleg Flyangolts – Grand Prix at the Kinotavr Film Festival 2011. Twilight Portrait by Angelina Nikonova- Golden Puffin prize at the 2011 Reykjavik International Film Festival Innocent Saturday by Aleksandr Mindadze – Golden Iris Award and Young Jury Award at Brussels Film Festival Gromozeka by Vladimir Kott – 3 men’s lives unravel and unknowingly cross again as they struggle with ordinary life and nostalgia in contemporary Moscow. Hunter by Bakur Bakuradze – Ivan is loyal to his farm and family but this calm life is shaken when two female prisoners on work release come to the farm. Target by Alexander Zeldovich – a philosophical futuristic look at Russia in 2020. ...

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Igor Maslennikov: Bankrot - Банкрот (2009)

Director: Igor Maslennikov
Writer: Vladimir Valutskiy
Stars: Liya Akhedzhakova, Vladimir Akimov, Artem Anchukov

Director Igor Maslennikov finishes his trilogy about the history of capitalism in Russia In one of his interviews for the Rossiiskaya Gazeta (RG) Igor Maslennikov either jokingly or seriously confessed that our newspaper had motivated him to turn to ‘economic’ comedies written by Alexander Ostrovsky: “Reading RG I was impressed by the article titled ‘Information about the bankruptcy’. What is happening to this country, I thought, if thousands of these articles are published every Saturday? And I found the answers in Ostrovsky’s plays.” The main storyline of the film is a false bankruptcy; businessmen declare themselves bankrupt to avoid charges, and bill collections. The original plot is taken from the play ‘It's a Family Affair--We'll Settle It Ourselves’/ aka ‘Svoi ludi – sochtemsya.’ ‘Bankrupt’ is the final film in the trilogy about the history of capitalism in Russia based on Alexander Ostrovsky’s plays. The first film, ‘Russian Money’/ aka ‘Russkie Dengi,’ the script ofwhich was based on the play ‘Wolves and Sheep’/ aka ‘Volki I Ovtsy’ written by the director himself, was released in 2006. The premier screening of the film ‘No blood out of a stone’/ aka ‘Vzyatki Gladki’ based on the play ‘A Profitable Position’/ ‘Dokhodnoe Mesto’ is scheduled for this February. The scripts for this film and ‘Bankrupt’ were written by Vladimir Valutsky. Where will ‘Bankrupt’ be shot? - Since the St. Petersburg comedy ‘No blood out of a stone,’ about city officials who take bribes, was shot in St. Petersburg, then ‘Bankrupt,’ a story about Zamoskvorechye merchants, must be shot in Moscow locations – Bolotnaya Square, the side streets of Solyanka and Polyanka, Balchug and Vorobyovy Gory. But this is impossible, not due to financial or any other similar reasons. It is impossible to find these lively areas in the modern metropolis. There are no old streets; everything is filled with modern buildings and outdoor advertisements. That’s why we looked for something suitable in the suburbs. Some time ago, I found a place in Vologda when I visited the city’s Northern Light Festival. The city has amazingly remained a typically Russian city; it used to be wealthy and merchant. There are many old timber buildings, onion domes of churches (a large number of churches is a typical feature for Zamoskvorechye). We have already found the right backlots, and so the outdoor scenes will be shot there. What will be the cast of your film? - Leonid Kulagin as Bolshov Samson Silych, a merchant; Nina Usatova as Agraphena Kondratievna, his wife; Yuri Galtsev as Podkhalyuzin, their counterman; Yana Lakoba, a young and talented actress of the Alexandrinsky Theatre will play Lipochka, Bolshov’s daughter, who will marry Podkhalyuzin. Lia Akhedzhakova as a matchmaker, Zinaida Sharko as Fominishna, a housekeeper. Viktor Bychkov will take the part of Rispolozhensky, a solicitor. It’s a pleasure to work with good actors, no need to give long explanations. And the main goal is to bring this idea to life. A well-formed team is half of the director’s task. Your previous title ‘No blood out of a stone’ was backed by the Moscow city government. And who supported ‘Bankrupt’? - It’s state support again, namely of the Ministry of Culture. The finances are modest but we are used to saving money. Nobody is going to give large amounts for this film. Once they hear Ostrovsky’s name they make wry faces. But Ostrovsky is a brilliant playwright indeed and the author of wonderful plays. By the way, actors agree to take part in Ostrovsky’s screen adaptations without doubts and they don’t bargain over their fees. Actors lack good drama. Ostrovsky’s characters are lively, and have traits our writers can’t create. They compile storylines, actors recite their lines, but there are no feelings or emotions, and the viewers can’t get a sense of who is who. Ostrovsky’s plays are too theatrical of course and have become out of date in terms of the volume of text; there are many repetitions, which is a characteristic of modern plays, that’s why we had to exclude some parts. And this is a tough task since every character in Ostrovsky’s plays, even a supporting one, is entwined with the action, the relationships, and becomes very important; all the characters are interrelated, and each of them is special and lively. What do you think is the reason people prefer theatrical performances by A. Ostrovsky but the film industry understates this author? - The answer is simple. There are no mediators between the audience and theater. As an example, his plays are performed in 18 theaters and all of them are filled. But there are producers and distributors between television and movie audiences and the project, and they create their own system. We offered a stake in the film to a private company, but they were confident that since this is Ostrovsky they wouldn’t get a return on their investment. And one well-known screenwriter told me what the television management team said to him after reviewing the script: ‘There is no love triangle or adultery. We don’t need it.’ Such cheap mainstream content is targeted at the advertiser’s preferences and interests but not at the audience. These are wealthy people, their children study in England and the US, but we know about their roots and the reason why they have such rough tastes. They prefer to watch both Russian or foreign criminal fights, the fire scenes, and ice performances. And they invest their money in those productions but not in Ostrovsky’s plays’ adaptations! The audience may want to watch some good screen adaptations of literary classics but they are offered something different. And the genuinely good films are scheduled for late night hours when the advertisers either go to night clubs or casinos or sleep. ...

