Sunday, 29 July 2012

Russian ‘Betrayal’ to go big in Venice

Betrayal directed by Kirill Serebrennikov (Image from

Betrayal, a love story revolving around two strangers who find out that their partners are lovers, will be flying the flag for Russia at the world's oldest film festival in Venice.
The drama directed by Kirill Serebrennikov stars German actress, Franziska Petri, and Macedonian star Dejan Lilic.
Betrayal will be vying for the coveted Golden Lion award along with such heavyweights as Passion by Brian De Palma; Outrage: Beyond directed by Takeshi Kitano and Competition to the Wonder from Terrence Malick.
Last year the festival's top prize went to the creator of the ‘Russian Ark’, Aleksandr Sokurov, whose productions have been studied at film schools across the world. 
The annual film extravaganza will run on the Lido from August 29 to September 8.

Shooting Stalingrad: Renowned Russian director recreates bloody battle

Nine months of heavy fighting, up to two million dead, a city virtually wiped from the face of the Earth – the Battle of Stalingrad was one of the bloodiest in history. Now Russian moviemakers are reconstructing events of those days in a 3D movie.
The work on Russia’s first 3D movie, the blockbuster war drama “Stalingrad”, named after the battle of WWII, is in full swing. It has been a month since cameras started rolling, and the first pictures are already appearing online.
The state-of-the-art technology will give viewers an opportunity to plunge into the thick of the action. 
The war drama, directed by Russia’s Fyodor Bondarchuk, son of the Oscar-winning creator of War and Peace, depicts the battle between the Nazi invaders and the Soviet forces. It was one of the bloodiest battles in history, taking the lives of up to two million people.
But the movie is not only about the war. It tells the story of a Soviet family, its members and their lives during the battle.
The shooting is taking place near the city of St.Petersburg. The director chose the locations himself. Some scenes are being shot in the village of Saperny outside the city, while some take place at the “Red triangle” factory.
There are up to a thousand extras involved in the movie alongside Russian and international actors.
The popular German actor Thomas Kretschmann, the face of Hugo Boss who appeared in “King Kong”, “Apocalypse” and “The Pianist”, is also involved in the movie. He plays a German officer.
There have been rumors that Bondarchuk first invited Til Schweiger to play this role, but the actor allegedly refused, explaining that he does not want to sully his reputation by playing the role of a Nazi.


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Sergey Bodrov: Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan - Монгол (2007)

Director: Sergey Bodrov
Writers: Arif Aliyev , Sergey Bodrov
Stars: Tadanobu Asano, Amadu Mamadakov, Khulan Chuluun


Best film "NIKA" Prizes, Russia, 2007
Best directing "NIKA" Prizes, Russia, 2007
Best Cinematography "NIKA" Prizes, Russia, 2007
Best Set Decoration "NIKA" Prizes, Russia, 2007
Best Set Decoration Yelena ZHUKOVA , Dashi NAMDAKOV , Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Russia, 2007

