Thursday, 30 August 2012

Russian film may win at Venice festival

Russian film may win at Venice festival - The Voice of Russia:

The Voice of Russia

Russian film may win at Venice festival
The Voice of Russia
The program includes 3 Russian films – Kirill Serebrennikov's “Betrayal” in the competition program, “Anton's Right Here” by Lyubov Arkus in the out-of-competition program and Alexey Balabanov “I Also Want It” in a parallel program called “Horizons ...
Betrayal (Izmena): Venice ReviewHollywood Reporter

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Georgi Parajanov: Everybody's gone - Все ушли (2012), Trailer

Director:Georgi Parajanov
Cast: Avtandil Makharadze , Zurab Kipshidze , Natalia Kolyakanova , Victor Terel

The plot revolves around childhood memories of Harry, who after many years returns to his home town. Everything seems strange and unfamiliar. He came back for their memories, good and bad, pleasant and painful. Will the old fortune teller Nina, known around town as a collector of dreams, free from the shackles of Harry matured past?

Awards : First prize Window to Europe Film Festival, Vyborg, Russia, 2012 Best Cinematography Sergey MACHILSKY , Window to Europe Film Festival, Vyborg, Russia, 2012

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Aleksandr Veledinsky: Alive - Живой (2006)

Director: Aleksandr Veledinsky
Writers: Igor Porublyov, Aleksandr Veledinsky
Stars: Olga Arntgolts, Aleksey Chadov,Andrey Chadov

Alive (2006)

Awards :

Best Screenplay Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Russia, 2006
Best directing Festival Russian kino 'Moscow Premier Screenings', Russia, 2006
Best Screenplay "NIKA" Prizes, Russia, 2006
Best Screenplay Aleksandr VELEDINSKY , Igor PORUBLEV , Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Russia, 2006
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Vladimir EPIFANTSEV , Maksim LAGASHKIN , Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Russia, 2006

Alive (2006)

When discussing Alive in an interview, Aleksandr Veledinskii, an accomplished scriptwriter and television director who launched his full-length feature career with Russian (Russkoe, 2004), admitted that for him “the two films are similar in spirit” as cinematic studies in Russian national character; he even considered titling his second feature Russkoe-2. [2] Russian, based on Eduard Limonov’s autobiographical fiction, told a post-Stalinist coming-of-age story, in which Edie (Andrei Chadov), a burgeoning poet from a working-class neighborhood in provincial Kharkov, negotiated his path to an authentic personal identity amidst widely diverging environmental stimuli, ranging from social conformity and criminality to transcendent creativity. If the poet-hooligan’s spiritual alive-ness amidst the materialist(ic) culture of the late 1950s was an essential component of russkoe (Russian-ness), zhivoi’s deeply felt personal responsibility before his ideal community of war comrades, Veledinskii suggests, should strike the viewer as inherently Russian in the otherwise spiritually stagnant atmosphere of Putin-era civilian mercantilism, emotional pragmatism, and moral complacency. Produced with partial support from the Federal Agency for Culture and Cinema, the film nevertheless challenges the official discourse about the Chechen war, pointing out its morally devastating impact on Russian society. In its pursuit of an alternate conception of patriotism and of a more participatory and responsible basis for national cohesion, the film manages to overcome some staples of the dominant cultural rhetoric that continues to employ war as the most effective trope for resolving society’s pressing problems. In setting their probing examination of contemporary Russian society in the context of the Chechen war, however, the filmmaker and producer Sergei Chliiants (Petr Buslov’s Bimer [Bumer, 2003] and Bimer 2 [2005], Veledinskii’s Russian, and Kira Muratova’s The Tuner [Nastroishchik, 2004]), fall prey to some of the most conventional aspects of the war master plot.

In Alive, the former Chechen-war contract soldier Kir (Andrei Chadov) returns to civilian life after losing his leg in battle. His encounter with the world outside the close-knit army brotherhood proves disappointing and traumatic: a major in charge of the veterans’ post-war transition (Andrei Rapoport) not only makes profit off the injured soldiers and the families of those killed in action, but also evades his responsibility of personally honoring and counseling the relatives of the dead. In a fit of rage, Kir commits a samurai-like act, killing the corrupt major with a saber that he bought as a gift for an army friend who saved his life. Unable to break the sad news to the widow of his perished commander (a task previously relegated to him by the major), the inebriated and lonely Kir wanders into a rainy night. In what looks like a search for human contact, Kir tries to embrace some chance girls in an underground pass, for which he gets beaten by their male companion and is left lying on the cement floor.

The following night scene at a busy highway, in which Kir is hit and abandoned by a foreign-made SUV while hitching a ride, serves as an even more poignant metaphor for the returning veteran’s painful head-on encounter with personal and institutional corruption, unashamed profiteering, and societal indifference to his physical and psychological trauma. It is significant that Kir addresses his desperate call for help in the surrounding nocturnal void to his loyal army comrades, patsany. This vocal appeal to the army brotherhood marks a transition to a somewhat altered reality: from now on Kir will be closely accompanied by his two guardian angels―that is, his deceased army friends, Igor' (Vladimir Epifantsev) and Nikich (Maksim Lagashkin), who lost their lives while saving his. Unbeknownst to Kir, these fallen warriors are not merely figments of his troubled imagination: they are spending with him the last two of the forty days allotted to their souls in the world of the living prior to appearing before a higher judgment. The fact that Kir―with the exception of drunks, children, and artists―is the only person who can see these fully armed and uniformed companions, makes the viewer question the protagonist’s own status among the living on his resumed journey to his provincial home town.

Reviewed by Elena Monastireva-Ansdell© 2007 in KinoKultura

Monday, 27 August 2012

Dziga Vertov: A Sixth Part of the World - Шестая часть мира (1926)

Director: Dziga Vertov
Writer: Dziga Vertov


“Soviet cinema is currently experiencing an unforgettable turning point,” wrote Dziga Vertov in 1926, in an April 12 letter collected in Kino-Eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov (University of California Press, 1984). Judging by the two short films, A Sixth Part of the World (1926) and The Eleventh Year (1928), Vertov was doing little more than stating the truth. Man with a Movie Camera would follow in 1929, with Enthusiasm and Three Songs about Lenin following in 1931 and 1934 respectively, before the creep of socialist realism put paid to much truly experimental cinema. This vital and fascinating new Vienna Film Museum edition of two of Vertov’s most important middle-period films serves to remind us of just how astonishing cinema can be, and how inappropriate our usual cinematic categorizations—comedy, romance, documentary—are when it comes to directors (or “author leaders,” as these films have it) like Vertov—whose vision, it should not be forgotten, cannot be easily disentangled from the work of Elizaveta Svilova, his wife and editor, and of Michail Kaufman, his brother and cameraman.

