Sunday, 30 September 2012

Aleksandr Kasatkin, Natalia Nazarova: The Daughter - Дочь (2012) , Trailer

Directors: Aleksandr Kasatkin, Natalia Nazarova
Writer: Natalia Nazarova
Stars: Imamova Anastasia, Alena Kuznetsova, Maria Smolnikova

Maria Smolnikova
Maria Smolnikova
Best first film, Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Russia, 2012
Award of newspaper Moskovskiy komsomolets, Festival Russian kino 'Moscow Premier Screenings', Russia, 2012
First prize, Cinema and Theater Festival ''Autumn of Love'', Russia, 2012

Daughter (2012)

Inna lives with her dad and little brother in a small town. Her life changes when a new girl, Masha, comes to her school. They become friends. But Masha is murdered by a maniac serial killer, who kills teenage girls in the town. Inna goes to church for the funeral service. There she meets the priest’s son Ilya, whose sister was also murdered.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

20 Russian films to be screened in NY

More than 20 films have been included in the program of the Russian Documentary Film Festival which opens in New York on Friday.

Most films tell about the Russian province, the Russian North and the arts and crafts of the people of Russia.

The film Eye of God starring prominent actors Oleg Tabakov and Yevgeny Mironov will open the festival.

The director, Leonid Parfenov, dedicated this film to the 100th anniversary of the Moscow Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.

The program of the festival also includes meetings with directors and the festival per se is dedicated to the 70th anniversary of Novy Zhournal, the oldest literary edition of the Russian emigration in the US.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Samson Samsonov: Optimistic Tragedy - Оптимистическая трагедия (1963)

Optimistic Tragedy (1963)

Director: Samson Samsonov
Writers: Samson Samsonov, Vsevolod Vishnevsky (play)
Stars: Margarita Volodina, Boris Andreyev,Vyacheslav Tikhonov

Based on the eponymous play by Vsevolod Vishnevsky and was entered into the 1963 Cannes Film Festival.
Optimistic Tragedy was a Soviet blockbuster of 1963 with 46 millions tickets sold. The film was named Best Film of the Year and Margarita Volodina was named Best Actress of the Year by readers of the Soviet film magazine Sovetsky Ekran. The film was shot in Sovscope 70 on black and white film stock. The prints were split into three films for exhibition in Kinopanorama 70 in some theatres.

Ivan Bychkov

The story about a young woman-commissar at one of the fronts during the Civil War. About strength of mind, courage and will.

Optimistic Tragedy (1963)

Awards : Special Prize Festival de Cannes, France, 1963

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Oleg Fesenko: 1812: Lancers Ballad - 1812: Уланская баллада (2012) - Trailer

1812: Ulanskaya Ballad (2012)

Director: Oleg Fesenko
Writer: Gleb Shprigov
Stars: Sergey Bezrukov, Valeriy Nikolaev, Svetlana Metkina

1812. On the eve of of the most important battle at Borodino Le Comte De Witt, Napoleon's secret agent, delivers the Russian command plan of the battle to the French Emperor. Having been informed about this, Kutuzov, Field Marshall of the Russian Empire, sends his best lancers with a special mission to Poland - a place of romantic affair between Napoleon and Valevskaya, irresistible Polish comptesse ...

A film entitled 1812, released on the bicentenary of Russia’s first Patriotic War (otechestvennaia voina), might reasonably be expected to arouse certain hopes in the knowledgeable viewer. Perhaps a young filmmaker is applying the latest digital wizardry to update earlier celluloid versions of this war, such as the Franco-Russian production, 1812, which aired in 1912, or the 1944 Soviet version of the same name. Perhaps the subtitle, Ballad of the Uhlans, promised to evoke memories in some older citizens of the much-loved musical from the Soviet era about the Napoleonic Wars, Ballad of the Hussars (Gusarskaia ballada, 1962). Perhaps the film would even arouse disquiet in the more world-weary watcher about yet another heavy-handed installment in the resurrection of great Russian nationalism.