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Andrey Mironov

“Life is a great virtue. And as it turns out it doesn’t really last that long. There is enough misfortune, grief, drama, difficulties and confusion in it. That is why we should appreciate the precious moments of joy and happiness - they make us kinder. When a person is smiling, laughing, delighting at something or commiserating he becomes better and purer...” - Andrey Mironov Andrey Mironov was a stage and screen actor with an amazingly radiant personality. He was thought an ideal actor possessing power over all genres of cinema and theater. He was so tremendously popular during his lifetime, that even years after his death his birthdays remained a major event of Moscow's cultural life. Andrey Mironov became a legend after his death. When talking about Andrey his friends particularly stress his fantastic devotion to his profession and to his audience. Andrey Mironov (his first surname was Menaker) was born into a family of actors. He was born on 7 March, yet his parents decided to record his birthday on 8 March as “a present for women.” Indeed, hardly any representative of the fair sex could resist the actor’s immense charms. Andrey Mironov was the son of the popular acting duo Aleksandr Menaker and Maria Mironova. His mother was on stage when she felt that her baby was coming. She was immediately rushed to hospital. 46 years later Mironov, already a beloved actor, fainted in the middle of “Figaro's Wedding” – at a guest performance in the Latvian capital of Riga. Two days later he died. In 1958 Andrey Mironov entered the Shchukin Drama School, the renowned artistic institution. Among his fellow students Andrey stood out for his maniacal neatness: he was always wearing perfectly ironed clothes and smelling of exquisite perfume. He used to return home from school by taxi, even though quite often he had to borrow money for that. Andrey Mironov received his first small part in a film by Yuly Raisman, “What If It’s Love?” as a student. After graduating from the Drama School in 1962 he was invited to the Moscow Theater of Satire by its stage director Valentin Pluchek, and soon made his theater debut in the role of Garik in the stage play “Round the Clock.” The following two movies “My Younger Brother” (1962) and “Three Plus Two” brought him fame. Mironov made few but regular appearances on screen. In 1965 he was invited by the film director Eldar Ryazanov to play the role of the scoundrel Dima Semitsvetov in the comedy “Beware of the Car” (1966). The picture was a great success, while Mironov’s role was acknowledged as one of the best by critics. His fame as an actor was growing. The roles came one after another, each of them different from the last. Finally he appeared as the amusing swindler nicknamed “Earl” in the famous comedy “The Diamond Arm” (1968) by Leonid Gaiday. It was in “The Diamond Arm” that Andrey Mironov debuted as a singer and hence started to sing songs in many films and during recitals. Later, in 1978 he even made the record “Andrey Mironov Sings.” The year 1971 saw the release of a number of films starring Andrey Mironov, among them the captivating heroic adventure “The Property of Republic” by Vladimir Bychkov. That same year he played in an episode of Eldar Ryazanov’s comedy “Old Men: Robbers” and two years later starred in Ryzanov’s adventure comedy “Unbelievable Adventures of Italians in Russia” (1974). Mironov played a CID lieutenant and performed all the stunts himself. Andrey Mironov became a true nationally loved hero after the release of the interpretation of the classic character Ostap Bender in “Twelve Chairs” (1977) by director Mark Zakharov. The movie is based on Il'f and Petrov's “Twelve Chairs” novel. It is a classic treasure hunt adventure with a Soviet twist loved by millions. In Soviet Russia in 1927, a former member of the nobility, Ippolit Matveyevich Vorobyaninov, works as a desk clerk, until his mother-in-law reveals on her deathbed that her family jewelry had been hidden from the Bolsheviks in one of the twelve chairs from the family’s dining room set. Those chairs, along with all other personal property, were expropriated by the government after the Russian Revolution. He becomes a treasure hunter, and together with the “smooth operator” and a con Ostap Bender, runs after the diamonds. Mironov played an unforgettable Bender. Ostap Bender is a fictional con man and antihero who first appeared in the novel The Twelve Chairs written by Soviet authors Ilya Ilf and Yevgeni Petrov and released in January 1928.-Appearances:Proclaiming himself the "great combinator", Ostap Bender searches for a stash of diamonds... But Mironov’s true stage popularity started with his role in “The Nunnery” (1964). Starting in 1966 his career, especially as a comedy actor, began to grow. He became one of the most talented actors of his time, admired by millions of spectators. The part of Figaro in Beaumarchais's famous comedy - one of Mironov's best images created on stage - seemed to have been written especially for him. Radiating elegance and humor, he enjoyed every minute of his risky game with the powerful count. ...