Picture 1 of 198083

A Sixth Part of the World, whose title refers to the immense landmass of the Soviet Union, is a celebration of the people and the industry of the USSR. If that sounds either dull or propagandistic, it should be noted that it is most definitely not the former nor straightforwardly the latter. Vertov, whose ability to understand his own work far exceeds that of anyone else, described it in the following way during an August 17, 1926 interview for the Kino newspaper: “A Sixth Part of the World is more than a film, than what we have got used to understanding by the word ‘film.’ Whether it is a newsreel, a comedy, an artistic hit-film, A Sixth Part of the World is somewhere beyond the boundaries of these definitions; it is already the next stage after the concept of ‘cinema’ itself … Our slogan is: All citizens of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics from 10 to 100 years old must see this work. By the tenth anniversary of October there must not be a single Tungus who has not seen A Sixth Part of the World” (quoted in Barbara Wurm’s essay in the DVD booklet). It is no coincidence that Vertov mentions the Tungus, an older name for one group of indigenous people of the Russian north, as, unlike much of the fiercely metropolitan Man with a Movie Camera, A Sixth Part of the World is an attempt to capture the diversity of Soviet peoples, as well as the variety of the nation’s industry. The film is also a complicated critique of capitalism, and of the USSR’s involvement with the global market (the film was completed just before the first of the five-year plans was introduced). By the time Vertov made A Sixth Part of the World, Lenin’s New Economic Policy had been in operation for five years, and export to capitalist countries formed a central part of the Soviet economy. The somewhat unwieldy subtitle of the film, A Kino-Eye Race around the USSR: Export and Import by the State Trading Organization of the USSR reveals something of the complex geopolitics of Vertov’s cinematic subject.

A Sixth Part of the World begins not with the USSR, however, but in the capitalist world. A German plane descends, eerily reminiscent of the opening shot of Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will (1935). Men and women dance the foxtrot, while fancy bows at the back of silk dresses swish and a gramophone record rotates (a wind-up gramophone playing a Lenin speech will return later on board a ship picking up furs for export to the Leipzig fair). The scene cuts to a machine picking up metal with “Krupp,” the name of the German steel manufacturers and the largest corporation in Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century, written on the side. A woman and a man smoke and drink tea. “More machines … and more … and even more,” read the inter-titles, as if shaking their head at a system rapaciously committing itself both to limitless production and to such cultural decadence. “But for the worker,” we are told, “it is just as difficult.” Capitalism is structurally unfair.

One striking feature of A Sixth Part of the World’s inter-titles is that Vertov repeatedly uses “you” (both formal and familiar) in different ways throughout: the “you” of the member of the various ethnic groups of the USSR included in the footage, the “you” of the audience watching the film, but also the “you” of the Soviet Union as a political totality. To complicate things further, the camera apparently possesses an agency of its own: the phrase “I see” is particularly prevalent at the beginning of the film, where Vertov’s kino-eye turns its critical gaze upon the negative dimensions of the capitalist world: “I see colonies,” “slaves,” it reports, as we see footage of black men and women picking crops under the stick-wielding direction of a colonial master. “Capital” (misleadingly subtitled as “the capital” throughout, one of the rare faults of this superb edition), the watcher slowly realizes, may involve fancy hats, stuffed animals, and dancing at one extreme, but at the other lies exploitation, racism, and cruelty. One of the most important juxtapositions comes when a scene of a black workers grinding grain is followed by footage of a minstrel show with the interspersed titles: “black people … existing for amusement as … ‘chocolate kids’.” Vertov’s message is clear—although there are many smiles in the first few frames, none of them are true: the rich may smile because they’re better off than their neighbors, the slaves may smile because it’s better than crying, and the minstrels may smile, well, because they have to—but none of these expressions of happiness are remotely authentic. “Convulsions” reads one intertitle, as faux-tribal dancers step up their pace, jazz bands play, and a woman smokes. The capitalism of the 1920s may well be frenetic, exciting, and dynamic but it is also, according to Vertov’s script, “on the brink of historical downfall.” History would bear him out on this point, at least.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Boris Khlebnikov: Till Night Do Us Part - Пока ночь не разлучит (2012)

Until the night do us part (2012)

Director: Boris Khlebnikov
Stars: Mariya Shalaeva, Yevgeni Syty, Alexnder Yatsenko

While the night will separate (2012)

A real (literally) satirical comedy based on real situations at Moscow’s most bombastic restaurant. A madly ridiculous and revelatory film about women who choose between money and love, about producers who actually do not know what to shoot; and on your birthday you may sometimes spit out, drown a glass of vodka on an empty stomach and leave the mother-inlaw with the bill for supper. And about real love that is born not behind gilt walls, but in a noisy kitchen. ...

Sahat Dursunov

Five years after the February and October Revolutions of 1917, no-longer-count Aleksei Tolstoi, then living in Berlin, from which he was soon to return to Soviet Russia, shared an observation with another writer, who almost 60 years later published it in his memoirs: “…something happened to the [Russian] language. Contrary to the nature of the Russian language, its syntax has been breaking… [T]he adjective now stands after the noun, and the verb at the very end of the sentence.” Not everyone was as scared by the changes in linguistic practices as Count Tolstoi at the time. Some writers treated the same process as a productive one. An example would be Mikhail Zoshchenko, whose mastery of new phrases and words caught verbatim and fused with caustic humor first made him supremely popular because of his faithful reproduction of the reality of the New Economic Policy, and then led to accusations that he blackened that same reality—perceived as part of an uninterrupted movement towards socialism. Even linguistic matters became political.

Alexander Child

These old examples serve, first of all, to show the underlying reasons for the attraction that verbatim holds in times of linguistic shifts, which are simply the outer ridge of more significant cultural, economic, social, and political changes. It acknowledges the rift between literary language and even journalese—and the “language of the street”; the difficulty of reproducing it by employing the regular degree of everyday observation. This rift also creates a sense of mystery that accompanies the growing difficulty of communication, which, in turn, leads to alienation or nekommunikabel’nost’. Verbatim in literature, theater, and cinema helps to recognize the familiar, but it also helps to familiarize the strange, thus penetrating the wall between users of the old and the new languages.

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Iosif Kheifits: The Duel - Плохой хороший человек (1973)

Director: Iosif Kheifits
Writers: Anton Chekhov (novel), Iosif Kheifits
Stars: Oleg Dal, Vladimir Vysotskiy, Lyudmila Maksakova

Lyudmila Maksakova
Lyudmila Maksakova  

In a small town in the south of Russia during the 1890s two young men share a common trait of implacability and an antagonistic nature. They become entangled in a quarrel and this leads to the two challenging each other to a duel. The film is loosely based on “The Duel” by Anton Chekov and has a modern-day adaptation currently in cinemas. The film is a Soviet-era classic and provides a unique insight into the way drama was portrayed in the USSR. It also features Vladimir Vysotskiy in one of his most prominent cinematic roles.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Vladimir Menshov - Biography

Vladimir Valentinovich Menshov was born on 17th September 1939 in Baku, Azerbaijan. His father Menshov Valentin Mikhailovich was a seaman and then worked in the National commissariat of internal affairs (the notorious NKVD). Vladimir’s mother Antonina Aleksandrovna was a housewife. Due to the work of his father the Menshovs first lived in Baku, then in Arkhangelsk, and later in Astrakhan.
In 1957 after finishing school Menshov left for Moscow to enter VGIK (the Institute of Cinematography) but failed.
Having returned to Astrakhan in September, 1957 Vladimir Menshov got employed at a ship-repair factory as a turner’s apprentice, and then as a turner.

 From Happy Cuckooshkin. 