Oleg Fesenko (Streetracers, 2008) has directed a film that fulfills no such expectations or fears. It has neither the pretensions nor the ability to do so. The opening sequence is promisingly imaginative, as the action on the ground is revealed through the lens of two observers in a steampunk-style dirigible. The director obviously intends to allude to the old romantic adventures based on Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, with the action moved to picturesque settings in Russia, Belarus, and Poland, and the earlier 17th century costumes replaced with extravagant Russian, French, and Polish costumes of the 19th century. The action opens somewhere near Borodino, soon to be the site of the decisive battle in 1812 between the French forces under the Emperor Napoleon and the Russian forces under Marshal Kutuzov. The D’Artagnan figure here, the young Russian noble Aleksei Tarusov (Anton Sokolov), has discovered that a spy, Count De Witt (Valerii Nikolaev), has revealed to Napoleon the disposition of the Russian forces. Aleksei informs Kutuzov of this, and the marshal sends his three best lancers (uhlans), played by Sergei Bezrukov, Anatolii Belyi, and Stanislav Duzhnikov, to capture the spy. In a side-story, the Emperor Alexander also wants them to retrieve the imperial crown that has been purloined during the French occupation of Moscow. A series of adventures ensue, bookending a clichéd romantic triangle involving Aleksei, his object of affection Beate (Anna Chipovskaia), and the spy De Witt who wants to force her to marry him. In the resolution of the film, as in Dumas’ tale, young Aleksei is trained in sword-fighting by his comrades, and eventually avenges an earlier embarrassing defeat at the hands of the spy and master swordsman, De Witt. Aleksei returns the crown to Tsar Alexander, receives a medal, gets the girl, and, like D’Artagnan, is finally accepted into the band of brothers.

Reviewed by Frederick C. Corney in KinoKultura
Sergei Bezrukov
Sergey Bezrukov 

Friday, 21 September 2012

Old Russian films prepared for screening

President of Magna-Tech Electronic Co. Inc Steven Krams has handed over his collection of more than 350 Russian films made in the early 20th century to Russia. The films were taken out of Russia during the Civil War.

An agreement on unconditional handover of the ‘movie relics’ was signed at the Lenfilm Studios on Friday.
Once all the paperwork is completed, the films will be transported to St.Petersburg, where they will undergo restoration to be available in digital format and will be prepared for screening.
The handover ceremony took place on the opening day of the St.Petersburg International Film Festival.

Russia Selects Karen Shakhnazarov's 'White Tank' for Foreign Oscar Race

The Russian Oscar committee has announced Karen Shakhnazarov’s Bely Tigr (White Tiger) as the country’s contender in the best foreign-language movie Oscar race.

The $11 million World War II drama is based on Ilya Boyashov’s novella Tankist Ili Bely Tigr (Tankman or White Tiger) and focused on the story of a Russian tankman who nearly gets killed when his tank burns down but eventually recovers to enter a deadly fight with a mysterious Nazi “White Tiger” tank.

The movie was released last May and grossed $3.3 million at the Russian box office, according to the database KinoPoisk. In the past, movies by Shakhnazarov, who is also general director of the film studio Mosfilm, took part in a number of international festivals, most notably Tsareubiytsa (Assassin of the Tsar), which was part of the official selection at Cannes back in 1991.

The Russian Oscar committee has never announced its short list for Russia’s entry in the Academy Award best foreign language movie race, but some local sources named Alexander Sokurov’s Faust, which collected the Golden Lion at Venice last year and Andrei Proshkin’s Orda (The Horde), the winner of the best director award at this year’s Moscow International Film Festival, as other strong contenders.

More here.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Ekaterina Grokhovskaia: Man of No Return - Человек безвозвратный (2006)

Director: Ekaterina Grokhovskaia
Cast: Galina Iovovich, Ekaterina Rednikova, Sergei Krapiva, Elena Valiushkina, Anna Churina, Mikhail Remizov,

Man of No Return (2006)

After the success of her short film, The Two (Dvoe, 2004), Ekaterina Grokhovskaia has made her first foray into feature length film with The Man of No Return. The film has been shown at festivals in Russia and in Sweden, playing along with other European films. Financed at one million rubles, the film explores sexuality, the family, generational and gender difference, and memory, portraying a “society in crisis” (Gillespie 93). The film's focus on familial relations would seem to place it alongside the plethora of genre films that have characterized the recent Russian commercial cinema, including comedies, melodramas, gangster films, science fiction, war films, and fantasy. Given its focus on the family, The Man of No Return would seem to belong to this form of filmmaking. However, if the family melodrama, as some critics have claimed, is preoccupied with emotional excess arising from irreconcilable moral polarities, recording “the failure of the protagonist to act in a way that could shape the events and influence the stifling emotional environment, let alone change the stifling social milieu” (Elsaesser 55). The Man of No Return undermines these premises. In an unsettling and elliptical narrative mode, the film prefers to investigate the clichés upon which the family melodrama has been constructed, not only portraying what the characters and viewers see through the image, but how they see.