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Angelina Nikonova: Twilight Portrait - Портрет в сумерках (2011)

Twilight Portrait (2011)

Director: Angelina Nikonova
Writers: Olga Dykhovichnaya, Angelina Nikonova
Stars: Sergei Borisov, Olga Dykhovichnaya, Sergei Golyudov


 Angelina Nikonova’s first film, Twilight Portrait, engages with a wide range of issues that involve sexual violence, gender, abuse of children, police brutality, the dysfunctional family, and corporate business in a contemporary Russian metropolitan milieu. The film avoids conventional engagement with past Russian history and regional identity. Not a monumental blockbuster, an allegory, nor a fantasy, Twilight Portrait focuses on a politics of the present. This is not to say that the film eschews a historical perspective, but in its episodic structure concentrates on breaking the hold of repetition manifested in various dimensions of everyday life. The style evokes television melodrama and especially the woman’s film developed through a number of episodes that center on rape, as trope to create a portrait of estrangement, physical and verbal terror that often exceeds a sociological treatment. What is distinctive is Twilight Portrait’s sustained focus on its female protagonist, Marina Sergeevna, played by Ol’ga Dykhovichnaia, who is both observer and actor along with sharing responsibility for the script. The various episodes dramatize and visualize her transformation from a passive figure to one actively embracing an unknown future. Furthermore, in its focus on female vulnerability, not only through her role but also through that of other female characters, the film avoids the familiar treatment of woman solely as victim. Rather, the victims are children subjugated to the terrorism of the family. However, as the film unfolds, it becomes apparent through its style that its politics are tied to institutions through language and silence, and that the film is more invested in investigating the role of verbal, visual, and gestural language than in reproducing a conventional realist and feminist narrative. The opening is a prologue to the callous indifference of the film’s world by plunging the viewer directly into a portrait of brutality. Three policemen (cops) on the prowl in a police car patrol their route and witness a young woman alight from a truck and run frantically into a barren and scruffy wooded area. She is exhorted by loudspeaker to stop running as she attempts vainly to escape. The shot of the brutalized nameless young woman, referred to by the police as a “tramp,” cuts to Marina, awakened by the sound of screams. Disturbed, she rises, goes to the window and exhorts two men to investigate. They are at a table surrounded by numerous liquor bottles where Il’ia, her husband, and his business associate Valera are discussing their business ventures, anticipating support from Marina’s wealthy father. The two men claim not to have heard the screams, thus introducing the film’s concern with hearing and selective cultural deafness. She helps Valera up as her husband remains drunkenly passive, and the scene returns to the wooded landscape as one cop takes money from the girl’s purse while another rapes her. The third cop, in the patrol car, Andrei (Sergei Borisov), reproaches the driver for keeping the money he has taken, and the car drives off as the reproached cop throws some money on the road, for the young woman “to buy new panties,” leaving her crying bitterly on the ground.