Then he worked as a miner in Vorkuta, and as a sailor of a forwarding group in Caspian Sea. The future Oscar-winning film director started his actor’s career in 1958 in the backup line-up of the Astrakhan Drama Theater.
In 1961 he entered the Actor's Faculty of Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko School-Studio at Moscow Art Academic Theatre. After graduation in 1965 he worked for two years as an actor and director’s assistant in the Lermontov Stavropol Regional Drama Theater.
In 1970 he finished a postgraduate course in VGIK at the Chair of Directing Feature Film (workshop Mikhail Romm).
From 1970 to 1976 Vladimir Menshov worked at Mosfilm, Lenfilm and on Odessa Film Studios. He filmed the short-length study film On dialectics of perception of art, or Lost Dreams, made a stage version of Marietta Shaginyan’ novel "Mess-mend", which was staged in Leningrad Young Spectator’s Theatre, and wrote the film scenario "I serve on the border" by request of Lenfilm Studio.

At the same time his actor's career in filming started: he played the lead in his classmate Aleksandr Pavlovsky’s graduation work Happy Cuckooshkin. The film was made at the Odessa Film Studio. Vladimir Menshov was also the coauthor of the scenario. The picture won the grand prize at the Kiev Film Festival "Molodost-71" and next year Menshov already got an invitation from director Aleksei Sakharov to star in his film A Man at His Place. After winning the first award as the Best Actor at the VI All-Union Film Festival in Alma-Ata Menshov became in great demand in Russian cinema.
Menshov made his real debut as а film director with the Practical Joke in 1976. His second picture Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears was a smashing box office hit in Russia, took the State Award of the USSR, and then won Oscar (1981) as the best foreign film.
 In 1984 Menshov directed the romantic comedy Love and Doves after Vladimir Gurkin’s same-name play. The film became very popular in Russia and also got the Grand Prize – Gold Boat – at the Torremolinos Comedy Film Festival, Spain, in 1985.
Vladimir Menshov’s other known works as a film director are Shirli-Myrli (1995), The Envy of Gods (2000), and Big Waltz (2008).
In 2004 Menshov was the host in the popular TV show Last Hero.
Altogether Vladimir Menshov has played over 70 roles. Besides, the film director and actor wrote scenarios and produced a number of films.
Vladimir Menshov is married and has a daughter and grandsons. His wife is the People’s Actress of Russia Vera Alentova and his daughter is the popular actress and TV host Julia Menshovа.

Karen Oganesyan: The Brownie aka Ghost (Домовой)

Director Karen Oganesyan 
Cast: Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Mashkov, Chulpan Khamatova, Armen Dzhigarkhanyan, Vitaly Kischenko, Anatoly Semenov, Ramil Sabitov, Aleksandr Chutko, Sergey Gazarov.


The idea of a face to face meeting between a writer and his character is imaginative, but by no means original. The creators of the suspense thriller, The Ghost, are obviously not afraid of the beaten path. The box-office totals of recent films produced by Timur Bekmambetov, the leader of the new trend in Russian cinema, prove that it’s all right if a film smells a trifle musty and recycles elements of Hollywood productions of past decades.
The film is about Anton, the author of a crime fiction series, whose hero is a professional killer nicknamed the Ghost (Domovoi). As he signs his books in a library, Anton witnesses a murder committed by a professional killer. The killer, who later turns out to be the Ghost himself, meets Anton afterward and offers him a story from real life. Suffering from serious writer's block and feeling his own writing to be forced and untrue to life, Anton eagerly accepts the offer of collaboration. Eventually, he has an opportunity to try professional murder himself and offers the Ghost a challenge: they will randomly select a victim whom Anton will track down. For Anton to make his “kill,” he has to get the victim alone with no witnesses.
Oganesian’s film cannot claim to be original because it appears after such Hollywood cult productions as Basic Instinct (Paul Verhoeven, 1992)and Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999), with which it shares basic plot elements. Like the lead in Basic Instinct, Anton feels the need to live through a crime in order to write about it and, as in Fight Club, the plot is based on the tension between a weak loser and his double, a cool and manly character produced by his own imagination. Of course, these story blocks in Oganesian’s film are arranged differently and may convey a different message: here the writer only pretends to kill, the Ghost is a real person whose story inspired the writer to create his series, and the access to violence unleashes the evil side of Anton's self, which he must then overcome. Nevertheless, the air of familiarity and cliché is indispensable to the film.
In addition to the frame—a story focused on the relationship of a writer to his writing—there is also a second plot, an intrigue, which ends with a shocking and unexpected revelation. Hidden beneath the surface until the climactic scene, in which the writer pretends to kill the victim, this plot is built on the laws of suspenseful filmmaking. It resembles the famous move in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), where one of the characters creates a plot which another character enacts without realizing it. The killer in The Ghost has been hired by the mafia and a general prosecutor to get rid of a dangerous witness. He anticipates that the prosecutor has ordered him traced and killed afterwards. He reassigns this killing to Anton and secretly guides the writer in a supposedly random choice of victim. Trying to play the killer's double, Anton becomes a dummy in the killer's play. When the writer happily pretends to kill the victim in a public restroom by pointing two fingers through the stall door, the real killer kills the victim from behind Anton's back.

Reviewed by Jamilya Nazyrova © 2009 in KinoKultura 

If Karen Oganesyan's "The Ghost" hadn't been so blatantly tooled as an item for Hollywood remake, it might have proved to be a clever fusion of the twin Russian obsessions for the criminal underground and the literary world. When the film's bestselling crime novelist hits a creative slump and finds sudden inspiration from a hitman who could have popped from the pages of one of his tomes, the action flirts with outright comedy, but turns into a merely mediocre shoot-'em-up straining for effect. Surefire local B.O. likely will gird a future deal with a Stateside studio. Author Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) is signing copies of his latest book, "The Ghost's Revenge," in a Moscow bookstore when he witnesses hitman Mikhail (Vladimir Mashkov) perform a swift assassination across the street. Beset with his own personal and familial demons, Anton proves vulnerable to Mikhail's entreaties to let him provide the author with an insider's view of the life of a killer-for-hire. Even half-interested viewers will be far ahead of Anton in his shock that he's become a pawn in Mikhail's larger game, which turns out to be only slightly intriguing ...

The deliberate pacing of Russian narratives can sometimes be difficult for North American audiences to adjust to but for people who can adapt to the slightly more plodding style of storytelling, The Ghost is worth seeking out. This somewhat conventional thriller follows the story of Anton (Konstantin Khabensky), a crime novelist who witnesses the daylight assassination of a mob informant. After getting over the shock of viewing a scenario he’s fictionally written about so often, Anton wants to bring more reality to his prose. The assassin (Vladimir Mashkov), who approached Anton for an autograph moments prior to the murder, seeks out the author and offers to tell his story and grant Anton insight into the world of murder for hire. Anton takes on the role of confessor, using the assassin’s real life exploits to help his writing as he works to understand the mind of a cold-blooded, methodical killer, going so far as to plot a pretend assassination so he can feel the thrill of the hunt. The Ghost weaves an intricate story that, though a little predictable and lacking the action of a Hollywood thriller, is captivating and well thought out. Khabensky, who North American audiences might recognize from the action packed Russian fantasy film Night Watch (Nochoy Dozor) and its less enjoyable sequel Day Watch (Dnevno Dozor), gives a solid performance as a novelist struggling with his inner demons, testing the limits of his experience. ...

Mikhail Brashinsky: Shopping-tour - Шопинг-тур (2012)

Director: Mikhail Brashinsky
Writer: Mikhail Brashinsky
Cast:Tatyana Kolganova, Timofei Eletsky,Tatyana Ryabokon


 SHOPPING TOUR is a cannibal dramedy by the Russian filmmaker Mikhail BRASHINSKY. A group of Russian tourists go on a shopping tour to the neighboring Finland – only to be attacked by the Finnish cannibals. It turns out, there is one day in a year when every Finn has to eat a foreigner. And today is that day. We focus on a middle-aged woman and her teenage son, who is filming the film – as we watch it – on his cell phone, as they are trying to survive in the land of vegetarians turned carnivores.