The origins of Sergei Bodrov's new epic feature, Mongol, Part One, tell consumers and critics a lot about the fate of Russian cinema in the new millennium. The German-Kazakh-Russian co-production venture hired a Russian-born film director, together with film workers from other countries, to make a transnational film targeted at multiple national and international communities within the framework of global media-based capitalism. Relying on his experience in making Soviet, Russian, and transnational films, Bodrov completed the new project with exceptional professionalism. He started his career in the 1970s and remained prolific and successful even during the 1990s, the most difficult years for the new Russian film industry. His Prisoner of the Mountains (Kavkazskii plennik1996) won an Oscar nomination for best foreign film, and was one of the few Russian films to gain international release and acclaim during this decade. In 2005 Bodrov co-directed (with Ivan Passer and Talgat Temenov) the most expensive Kazakh film ever made, a $40 million historical epic, Nomad (Kochevniki).
Mongol is, above all, a Hollywood melodrama, that is, a story of love, fall, and redemption, in fact a story of a bourgeois nuclear family threatened by historical forces beyond the heroes' control at the film's beginning. The lovers' many separations caused by larger than life historical forces, enhanced by superb camerawork, editing, and CGI, end up with the eventual reunification of the protagonists. What gives this quintessentially Western story an orientalizing spice is the identity of the protagonists and the film's setting. Bodrov tells a story of the young Genghis Khan (Tadanobu Asano) and his first wife Börte (Khulan Chuluun) set against the background of exotic Central Asian steppes and decorated with sartorial elegance by the film's award winning costume designer, Karin Lohr.
The film also employs the narrative of uncovering the true, softer nature of the protagonist, traditionally seen in Russia and the West as a monster. This paradigm is familiar to any modern viewer brought up on such Western myth-making narratives as the stories of King Kong or Beauty and the Beast. Bodrov debunks the standard Western image of Genghis Khan as a larger than life Oriental monster and presents the alternative story of the early years of the famous empire builder: a story of poverty, slavery, and love overcoming death and treason. Alastair Gee of Moscow Times notes that “Bodrov's drama aims to deconstruct the notion of Genghis Khan as a bloodthirsty murderer … ‘Genghis Khan is not a popular man in Russia; his name is not well loved,' Bodrov said. ‘I'm telling a story and saying: look how it happened… He abolished torture, not so many people know about that,' the director added. ‘And Mongolians used to have slaves—he said no to that.'” However, if one doesn't care much about the Mother Theresa side of Genghis Khan, there is plenty of blood and gore in spectacular battle scenes masterfully filmed by Sergei Trofimov [1] and Roger Stoffers [2], and edited by the Oscar-winning Zach Staenberg, the editor of The Matrix (1999; dir. Andy and Larry Wachowski).
Reviewed by Alexander Prokhorov© 2008 in KinoKultura

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Vintage Soviet 3D movies’ comeback

While the world gets more and more excited with the modern 3D technology, Russia has unshelved a series of homemade Soviet 3D films. Many of them were made as early as the 1940s.
The technology was different from what we have today.  It was called stereo cinema and was created by a Soviet inventor Semyon Ivanov. Viewers needed no glasses. The illusion of depth and volume was created by means of a wire grid. People watched the film through it while their left and right eye saw two different images simultaneously.
Russian enthusiasts Nikolay Mayorov and Nikolay Kotovsky carefully restored some of the Soviet films originally made in the 1940s and 1950s. They were digitized and shown within the Moscow International Film Festival’s special program.
“We have all got used to hearing various legends that 3D cinema came to us from the United States,” Mayorov said speaking at the festival. “In fact, it came from Russia.”  
More here.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Sergei Loban: Chapiteau-Show (Shapito-Shou, 2011) - The Solidarity of Clowns: Instructions on Survival in modern Russia

At the end of 2011 Sergei Loban’s film Chapiteau-Show, consisting of four novellas, got into Russian distribution after having premiered at the Moscow IFF in June. The four novellas titled “Love”, “Friendship”, “Respect”, and “Cooperation” can, according to the filmmakers, be watched in any order. A conversation on serious matters is announced: about relationships shared by all mankind, which cannot be challenged under any circumstances. The faith in such relationships is the only thing that unites all of us, irrespective of our cultural or ethnic background, of citizenship and social status. Before us we have something the titles of manifestoes of new moralists, which feel a bit like the era of Enlightenment. The chapter titles also stand in apparent dissonance with the film’s title. The word chapiteau, apart from its literal meaning of a travelling circus, has a rich semantic field in Russian. In ordinary speech it is often used as less vigorous synonym for such terms as “buffoonery” (balagan) or “chaos,” “mess” (bardak). This is about a world where everything is upside down, where there is no order, where nobody takes anything serious, where chaos and irresponsibility reign. In the semantics of the word “chapiteau” the comic accent is foregrounded. Apparently, then, we are dealing with a frank and cheerful game, which does not demand from the actors what Boris Pasternak has called “full destruction seriously”. So it is appropriate to consider theatre as a metaphor for this world, but not in the Shakespearian sense—“the whole world is a theatre, and the people in it are all actors”—but in the sense of Aleksandr Blok’s play The Fairground Booth (Balaganchik), where Pierrot exclaims: “I’m dying! I’m bleeding cranberry juice!”. However, before us we have a different part of the Great Game: the circus, which is also governed by a set of given circumstances—very extreme circumstances; yet within those circumstances the artist has to live not his role and a conditional life, but he has to take a real risk, putting at stake such human attitudes as love, friendship, respect, and cooperation. It is no coincidence that it was precisely the circus that excited the great humanists of the last century, Charles Chaplin and Federico Fellini.