Reviewed by Marcia Landy in KinoKultura

Sergei Popov: Cold Sun -Холодное солнце (2008)

Director: Sergei Popov
Writers: Aleksandr Mitta, Yuliya Izranova
Stars: Tatyana Yakovenko, Taras Bibich, Sergey Garmash

Elena Kelchevskaya, a children's doctor, is about to go to Austria with her husband. During the jour-ney to the airport the couple witness a terrible accident. Before the arrival of the ambulance Elena and a young man she does not know, Klim, are the only people who сап help the critically injured passenger. Once at the airport she receives a call that her mother is dying. Torn between duty and desire, Elena chooses duty and sends her husband to Austria on his own. Having buried her mother, Elena remains in Moscow, still married, rarely reading her husband's letters from Austria and not answering them. Klim's appearance revives in her a strong feeling of mad and passionate love. She is much older than he, and he is a professional thief and womanizer — yet попе of those things stop her. She is ready to suffer just to be with him. ...

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Alexei German Jr.: Paper Soldier - Бумажный солдат

Director: Aleksei German Ml. Writers: Aleksei German Ml. (screenplay), Vladimir Arkusha, Stars: Chulpan Khamatova, Merab Ninidze, Anastasiya Sheveleva Winner of the 2008 Silver Lion award for best director and an award for cinematography at the Venice Film Festival, Paper Soldier is set in the spring of 1961, six weeks before the launch of the first man into space. ...

All three of Aleksei Alekseevich German’s feature films are set in the past, but they examine that past from an unusual and illuminating point of view. The Last Train (Poslednii poezd, 2003) saw the Second World War through the eyes of German soldiers abandoned in the snowy Russian wastes, Garpastum (2005) the dying years of the Russian Empire through the lives of young men who were obsessive about football. German’s ambitious and absorbing new film, The Paper Soldier, is set in the spring of 1961, in the period leading up to the first manned space flight, and is formally constructed in the manner of a countdown, with intertitles and the narrator’s voice announcing “Week 6,” “Week 5,” “Week 4”… But the Baikonur cosmodrome is represented as a place of bleak, muddy melancholy, where cows, sheep and horses roam. A statuesque camel watches disdainfully as locals attempt to trade successively in a portrait of Stalin artfully framed in light bulbs (colloquially known as “Lenin’s little lamps,”—lampochki Il´icha), a tin “officers’” bath, Bulgarian skirts and Yugoslav glasses which, the seller insists, are “better than Italian ones.” It is only at the end of the film that the viewer remembers that “Iura” and “German,” hitherto nondescript among a pack of potential cosmonauts, are Gagarin and Titov and destined to enter history as the first and second men in space. Even the epoch-making flight itself happens almost unnoticed in the depth of the frame, an unremarked backdrop to a personal tragedy unfolding in the foreground.
German has spoken in interview of his interest in ‘turning my camera away from the huge metal mass’ of the space rocket and imagining the life of one of the people in the background of this great event (Arkus 48). The character he invents is Dr Daniil Pokrovskii (Dania), a doctor engaged in the physical preparation of the would-be astronauts. Dania is charming and popular but catastrophically riven: between Baikonur and Moscow; between practical work and research; between doubt and belief, between confidence and superstition (‘If I manage to ride my bike on one wheel the flight will be successful’), between his dreams of a glorious cosmic future in which ‘everything will be changed’ and ‘we, not the Americans, not the Germans’ will take the great steps in space, and his gnawing concern about the potential sacrifice of the young airmen. He is torn between his attraction to two very different women. Vera, in Baikonur, is abject, dependent, ready to ‘follow you like a tail’. Nina, his wife, in Moscow, compellingly played by Chulpan Khamatova, who has shaken off the manernost´ of some of her earlier roles, is also a doctor, clever, ironic, well-read, able to quote Blok with him as they drive home from work....