 Russian premiere of the film will take place in the Competition program of the XX National Film Festival “Window to Europe” (Vyborg, August 12 – 19, 2012).

 The film is an Official Selection of the XXV Helsinki International Film Festival (Love & Anarchy) (September 20 – 30, 2012).

Awards : First prize Window to Europe Film Festival, Vyborg, Russia, 2012

Best actress Tatyana Kolganova , Window to Europe Film Festival, Vyborg, Russia, 2012

Tatiana Kolganova
 Tatyana Kolganova 

Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics Prize Window to Europe Film Festival, Vyborg, Russia, 2012

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Russia offers 'Expiation' aka Redemption (Internationa Film Festival in Montreal)

“The Expiation” aka Redemption , a new film by Russian film director Alexander Proshkin has been included in the contest program of the International Film Festival in Montréal which opens on August 23 and will continue until September 3. This year the contest program of one of the oldest and most prestigious cinema forums of North America contains 18 films.

“The Expiation” aka Redemption is a psychological film based on the realities from the life in the Soviet Union but in fact it is relevant for any nation. The action is set in a small Russian town one year after the end of the Second World War but in the USSR the war between the authorities and the citizens is still on and Stalinism is still strong. Informers are everywhere, the country is gripped by poverty. In this terrible life there is no room for human morals and values. The town residents who are mainly good and warm-hearted people begin to involuntary hate each other. A girl tells on her mother who stole doughnuts in the canteen and the woman is sent to prison. An officer returns from the war and learns that during the occupation his neighbor killed his family. The officer wants to commit suicide but then he meets the girl and it changes their lives. The 72 year old director Alexander Proshkin, who made about 20 films, says that in “The Expiation” aka Redemption he continues to explore the main theme in his work.
"I am trying to understand what the 20th century did to all of us, this was a “wolf-dog” century when Russia probably went through the most terrifying and tragic hardships and this experience to some extent influenced our mentality. I see my mission in telling people the truth about that time about the things I am concerned about. I think this is one of the main tasks of intellectuals and film. My movie is about the only way of survival in our life which is human feelings, love."
“The Expiation” aka Redemption  is definitely a very strong movie, a well known film critic Valery Kichin said in an interview with the “Voice of Russia”.
"The theme which is raised in this film is very relevant today and the artistic power of the movie puts it on the same level with such legendary Soviet films as “The Ballad of a Soldier” and “The Cranes Are Flying”. Those films gained international recognition and took prizes in Cannes and San Francisco. Alexander Proshkin manages to keep fresh and living memories of the post war epoch in our country. The film “Expiation” aka Redemption  is like a time machine which takes us to that epoch helping us not only to understand but feel that time with our hearts."

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Russian film actress Irina Skobtseva marks jubilee

Picture 7 of 178

Russian film actress Irina Skobtseva is marking her jubilee. On August 22 she turns 85.

Skobtseva starred in more than 60 movies including “War and Peace”, “Waterloo”, “They Fought for Their Country” directed by her husband, an outstanding Russian director Sergey Bondarchuk.
She debuted as Desdemona in “Othello”, a 1955 film by Sergey Yutkevich. In 1956 this film won the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film festival and Skobtseva was given the title “Miss Charm of the Cannes Film Festival”. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Dmitry Povolotsky: My Dad Baryshnikov - Мой папа Барышников (2011)

Director: Dmitry Povolotsky
Writer: Dmitry Povolotsky
Stars: Vladimir Kapustin, Anna Mikhalkova, Lyudmila Titova

"Billy Elliot" meets "Good Bye Lenin!" doesn't quite do justice to the subtler dimensions of Russian period comedy "My Dad Baryshnikov," but it gets across the major flavors. The story of a ballet-obsessed Moscow adolescent boy growing up during the Perestroika era who pretends his father is really Mikhail Baryshnikov, writer-helmer Dmitry Povolotsky's semi-autobiographical pic is an endearing crowdpleaser with plenty of fest export potential; it could even work as a specialty theatrical item in the right hands. Domestically, pic could get upscale auds dancing to its tune.

Picture 7 of 1919
Set in Moscow around 1986, the plot pivots around Boris Fishkin (Dmitri Viskubenko, who has a good line in poker face), a scrawny, underdeveloped 14-year-old whose Jewish surname sets him slightly apart from his peers at his performing-arts academy. He lives with his mother, Larissa (Anna Mikhalkova, always welcome), who tutors others in English and Russian and occasionally sleeps with some of her clients. When Larissa is busy with these especially private lessons, Boris goes downstairs to hang out with his paternal grandparents (Ilya Rutberg and Marina Politseimako) in their apartment, but like his mother, they never discuss why Boris' dad, whom he doesn't remember, isn't around.

Image 8 of 1919
At school, Boris demonstrates lots of enthusiasm for dancing, but rather less natural skill and strength. He has a big crush on Marina (Lilya Yamada), the class prima, but no interest in bossy classmate-neighbor Katya (Ksenia Surkova), who clearly has the hots for Boris.

Picture 9 of 1919
One of his mother's American "students" gives Boris a banned VHS copy of "White Nights," the 1985 thriller starring Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was at the time still a persona non grata in the Soviet Union owing to his defection. Mesmerized, Boris watches the ballet scenes repeatedly and tries to copy Baryshnikov's moves. Half out of childish fantasy, half out of a desire to impress, he tells his classmates he's really Baryshnikov's illegitimate son, and when his pirouettes begin to improve, everyone starts to believe him. His stock rises even further when he starts dealing in black-market goods acquired through a sideline he runs with his older friend Vovan (Mark Ganeev). But if he were to get caught, it would spell curtains for his placement at the Bolshoi Theater.

The filmmakers easily could have coasted on the pic's spot-on period details -- from the women's poodle-fluffy hairstyles to the choice of Boney M on the soundtrack -- for laughs alone, so it's to Povolotsky's credit that he wrings humor from the sharp dialogue and well-observed situational comedy. Without ever getting drippy, pic also has its poignant moments, from the way it resolves the question of Boris' paternity to its inclusion of an Afghan war veteran who's lost both his legs to a landmine. 

More here.

Vladimir Karabanov: Elephant - Слон (2010)

Directed by Vladimir Karabanov
Cast: Sergey Shnurov, Anastasiya Bagrova, Yury Tsurilo, Alexandr Adаbаshiyan,

Zarezin, a semi driver, is given the task of transporting an ill circus elephant to a veterinary facility to be put down. His willing though accidental fellow traveler is the circus-performing teen girl Bonnie. Zarezin makes a decision to save the elephant with Bonnie’s help. In his turn, Bodhi the elephant helps the characters understand what the most important thing in their lives is.

Awards :
Elephant :
First prize, Cinema for children, Film Festival of CIS countries, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia "Kinoshock", Russia, 2011

Monday, 20 August 2012

Andrei Konchalovsky: 'Life is about experimenting'

Андрей Кончаловский

Film director and screenwriter Andrei Konchalovsky celebrates his 75th jubilee. The author of more than 30 scripts, Konchalovsky has also made 25 films, staged 5 operas and 6 theatre productions in Russia and abroad.