Each protagonist has to perform his number in this fairground booth, and they are all directly connected to the world of game: to the imagined and genuine realities of theatre, cinema, and television. Vera is a graduate of the Theatre School; the pioneers’ leader is a student of the Theatre Institute and a pupil of Petr Nikolaevich (Mamonov), the cult actor and musician; other members of the group work for television; there are sound producers and a deaf baker who participates in the vocal show; Aleksei and Roman work as stagehands at the theatre; Nikita, the son of Petr Nikolaevich, dreams of becoming a film director; Sergei Popov is a producer. But as participants of this performance of life they play the roles of losers: the witty project conceived by Sergei Popov of a “substitute star” fails; the link that has been formed in the virtual world between Vera and Aleksei cannot develop into real affinity; the deaf man does not belong to the world of those who can hear; the game of “dad the guru and the son-pupil” nearly ends in the death of both. The symbol of the “unsuccessful show” has become the “chapiteau-show” itself, staged by a director who constantly exclaims how he has raised the benchmark, but in his circus acts tightrope-walkers fall down and trapeze artists fly off into the audience.
Why does that happen? Apparently the heroes play different games, in which they are directors both of their own and other peoples’ lives, using others as characters in the performances they direct. In the first novella, “Love,” Vera and Aleksei take a risky step when they meet each other, leaving the cosy the limits of their virtual world and planning a journey together. They genuinely try to guess each others’ desires, but nothing comes of it. Their dialogues go around in circles all the time: “Maybe we’ll go for a walk?”—“Do you want to?”—“I thought you wanted to”, which gradually leads to a collapse of communication that ends in hysterics. In the second novella, “Friendship,” the deaf hero also genuinely wants to change his life, find new friends, live by different rules, leave the limited circle of his deaf-and-dumb community, but he cannot be part of the strange world of the “pioneer group”, where everything is relative: it is not clear who is gay and who is straight, who is a friend of whom, and who is the lover. His old friends play their own game of true Indians and swear eternal friendship to each other. He returns, kneeling down when begging for forgiveness. In the third novella, “Respect,” the son honestly and industriously tries to live up to the model that his father creates for him, but he doesn’t know the script. Yet it is clear that the role of a true man, a hunter and rock-climber, a man of courage and macho, is not for him. The father, too, it transpires, is no macho, but an aging actor who is forever captivated by illusions and who—in a moment of creative crisis and fear of old age—needs the son as a character in his play with the title “return of the prodigal father.” Finally, in the novella “Cooperation,” the motive of manipulation of someone else’s life becomes transparent. The ambitious producer-debutant Sergei excitedly initiates his game, in which the carpenter Roman and amateur songwriter “à la Tsoy” is given the role of a Tsoy-double. When Sergei’s creation—the protagonist of his show—Roman breaks off his links and signs a contract with the director of the Chapiteau-Show, that is—exits the game, Sergei’s concept about pleasure derived from being just a copy is smashed into smithereens.

Reviewed by Tat’iana Kruglova, Liliia Nemchenko in KinoKultura

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Russian Hollywood to Appear Near Moscow

Enterprising residents of the Moscow region city of Kolomna are planning to give the Russian film industry a boost by opening a film center meant to resemble Hollywood, media reports said Tuesday.

The project, called "Kollywood," is set to open in 2013 and will cost upward of 100 million rubles ($3 million), Anton Gubankov, the Moscow region's top official for culture, told Izvestia.

In part, costs will go toward turning a 3.5-hectare former silk factory into film sets, offices and warehouses suitable for storing props.

Project organizers are targeting federal investment programs and noncommercial funds to raise money to purchase the necessary photographic equipment and buy costumes. Organizers hope to break even within a year of the project's start date, Izvestia reported.

Kollywood's opening coincides with the 2013 launch of the International Summer School for Young Cinematographers, also in the Moscow region, and organizers hope to attract young cinematographers to work full-time at the new film studio that same year.

More here.