Reviewed by Julian Graffy in KinoKultura

Russian cinema on eternal and relevant things

The number of Russian movies presented at the 55th International London Film Festival to last from October 12th to 27th can be called unprecedented - four full-length and two co-production films, including a Russian-British cartoon. The London festival, with its thoroughly balanced program, will feature a total of 204 works from 55 countries. Among the audience’s favorite movies presented in the Best Film nomination is Faust, the final chapter in Aleksandr Sokurov’s tetralogy. In September, this intellectual film triumphed at the Venice Film Festival and was awarded its top prize. Having straight away become a sensation, it is now sold like hot cakes. According to Russian film critic Anton Dolin, Sokurov seemed unable to ever come out from among the festival’s outsiders, even though all of his brilliant movies have always existed as self-sufficient masterpieces. And now, all of a sudden, his final work proved to be overwhelmingly important for others as well. Small wonder, given that it involved filmmakers from 38 countries, says Dolin" "The film was made at a high artistic level; it is distinctive and does not look like anything else, although shot in Hollywood by French cameramen in the German language. In other words, this is a global international project that has nothing to do with esoteric Russian cinema focusing on domestic realities alone and therefore incomprehensible to foreigners. This is another tremendous advantage of Faust," Anton Dolin explains. Faust as a character is not a “monopoly” of great Johann Wolfgang von Goethe or the German culture. Since the late 16th century, this real historical figure appeared in a number of popular European puppet shows narrating the life of a warlock who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for special magical powers and abilities. Folk songs about Faust were sung in Germany, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, with English playwright Christopher Marlowe writing the first Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus. This is a large-scale epic character of the world culture, Alexander Sokurov believes, saying that it was very interesting for him to transfer him from mythology to person: "My challenge is to show Faust as a human being to people. Goethe only needed him to share some informative and global views, such as whether a person is able to commit evil deeds himself, without being pushed by someone else. Today we realize that even the Satan himself cannot commit anything as terrible as people do," says Alexander Sokurov. ...

Monday, 10 October 2011

Alexander Petrov: The Old Man And The Sea (1999)

Sergei Gerasimov: Mothers and Daughters - Дочки-матери (1975)

Director: Sergei Gerasimov
Writer: Aleksandr Volodin
Stars: Innokenti Smoktunovsky, Tamara Makarova, Sergei Gerasimov


Anna Chernakova: Death of a pince-nez, or Our Chekhov - Смерть в пенсне, или Наш Чехов (2010)

Director: Anna Chernakova (Awards:1995. - Grand Prize "Crystal Apple" in ICF female cinema in Minsk for the feature film "The Cherry Orchard" (co-feature film "Family hunter").
Actors: Yuri Stoyanov, Alena Babenko, Alexander Feklistov, Alexander Adabashyan, Evdokia Germanova, Aleksandr Grave, Elena Drapeko, Alexander Shpagin, Darya Volga, Paul Belozerov, Maria Surova, Sergei Bezrukov, Vladimir Poglazov