As of today, Konchalovsky remains the only Russian director who first earned fame in Russia and then went to the United States, where he spent several fruitful years and returned to Moscow to continue his career.
He looks like a person who had always wanted to try everything- in life and in work. That is why his films are so different. One of his earliest films,The Story of Asya Klyachina, Who Loved But Did Not Marry (1967) is followed by A Nest of Gentlefolk (1969). Film musical A Lover's Romance (1974)foregoes family saga Siberiade (1979), which won the Special Jury Prize in Cannes. Among his latest works are: Gloss,a social film drama made in 2007, and The Nutcracker: The Untold Story, a 2010 3D fantasy film adaptation of the legendary ballet.
Experimentalist by nature, Konchalovsky went to the U.S. in 1980 to escape the Soviet reality, the Soviet film industry and try his luck in Hollywood. The director explains why he decided to leave:
"I cannot live in a country which is impossible to leave. I had lived in the Soviet Union for quite a long time waiting for a possibility to travel freely. I think that it is possible to become a patriot when you have a chance to leave."

More here.

Aleksei German Jr: Garpastum -Гарпастум (2005)

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Director Aleksei German Jr.
Cast: Chulpan Khamatova, Evgeny Pronin, Danila Kozlovsky, Dmitri Vladimirov

Awards :
Best Cinematography Oleg LUKICHEV , International debut film festival, Russia, 2006
Best directing Festival of Central and Eastern Film , Germany, 2006
Best directing "NIKA" Prizes, Russia, 2005
Best Cinematography Oleg LUKICHEV , Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Russia, 2005
Best actor Danila KOZLOVSKY , Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Russia, 2005
Bélier d'or de la meilleure réalisation, 2005 Prix Nika de la meilleure réalisation, 2005

The second feature film of talented young filmmaker Aleksei German, Jr. is as stark and challenging as his award-wining 2004 debut film The Last Train (see Birgit Beumers’s review in KinoKultura 3). While The Last Train was set in the waning days of World War II, the action of Garpastum takes place at another critical moment in twentieth-century Russian history, the period between the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 and the Revolution of 1917. Although profoundly marked by the influence of the director’s father, Aleksei German, Sr., Garpastum is the work of a mature, independent artist.
Garpastum (Latin for a ball game played by the ancient Romans) is a tale of two middle-class brothers, who, completely oblivious to the storm clouds gathering all around them, spend their days obsessed with soccer and girls. Nikolai (Danila Kozlovskii) is the dark-haired, serious, and responsible one, while Andrei (Evgenii Pronin) is blond, irresponsible, self-centered, and a genius at soccer. They live with their uncle (Pavel Romanov), aunt, and invalid father; apparently their mother’s recent death has unhinged their father, who is mostly confined to his bed. Along with two young friends, Shust (Dmitrii Vladimirov) and Misha, nicknamed “Tolstyi” (Aleksandr Bykovskii), the brothers devote themselves to playing soccer and much of the film revolves around their efforts to raise money to purchase a field for a stadium of their own. When not playing soccer matches for money with factory toughs, Orthodox seminarians, or young boys in the streets and fields of a fog-draped St. Petersburg, Nikolai works in a pharmacy (perhaps he will follow the family tradition and become a doctor), while Andrei spends his evenings being initiated into slightly kinky sex by Anitsa (Chulpan Khamatova), an attractive and unstable young widow and Silver Age salon hostess. Although the leading literary lights of the period—including Akhmatova, Gumilev, Mandelstam, Khodasevich, and Blok—gather at Anitsa’s salon, Andrei shows no interest in them, only occasionally feeling jealous of Blok, whom Anitsa calls a friend and “perhaps, a great poet.” The calamitous events of the world beyond the family apartment, Anitsa’s salon and bedroom, and the soccer field are briefly mentioned by characters who quickly pass through the camera’s field of view: a man on the train reads out loud a newspaper account of the assassination of the Archduke, random people discuss rumors about soldiers being drafted or the latest military news from the front, a soccer-playing acquaintance of our heroes who had deserted from the army is taken into custody. But throughout it all, our heroes’ attention stays firmly focused on their own personal field of dreams.

The friendship of two handsome brothers survives wars and revolutions in Alexey German’s second film Garpastum, a sepia-tinted exercise in 1910s Russian melancholy that could resonate with older, sophisticated arthouse audiences across Europe and, possibly, North America. The brothers’ love for football (Garpastum in Latin) is used niftily to enlarge their ambitions from winning the game to succeeding in life, and not only diverts their attention from World Wars and Communist Revolutions but also allows German to put their love for play and physical prowess on display. ... more>>

Official site.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Karen Shakhnazarov: The Vanished Empire - Исчезнувшая империя (2008)

Director: Karen Shakhnazarov
Screenplay: Evgenii Nikishov, Sergei Rokotov
Cinematography: Shandor Berkeshi
Art Direction: Liudmila Kusakova
Sound: Gul'sara Mukataeva
Cast: Aleksandr Liapin, Lidiia Miliuzina, Egor Baranovskii, Ivan Kupreenko, Armen Dzhigarkhanian

Awards : Best directing Golden Eagle awards, Russia, 2009

"Set during the first half of the 1970s, The Vanished Empire depicts a love triangle between two young men and a girl who study at the same Moscow university. As they argue, make up, and face their first disappointments and victories, the country they love undergoes sweeping and irreversible changes. The latest film by celebrated Russian filmmaker Karen Shakhnazarov (Zero City, Jazzman) is a cinematic love letter to a unique moment in the lives of the Soviet youth." KinoInternational

The Vanished Empire (2008)

Appropriately, Karen Shakhnazarov’s The Vanished Empire was released in Russia on Valentine’s Day. The film’s plot centers on a teenage romance between Sergei (Aleksandr Liapin) and Liuda (Lidiia Miliuzina) that has all the trappings of young love: awkward attempts to impress, thrilling kisses, and heartbreak. Despite this narrative focus, Shakhnazarov isn’t sending his valentine message to young couples. Rather, his cinematic love letter is addressed not to a home or a street—to invoke the Samotsvetoy song referred to twice in the film—but to the Soviet Union.

Set in Moscow in 1973-74, the film’s primary characters are college kids in their late teens, who lead absolutely typical lives: they live at home with their parents, attend classes, date, listen to rock and roll—albeit bought on the black market for exorbitant prices—and experiment with drugs and alcohol. Were it not for the film’s dense mise-en-scène filled with objects meant constantly to remind the viewer of Stagnation era sights and sounds, the film’s story could easily be transposed to any other teen flick produced in Hollywood, Europe, or elsewhere. However, precisely because the bulk of the film’s meaning is embedded in the objects that fill the screen and in the accompanying soundtrack, rather than in the plot, Shakhnazarov succeeds in conjuring up for his viewer a nostalgic visual and aural rendering of Stagnation-era youth culture.

Although public spaces and state-controlled media outlets continue to transmit official Soviet rhetoric, the intense focus on the personal, in effect, mutes these messages. For example, propaganda posters heralding the unity of the people and the party decorate city streets, but are passed by unnoticed by the young couple. Newsreels about the Chilean coup d’état of 1973 play to a packed audience assembled to see Leonid Gaidai’s classic comedy Ivan Vasilievich Changes Professions. While it would seem that the news agency has secured itself a captive audience, Sergei and Liuda are preoccupied. He thinks about how to make an advance; she, about how to resist it. In a third example, Sergei’s despondent grandfather watches Brezhnev deliver a televised report on the strengthening of Soviet foreign policy against imperialist nations. This short episode is flanked by a previous scene of students dancing to Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” and a subsequent scene of Sergei and Liuda kissing while Shocking Blue’s “Venus” spins on the record player. The foreign rock music—both the sound of it and its physical existence in the form of black market records—serves to undermine Brezhnev’s political speech: the so-called imperialist nations’ culture has already irrevocably infiltrated into the USSR. Moreover, the grandfather’s forlorn, almost comatose stare at the television, may be read as suggesting either depressive longing for the days of stronger leaders or, more probably, absolute indifference.

The film’s director, who has been at the helm of Mosfil'm Studios since 1998, wants to suggest that the Soviet Union crumbled not because of political policies, but because of the monumental influence of Western popular culture. In an interview published in Russia’s Izvestiia newspaper, Shakhnazarov said, “I am convinced the empire perished at the level of people’s personal lives, and not at all in the congresses and meetings.” He goes on to clarify that “it wasn’t the entry of soldiers into Afghanistan in December 1979 that played a key role in the disintegration of the Soviet Empire, but the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.”

In other words, values changed.

The Lost Empire (2008)

The attention is focused on a classical love triangle two boys and a girl. This is a memoir of my youth. Today I wonder at the fact that back then we all fell in love, got married, and divorced, and it did not occur to us, that the country in which we were living was already condemned and would soon vanish from the world map, that our life was going on against the background of global historic events. (Shakhnazarov cited in “Shakhnazarov Creates His First Film about Love”).

Set in Moscow in the fall/winter of 1973-74, Karen Shakhnazarov's film The Vanished Empire tells the story of three friends, or perhaps of first love, or better still, a story of growing up. Sergei Narbekov (Aleksandr Liapin) is the grandson of a famous archeologist (Armen Dzhigarkhanian), who had discovered the “vanished empire” of Khoresm and the City of the Winds. A first-year student at the pedagogical institute, Sergei makes money (mani) by selling off his grandfather's books to an antique book dealer, so that he can buy Wrangler jeans and Rolling Stones albums (plast rollingov) on the black market, and hang out in restaurants with his two friends, Kostia Denisov (Ivan Kupreenko) and Stepan Molodtsov (Egor Baranovskii). The three young men represent the spectrum of possibility of the “last Soviet generation”: Kostia, who has traveled abroad and comes from a family of diplomats wants to emigrate, to get out of Soviet Russia with its censorship, lack of freedom, and lines for beer, which he refers to as "Soviet servis." Sergei, a member of the intelligentsia, whose mother, father, and grandfather are all archeologists and specialist in the Near East, dreams of the “Imaginary West,” while concluding that in Russia, too, there may be some nice things, like girls. Stepan (whose last name points us to folkloric Russian nationalism) cannot understand either their desire or their dissatisfaction: perfectly pleased with how his life is turning out, with his round face and piggish eyes, he might easily become a Komsomol leader or a future agent of the KGB, but mostly spends his time courting Sergei's girls.

Reviewed by Lilya Kaganovsky © 2008 in KinoKultura

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Dziga Vertov: The Man with a Movie Camera - Человек с киноаппаратом ( 1929)

IN BFI THE GREATEST FILMS POLL 2012 Man with a Movie Camera IS AT 8th PLACE.

An impression of city life in the Soviet Union, The Man with a Movie Camera is the best-known film of experimental documentary pioneer Dziga Vertov. “It made explicit and poetic the astonishing gift the cinema made possible, of arranging what we see, ordering it, imposing a rhythm and language on it, and transcending it.” Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, 2009 A decade into his career as both filmmaker and theorist, Dziga Vertov made his best-known and most widely distributed film. This narrative-free portrait of city life – three unidentified cities provided the locations – is propelled by an effervescent delight in the possibilities of film, with its unexpected angles and clashing juxtapositions. Vertov deliberately shunned what he saw as hidebound theatrical conventions such as intertitles and actors – the film’s only real protagonist is the cameraman himself. This could easily be an indulgent mess, but Vertov’s grasp of his medium is so philosophically sure-footed that it’s just as stimulating many decades later. Vertov’s film has inspired numerous imitators, from contemporary ‘city symphonies’ to the cheerful experimentalism of the various 1960s European New Waves. Many composers have written scores for it, including Michael Nyman.
68 critics voted for this film

"Dziga Vertov's Man With a Movie Camera (1929) is a stunning avant-garde, documentary meta-narrative which celebrates Soviet workers and filmmaking. The film uses radical editing techniques and cinematic pyrotechnics to portray a typical day in Moscow from dawn to dusk. But Vertov isn't just recording reality, he transforms it through the power of the camera's "kino-glaz" (cinema eye). Vertov's rich imagery transcends the earth-bound limitations of our everyday ways of seeing.

Vertov was a working-class artist who desired to link workers with machines. His film opens with a manifesto, a series of intertitles telling us that this film is an "experiment," a search for an "absolute language of cinema" that is "based on its total separation from the language of literature and theater." This manifesto echoes an earlier one that Vertov wrote in 1922, in which he disavowed the films of D. W. Griffith and others as psychological dramas--cliches, copies of copies, films overly indebted to novels and theatrical conventions. Vertov desired to create cinema that had its own "rhythm, one lifted from nowhere else, and we find it in the movements of things." For Vertov an emphasis on the psychological interfered with the worker's "desire for kinship with the machine." And as a peoples' artist, Vertov felt that the peoples' cinema must "introduce creative joy into all mechanical labor" and "foster new people."

And foster he does. The Man With a Movie Camera is divided into nine orchestral-type movements, and several of them use rapid-fire editing, wild juxtapositions (e.g. blinking eyes with shutter blinds) and multiple exposures to mesh workers with machines in a simultaneity of reverence and celebration. Levers and wheels turn and workers synchronously turn with them. Later, Vertov reveals more mechanical reality as he juxtaposes a woman getting her hair washed with another washing clothes, and then shows a barber shaving a man, and sharpening a razor's edge. The sequence ends with newspapers rifling along a printing press, and a young woman packing cigarettes, watching the machine's quick slap pressing, while smiling at her labor.
As Vertov revealed the joys of work, the rhythm of workers and machines, he also felt that filmmaking (as a largely technological medium) was also a component of that mechanical reality. In the aforementioned sequence of a cigarette worker and her machine, Vertov also splices into the mise-en-scene his wife and editor, Yelizavela Svilova. As shoes are shined and a woman gets her hair cut and fingernails polished, an edit reveals Svilova rubbing emulsion off the film strip, suggesting that polishing the beauty of cinema is synchronous with the peoples' visit to the beauty salon. More importantly, Svilova's appearance stitched into another montage (a woman sews, fabric linked with thread, while Svilova edits, film threaded through a splicer) strongly suggests that filmmaking is workmanlike, the perfect analog to the worker's life."