The Leningrad-born Anna Chernakova trained as a director at the Film Institute (VGIK) in Moscow and has been a writer, film director and producer since 1992. Working and living in Canada and the United Kingdom, she has always kept close ties with Russia. Her credits include two feature films The Cherry Orchard (Vishnevyi sad, 1993) and Season of Mists (Sezon tumanov, 2008), an animation titled Sea and Stars (2002) and a one-hour drama, Last Summer (2000), as well as several documentaries. Death in Pince-Nez (a sequel to her film version of The Cherry Orchard) was first shown in 2010 at the Moscow International Film Festival, as Russia was celebrating 150 years since the birth of Anton Pavlovich Chekhov. Anna Chernakova was the first Russian director to make a film version of The Cherry Orchard, and for Death in Pince-Nez she decided to revive her earlier film and she reunited most of the actors from her previous film. To summarize the plot of this film is paradoxically both an easy and complex task. Put simply, it tells the story of a Russian theatre director, Daniil Sorin, who returns to his homeland after 15 years abroad. In Europe he supposedly achieved some recognition for his work, therefore his company calls him back to revive a once famous performance of The Cherry Orchard, which he had directed some years earlier. He is initially doubtful and disgruntled by the idea, but then agrees: the mise-en-scène can start. At a deeper level, the film is filled with allegories and metaphors, which are difficult to catch at first viewing. The genre is not obvious either: elements from comedy, tragedy, drama and detective are all mixed together. It is potentially a very interesting film reflecting, as it does, the theme of art from a diachronic as much as from a synchronic point of view. The centre of this reflection epitomizes Chekhov. But the overall impression is that Chernakova somehow missed the point. From the very beginning we are surrounded by many different elements reminding us of Chekhov and his work: the titles appear between the pages of the great Russian playwright's pieces; the director Sorin has got a black crow whose name is Uncle Vanya; the characters have names and surnames from Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard (Anya, Varya, Petya, Lopakhin), and Sorin is of course also the name of one of the main characters of The Seagull (but he could easily be associated to Ranevskaya, who comes back to Russia from Paris with a white coat and a scarf). ...

Reviewed by Chiara Natalucci © 2011 in KinoKultura

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Tatyana Lioznova: Three Poplars at Plyuschika - Три тополя на Плющихе (1967)

Director: Tatyana Lioznova
Writers: Aleksandr Borshchagovskiy (screenplay), Aleksandr Borshchagovskiy (story)
Stars: Tatyana Doronina, Oleg Efremov, Vyacheslav Shalevich 

Friday, 7 October 2011

Alexander Gordon: Brothel Lights aka The Lights of the Brothel - Огни притона (2011)

Director: Alexander Gordon
Cast: Oxana Fandera, Eugene Tsyganov, Alexei Levinski, Anna Slu, Katerina Shpica, Bogdan Stupka, Natalia Fisson, Ada Rogovceva

Odessa, 1958. The mistress of a small brothel is a real beauty with a bright personality, a character who is at once deep and tragicomic. …Mum Lyuba quits her job. Her future is to become the wife of a sea captain and to live the best years of her life quietly, comfortably and in a careless way. However Lyuba chooses the fragile poet and soothsayer Adam over the reliable and well-off captain. The plan for her personal life changes suddenly. As Mum Lyuba says, “I feel bad for people, especially everyone”.

The Audience Choice Award for the Best Russian Film at Vladivostok International Film Festival.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Tale of Tsar Saltan - Сказка о царе Салтане (1966)

Director: Aleksandr Ptushko
Writers: Alexander Pushkin (poem), Igor Gelein,
Stars: Vladimir Andreyev, Larisa Golubkina, Oleg Vidov


Liya Akhedzhakova, actress

Liya Akhedzhakova is a tragicomic actress. It is a hard genre; lots of actors are attracted to it, but just a few really have this gift. The element of comedy never carries her away to the extent of forgetting the depth of human substance and so her characters are always accompanied with both laughter and pain. She never happens to be outshone by other vivid actors: instead, she better unfolds her talent under condition of creative competition of a sort. Thus, Eldar Ryazanov’s films are featuring her among the galaxy of brilliant actors, such as Alisa Frejndlikh, Valentin Gaft, Oleg Basilashvili, Andrei Miagkov and others.

Liya Medzhidovna Akhedzhakova was born in Dnepropetrovsk city, Ukraine, into a theatrical family. Her father was the principal stage director of Maikop Drama Theatre. Having a wonderful ear for music he sang in operetta for some time.

Liya’s mother was an actress in the same theatre. Thus, Liya also chose to be an actress and entered GITIS (State Institute of Theatre Arts), which she graduated in 1962. When a senior student, she started working on stage of the Moscow Young Soectator's Theatre, since her appearance was favourable for childish roles.

The year 1977 saw a turning point in destiny of Akhedzhakova when she took the stage in Sovremennik Theatre. Working with the theatre’s main stage director Galina Volchek let the actress broaden her stage repertoire, go up to the highest level and become one of the leading Moscow actresses. She had to wait for her roles rather long, though. But once she had her chance. Director Roman Viktyuk staged for her Columbine, and the role changed her life. Later critics also praised her leading role in the play Selestina written by Nikolai Kolyada after the dramatic novel by the 15th century Spanish writer Fernando de Rojas.