Grant Tracey in Images

An impression of city life in the Soviet Union, The Man with a Movie Camera is the best-known film of experimental documentary pioneer Dziga Vertov. “It made explicit and poetic the astonishing gift the cinema made possible, of arranging what we see, ordering it, imposing a rhythm and language on it, and transcending it.” Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, 2009 A decade into his career as both filmmaker and theorist, Dziga Vertov made his best-known and most widely distributed film. This narrative-free portrait of city life – three unidentified cities provided the locations – is propelled by an effervescent delight in the possibilities of film, with its unexpected angles and clashing juxtapositions. Vertov deliberately shunned what he saw as hidebound theatrical conventions such as intertitles and actors – the film’s only real protagonist is the cameraman himself. This could easily be an indulgent mess, but Vertov’s grasp of his medium is so philosophically sure-footed that it’s just as stimulating many decades later. Vertov’s film has inspired numerous imitators, from contemporary ‘city symphonies’ to the cheerful experimentalism of the various 1960s European New Waves. Many composers have written scores for it, including Michael Nyman.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Pavel Chukhrai: The Russian Game - Русская игра (2007)

Director: Pavel Chukhray
Writers: Pavel Chukhray, Nikolai Gogol (novel)
Stars: Sergey Makovetskiy, Sergey Garmash, Andrey Merzlikin

Awards: Best Directing Festival'' Cinema and Literature'', Russia, 2008
Best Film Window to Europe Film Festival, Vyborg, Russia, 2007
Audience Award Window to Europe Film Festival, Vyborg, Russia, 2007


Pavel Chukhrai's latest film, The Russian Game, hardly seems deserving of serious review. It depends on the star power of its three leading actors (Sergei Garmash, Sergei Makovetskii, and Andrei Merzlikin), the debonair good looks of a Russian-speaking Italian (Guiliano di Capua), and a mediocre rendition of comic antics reminiscent of Viktor Titov's 1975 classic, Hello I'm Your Aunt (Zdravstvuite, ia vasha tetia) to create a slapstick adaptation of Nikolai Gogol''s play The Gamblers (Igroki, 1843). Chukhrai does his viewers, studying for a 19 th century Russian drama exam, the favor of reproducing Gogol' almost verbatim. As in the play, the film tells the story of three Russian gamblers who move from town to town cheating their unsuspecting opponents out of tens of thousands of rubles. While staying at a provincial inn, this trio serendipitously meets a fourth expert card-shark, who has just arrived from afar. Both parties—the trio and this fourth character—have the same intention: to lure others to the card table and to use slights of hand and marked cards to pocket fortunes. However, upon discovering his superior swindling skills, the trio invites the fourth to join their gang, recognizing him as a potential asset to their schemes. Of course, all is not on the up and up. An elaborate plot to deceive this fourth character, concealed until the final scene, leaves him outwitted and financially ruined. In addition to following the play's plot, the film goes so far as to reproduce a theatrical feel; the artifice of cramped studio sets, stylized costumes, and exaggerated performances that provide evidence of the actors' thespian backgrounds seem better suited to the stage than to the screen.

On one hand, as is the case with other Chukhrai films, most notably The Thief (Vor, 1997) and A Driver for Vera (Voditel' dlia Very, 2004), The Russian Game cannot be dismissed too quickly. It has garnered certain acclaim, winning awards at two of the less important film festivals dedicated exclusively to Russian cinema. At the 2007 Window to Europe (Okno v Evropu) film festival held in Vyborg, Russia, it received the Grand Prize and audience favorite awards. It also was recognized with an award from the Moscow Department of Culture at the Moscow Premiere festival. As a result of these awards, the Russian popular press has reviewed the film comprehensively and positively. Irina Liubarskaia, writing in the weekly journal Itogi, lauds Andrei Zhegalov's cinematography, congratulates the actors on inspired performances, and complimentarily describes the screenplay as witty. Larisa Iusipova, who covered the film for Vremia novostei , deems it as the unqualified leader of the Window to Europe festival program, an opinion shared by Lidia Maslova, a journalist at Kommersant" .

Reviewed by Dawn Seckler© 2008 in KinoKultura

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Russia’s first big-budget 3D movie shootings over - Battle of Stalingrad

Image from

Russia’s first big-budget 3D movie dedicated to one of the bloodiest battles in history - the Battle of Stalingrad, has ended shooting and will soon be ready to hit the silver screen.
The “Stalingrad" blockbuster war drama is due for release in Russian IMAX theatres in 2013. Filming took place at several locations around St. Petersburg, and has just been completed. Now the movie is in post-production.
The film focuses on one of the key battles of WWII, which left almost two million people dead and eventually halted the Nazi advance through Russia, reversing the course of war in favor of the Allies.
IMAX website has already issued a synopsis to the movie.
"The Soviet army mounts a counter-attack on the Nazi forces that occupy half of Stalingrad on the other side of the Volga, but the operation to cross the river is unsuccessful. A few soldiers who managed to get to the other side take refuge in a house on the banks of the Volga. Here they find a girl who didn’t escape when the Germans came. While the whole might of the German army descends onto them, the heroes of Stalingrad experience love, loss, joy and the sense of ultimate freedom that can only be felt by those about to die. They defend the house at all costs while the Red Army prepares for another attack."

More here.

Aleksei Balabanov: I Also Want It - Я тоже хочу (2012)

Director: Aleksei Balabanov 
Writer: Aleksei Balabanov 
Cast: Oleg Garkusha , Alexander Mosin , Yury Matveyev , Alice Shitikova , Alexei Balabanov , Peter Balabanov (II)

Awards :

Press award Film Festival of CIS countries, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia "Kinoshock", Anapa (Russia), 2012
Best Cinematography Aleksandr SIMONOV , Film Festival of CIS countries, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia "Kinoshock", Anapa (Russia), 2012
Award of Young critics "Golos" Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Moscow (Russia), 2012

Aleksei Balabanov described his new film, Me Too, as his most personal film. Can we then interpret this film as Balabanov’s statement of his religious views and of the coming end of the world?[1] With its allegorical elements and religious symbolism, can we call this film an expression of a “new sincerity” in contemporary Russian culture?[2] The film certainly gestures towards the transcendental. In its interest in existential questions and use of the fantastic, Me Too shares thematic similarity with Andrei Tarkovskii’s Stalker (1979).[3] Yet do the film’s message and style suggest the timeless and the eternal? Does Balabanov’s fourteenth film significantly differ from his other ironic and postmodernist works?

Me Too begins in a way not unusual for a Balabanov film, when one of the characters, the bandit (Aleksandr Mosin) kills four of his adversaries. However, the film’s plot moves into a different register when its protagonist enters a sauna. The bandit tells his friend, the musician (Oleg Garkusha), a tale about “the bell tower of happiness (kolokol’nia schast’ia).” The bandit himself learned the story from his confessor, Father Rafail. Located somewhere between St. Petersburg and Uglich, the mysterious bell tower is surrounded by something similar to Tarkovskii’s Zone, in that after a strong pulse of electromagnetic radiation this place fell into a nuclear winter, where most people die because of high radiation. However, the bell tower is also a place of rapture, where the chosen are taken to happiness. The friends decide to go to this place of no return. On their way, they rescue the bandit’s friend, whom they call Matvei (Iurii Matveev), from a rehabilitation center. Matvei decides to pick up his elderly father (Viktor Gorbunov). On their way to the bell tower, they also give a ride to Liuba, a prostitute and a former Philosophy student (Alisa Shitikova), and, finally, to a boy-prophet (played by Balabanov’s son Petr), who can predict the future and knows exactly who will be “taken” by the bell tower.

Emphasizing the new quality of his film, Balabanov described Me Too as belonging to a “completely new genre” (ITAR-TASS 2012) At the film’s premier at the 69th Venice Festival, Balabanov characterized the genre of the film as “fantastic realism” (Kartsev 2012). According to the interview, the director does not mean this new genre to be simply a combination of realistic and fantastic details, but rather a kind of documentary style. All roles in the film are played by non-professional actors. Of course, Balabanov used non-professional actors in his earlier films. For example, the cast of Stoker for the most part consisted of actors with no formal training. However, in Me Too, this quality of Balabanov’s films is taken to a new level. Thus, the actors’ roles correspond to their activities in real life, Balabanov plays a director and the rock musician Oleg Garkusha plays a rock musician. Balabanov explained that everybody plays themselves, drawing on their personal experiences. Similarly, the dialogue was largely suggested by the actors themselves, where even the smallest of anecdotes told during the film supposedly happened in real life. Similarly, the film’s director of photography, Aleksandr Simonov, stated in an interview that most of the film was shot in a documentary style (Shavlovskii 13 Dec. 2012).[4]

Read more in KinoKultura

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Stanislav Govorukhin: Bless the Woman - Благословите женщину (2003)

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Director: Stanislav Govorukhin
Writers: Irina Grekova (novel), Vladimir Valutskiy
Stars: Svetlana Khodchenkova, Aleksandr Baluev, Irina Kupchenko

Bless the Woman is veteran director (and State Duma deputy) Stanislav Govorukhin’s first feature since 1999’s Sharpshooter of the Voroshilov Regiment. Like much of his output since the 1960s, Govorukhin’s latest film is an impeccably professional example of genre cinema, in this case melodrama. He demonstrated his command of screen genres as far back as 1966, with the action-adventure film Vertical, and subsequently showed prowess working within such other cinematic templates as the crime-drama (The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed, 1979) and even the rape-revenge film (Sharpshooter). Bless the Woman also shows Govorukhin’s continuing penchant for using literary source material; the film is based on I. Grekova’s novel The Hotel Manager, and follows the director’s earlier adaptations of such varied works as Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians (1987), Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (1981), and Robinson Crusoe (1972).

The plot of Bless the Woman is spread over an eventful span of Soviet history: 1935-1957. Along with art director Valentin Gidulianov and costume designer Regina Khomskaia, Govorukhin has convincingly recreated the physical and visual minutiae of 1930s-1950s Soviet life. In its detailed attention to the nation’s past, the film can thus also be placed beside Govorukhin’s trilogy of historical documentaries: This is No Way to Live, 1990; The Russia That We Lost, 1992; and The Great Criminal Revolution, 1994. Unlike those highly politicised film-exposés, however, Bless the Woman’s primary representational allegiances are aesthetic: to screen melodrama. The narrative, and the camera, are focused throughout on the heroine, Verochka, beginning with the opening shots of her emerging Venus-like from the sea foam. The Russian word for Venus, in fact – Venera – is evoked by the character’s own given name, Vera, which means "faith." The resulting associative links with both iconic female sensuality (Venera) and the more abstract value of higher belief (vera) indicate just what sort of Womanhood Verochka personifies. Govorukhin’s vision of the Feminine Ideal is not a particularly original one, but he does manage to combine the erotic and the sacred in interesting ways, for example a slow, close-up pan down Verochka’s bare torso while she showers that stops at her abdomen as she realizes that she is pregnant. That Govorukhin is centrally concerned here with the experience and significance of being female, specifically a Russian female of the 20th century, is also confirmed by the film’s title and dedication: "To our mothers and grandmothers." The film is structured as a series of episodes in Vera’s life, separated by intertitles indicating the date. When we first meet her, in 1935, Verochka is a 17-year old living with her mother, brother, and sister in a small seaside village. One morning, fresh from her daily swim, she meets Larichev, a Red Army colonel who is 15, perhaps 20 years her senior. After their second meeting on the beach, he informs her he will return in two weeks in order to take her away and marry her. Thus begins a pattern of military itinerancy and strict familial command structure that will define Verochka’s married life. In many ways, she is in the tradition of the long-suffering heroines of Russian literature and Soviet film, heroines defined primarily by a cluster of virtues such as obedience and loyalty to men, infinite patience, and unquestioning self-sacrifice.

Reviewed by Seth Graham©2004 in KinoKultura

Andrei Tarkovsky & Sergei Parajanov - Islands

A 40 minute documentary discussing the friendship of Tarkovsky and Parajanov and their contrasting filmmaking styles and personalities, including interviews with friends and associates

Vasily Lanovoy - Biography

Vasili Lanovoy

Vasili Lanovoy is a notable Russian actor best known as Captain Grey in Alye parusa(1961) and as Anatol Kuragin in War and Peace (1967).

He was born Vasili Semenovich Lanovoy on January 16, 1934, in Moscow, Russia, USSR. His parents were Ukrainian peasants living near Odessa. They escaped from death in the famine of 1931 and survived by moving to Moscow. At the age of 7, Lanovoy went to visit his relatives near Odessa, but there he was caught by the advancing Nazi Armies during the Second World War. Young Lanovoy was abused by the Nazis who fired machine guns above his head to scare him, so he stammered for several years as a consequence. However, he had a dream of being an actor, regardless of his stammer and his heavy Ukrainian accent. He attended the acting class of Sergei Lvovich Stein at Moscow ZIL club, and made his stage debut in a play by Lev Kassil.


Young Lanovoy was torn between two professions, acting and journalism, and entered to study both. In 1953, at age 18, while a Journalism student of Moscow University, he was cast in Problem Child (1955), making his film debut. From 1953 - 1957 he studied acting at Shchukin Theatrical School of Vakhtangov Theatre in Moscow. There his classmate was Tatyana Samojlova, and they married in 1955, and later became co-stars in Anna Karenina (1967) by director Aleksandr Zarkhi. At the same time he appeared as Anatol Kuragin in War and Peace (1967) by director Sergey Bondarchuk.


Since 1957 Vasili Lanovoy has been member of Vakhtangov Theatre in Moscow. There his stage partners were such actors as Mikhail Ulyanov,Ruben SimonovBoris ZakhavaMikhail AstangovVarvara PopovaIrina KupchenkoNatalya TenyakovaYuliya BorisovaLyudmila Maksakova,Lyudmila TselikovskayaMarianna VertinskayaNina RuslanovaNikolai PlotnikovYuriy YakovlevVladimir EtushVyacheslav Shalevich,Andrei AbrikosovGrigori AbrikosovBoris BabochkinNikolai GritsenkoNikolai TimofeyevAleksandr GraveYevgeni KarelskikhSergey Makovetskiy, and Ruben Simonov, among others. His most memorable stage performances were as Protasov in 'Deti Solntsa' (1968), as Oktavian in 'Antony and Cleopatra' (1975), and the title role in 'Kasanova' (1985). Since taking the role as Prince Calaf in 1963, Lanovoy has been delivering acclaimed performances in the legendary Vakhtangov's production of Carlo Gozzi's comedy 'Princess Turandot'.

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Vasili Lanovoy was designated People's Actor of the USSR, was awarded Lenin's Prize (1980), and received numerous awards and decorations for his works on stage and in film. He is married to actress 'Irina Kupchenko', and the couple has two sons. Outside of his acting profession Lanovoy is fond of listening to classical music and singing Ukrainian songs together with his friends and family. In his 70s, he has been maintaining a good physical form through sports and pesco-vegetarian diet. He is living with his family in Moscow, Russia