Eldar Ryazanov: The Irony Of Fate - Ирония судьбы (1975)

Irony of Fate or Enjoy Your Bath!  (1975)

Director: Eldar Ryazanov
Writers: Emil Braginskiy, Eldar Ryazanov
Stars: Andrey Myagkov, Barbara Brylska, Yuriy Yakovlev

A group of old friends have a tradition of going to a public bathing house on New Years eve. Occasionally too much vodka and beer makes two of them unconscious. ...

 New Year’s Eve in Russia can be a stressful day. Cooks are hoping not to be hit by a power cut just as they put the pies in the oven as the electricity grid is overwhelmed with demand. Young people are wondering how to manage both to please their families and get to central Moscow in time for the street parties. Businessmen are feverishly trying to remember whether they have confused their presents for their long-suffering wives with those for their 18-year-old girlfriends. The president is getting ready to persuade the people in his New Year’s speech that the dawning year will be at least a little bit better than the one that is finishing.

The film’s plot is this: it is New Year’s Eve in 1970s Moscow. The protagonist, Zhenya Lukashin, a 30-something doctor who lives with and obeys his mother (a completely normal situation in Russia) is for the first time preparing to celebrate the New Year with his fiancée, a bossy and possessive young woman. The doctor is shy and scared of commitment, but it seems that now he is finally about to tie the knot.

However, he has other obligations, too. Every year his friends and he go to the banya (steam-bath) together. This is a tradition he cannot break, not even for his fiancée.


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Timur Bekmambetov - Night Watch - Interview

Bursting with eye-popping effects, Timur Bekmambetov Matrix-style action and particularly bloodthirsty vampires, Russian sci-fi flick Night Watch has announced helmer as an international director to watch. The first part of an ambitious trilogy about the eternal combat of the good (light) and evil (dark) forces, it's become the most successful movie in the history of post-Soviet Russia, even attracting the praise of a certain Mr Tarantino along the way. With Hollywood now funding the final instalment and Part 2 (Day Watch) waiting in the wings, Bekmambetov tells us how the first ever Russian blockbuster was born.
How did you manage to make a movie that looks so good with so little money (an estimated $4,200,000)?
It's my background; I was a director of commercials, so I was able to use different techniques, different styles. Every commercial covers different ground, different ideas, and it's my profession to direct and to tell stories - for me, it's very organic. Also, it was actually a good budget for the Russian film industry. It's enough money to do whatever you want to do here. I also have experience working with American producer Roger Corman who knows a lot of secrets in making movies look bigger than their budget.
Did shooting on location in Moscow help?
It's a very cinematic and mythological city. It has a style, a simple style. It's not like Paris. It's ready to be discovered. Night Watch is the first step. We will shoot more movies in Moscow and international audiences will discover this new world. Because as I understand, the international audience think that in Night Watch everything was treated to be look better. But it's not, it's the city. They've just never seen it, it's their first time and it looks like The Lord Of The Rings, very ancient. But it's a real city, it exists and all these characters exist.
Which directors have influenced your way of movie-making?
Lots of directors. Almost every director I have seen. If I've seen the movie it means it's an influence on my own filmmaking. Every movie has a reflection in Night Watch. Even if it's a bad film itself. The character in Bad Boys II, I really like him - the funny black policeman. For sure, maybe somewhere in Night Watch you will find a reflection of this movie. Fellini, or Cameron or the Wachowski Brothers, I like all of them.
A lot of critics have said the film merely imitates American blockbusters...
I heard a lot of this kind of thing in Russia. But I think that's just a wrong understanding of the movie. Night Watch itself is a very Russian movie. It's impossible to imagine this kind of movie somewhere else: a movie with a depressing ending, a lot of inexplicable storylines, strange characters. It's a Russian reflection of American film culture. It's got our unique way but is a reflection of the genre movie. I like to scare people. I like it. The American film culture has a huge experience of that and I like it. But I cannot repeat it, I cannot be an American director, I will always be a Russian director.
With the success of the Night Watch trilogy, will you now travel to Hollywood?
I will. I cannot say that it makes me happy personally but it helps me to discover new horizons and new people. It's just interesting. It isn't my goal to be somewhere in particular, but it's interesting. For sure if I have a Hollywood budget I will try to imitate Spielberg.
Is Night Watch an indication of how Russia is changing as a whole?
We didn't have a movie business tradition here, but that helps us to be successful because we haven't had any bad past experiences. The CGI for Night Watch is an example. There were more than 400 CGI shots in the movie, but we didn't have a big studio with CGI departments in Moscow. So we decided to create our own mass community over the internet to produce the CGI. We're proud people, we created this directly, we decided we couldn't face doing it through studios. Directly it's much cheaper and we had a special relationship with the artists - we could communicate directly. We had more than 150 people working together through the internet. It's a new experience that comes directly out of our limitations.
Apparently there were changes made to the film for the international release...
With Night Watch we took out ten, fifteen minutes of the movie because there was a sub-plot which was interesting for a Russian audience because it featured a very famous Russian actor, who is my friend. It was very beautiful and interesting to the Russian audience, but not necessary to the story itself. For the international version we don't need it because nobody knows this actor.
Do you have a favourite international cut?
With Night Watch we're trying to do something special for France, something special for Germany, something special for England, for everywhere. I think for Night Watch it was very important to have a good translation. There are a lot of details in the movie that are difficult to translate literally; it has to have some cultural adaptation or it will lose the sympathy of its audience. We didn't plan it to be international.
It's a big problem for American movies that all their movies are produced to be global. Everything has to be globalised, the characters have to understandable in Europe, in China, and it's a big problem for American filmmaking now, for sure. When we made Night Watch we made it specially for Russian people, specially for the Russian market, we had an idea to explore it, which is why we were successful here. It has its own voice.
And how do you think the film industry is changing in Russia?
Five years ago we had two or three cinemas in Russia. Now we have a thousand screens. It grows at the rate of two or three hundred screens a year. So now we have an audience. Before that we had only a DVD market.
In Russia we don't have old and young filmmakers, everybody is young here. For everybody it's their first or second movie. It's why it's so good here, we have a group of people who have the same experience. There's a good energy. We have one hundred and fifty million Russians and they are very proud to be Russian and see movies about themselves.
Stalin himself produced all the movies in Russia at that time. He chose Eisenstein. He was very smart, very evil, but then all producers are evil! (BBC)

Timur Bekmambetov Interviewed by Rachel Simpson

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Sokurov`s Faust in London Film Fest shortlist

Alexander Sokurov`s Faust has been included in the short list for best film award at the London Film Festival, which opens on October 12th, the festival spokesperson announced. Sokurov`s film, which explores the nature of power, earlier received a Golden Lion, the top award at the Venice Film Festival. Apart from Faust, the festival’s shortlist features 360,directed by Fernando Meirelles, and Deep Blue Sea by Terence Davies. ...

Monday, 3 October 2011

RIFF’s 2011 Golden Puffin Goes to Twilight Portrait

Russian director Angelina Nikonova won the highest award of the Reykjavík International Film Festival (RIFF) 2011, the Discovery Award, for her film Twilight Portrait at the festival’s award ceremony in the new concert and conference hall Harpa on Saturday.

 She accepted the Golden Puffin trophy from chairman of the jury, Ulrich Thomsen, as stated on the festival’s website.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Andrei Konchalovsky: The first teacher - Первый учитель (1965)

Director: Andrey Konchalovskiy
Writers: Chingiz Aitmatov (story), Chingiz Aitmatov (screenplay)
Stars: Bolot Beyshenaliyev, Natalya Arinbasarova,Idris Nogajbayev


1966 - Venice Film Festival
The winner in the categories:

Best actress - Natalya Arinbasarova 

“The world of “The First Teacher” was formed by the multiplication of the worlds of Chingiz Aitmatov, Akira Kurosawa and poet Pavel Vasilyev. (…) Compared to the lyric prose of Aitmatov, the temperature of “The First Teacher” is many degrees higher. I was led by the desire to shoot a red hot reality.” (A.S.Konchalovsky, “Elevated Deception” (“Vozvyshayushiy obman”,)M., 1999) ...