A superficial description of events in the film involves the disintegration of a family headed by an autocratic father, Boris Kniazev. Head of a military academy, he is determined to have his son, Andrei, a cadet at the school, carry on the tradition of order and discipline he espouses, but his son refuses to conform to the father's dictates. The entire family—the mother, Tania; the daughters, Vera and Nadezhda; and the son, Andrei—can be regarded as dysfunctional products of conjugal and familial strife. Similarly, other characters can also be included in these domestic dramas of emotional atrophy. However, the film's form undermines this facile summary by refusing the viewer familiar information about the characters and a straightforward linear recounting of the situations into which they are placed.

While the film remains confined to the private sphere, by means of its imagistic treatment of character and in its brief allusions to landscape it suggests filiations to a broader social and cultural milieu. The film works like a kaleidoscope or a puzzle, forcing uneasy questions on the spectator about who the characters are, their relations to each other, and about the clichéd images that constitute the world in which they act or are acted upon. Gilles Deleuze discusses the “civilization of the cliché where all the powers have an interest in hiding images from us… Sometimes it is necessary to restore the lost parts, to rediscover everything that cannot be seen in the image, everything that has been removed to make it ‘interesting'” (Deleuze 21). In its discontinuities, obsession with time, and resistance to transparency, The Man of No Return probes the propensity of the image to fall into cliché and works against this tendency.

Reviewed by Marcia Landy © 2007 in KinoKultura

Man of No Return (2006)

Ekaterina Grokhovskaia’s The Man of No Return has been compared to Paul Anderson’s Magnolia (1999) and Paul Haggis’s Oscar-winning film Crash (2006). As in those movies, a diverse cast of characters comes together to weave an elaborate narrative web in such a way as to comment on contemporary society. The numerous story lines that make up The Man of No Return radiate out from a single nuclear family—comprised of father, mother, and three adult children—and draw in a total of fifteen characters. The metaphor of the web can be taken further. The various episodic vignettes, held in a fragile balance, benefit from the empty spaces left between them. Unwilling to fill in all of the narrative lacunae, the film provides glimpses into a wide variety of lives, but stops short of developing any of its characters fully. Rather than tell the story of a unique individual, The Man of No Return pulls in various representative members of society that span generation, gender, sexual orientation, and class affiliation in order to portray the existential sameness among people that both bonds a community together and divides it.

The intersecting lives of this heterogeneous group suggest, on one hand, proximity. As unexpected relationships are forged, a social network takes shape: each person is related to every other with no more than two or three degrees of separation between them. However, on the other hand, despite overlapping and entwined personal relationships, it would be inaccurate to suggest that they all know one another. In fact, even close relations do not share an intimate knowledge of one another. A couple stuck in a loveless marriage cannot bear to reveal their true feelings. A father and son incapable of seeing eye-to-eye, unfairly assume the worst of each other. A mother keeps her illness a secret. A young, paraplegic woman desperate to become sexually active, yearns and suffers in solitude. Although lives collide in unexpected ways, glimpses into their private lives reveal profound alienation.

More here.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Oleg Menshikov - Biography

Oleg Evgenyevich Menshikov was born on 8 November 1960 in the town of Serpukhov, the Moscow Region. After finishing school in 1977 he entered Shchepkin Theatre School. After graduation Menshikov played in Malyi Theatre of USSR (1981-1982), in the Central Academic Theatre of Soviet Army (1982-1985), and in Ermolova Theatre. His most remarkable theatre works of that time were those of Ganechka in F.M.Dostoevsky’s Idiot , Serezha in E.Radzinsky’s Sport Scenes of 1981 staged by Valery Fokin, Caligula in A.Camus’ same-name play staged by Pyotr Fomenko in Mossovet Theatre.

Oleg Menshikov

The actor made his film debut in the fourth year of studies; it was the role of scout Shurka in the television movie I Wait and Hope (Zhdu I nadeus) (1980). Oleg Menshikov became well-known thanks to the popular comedy film The Pokrovsky Gate (1982) (Pokrovskie vorota), directed by Mikhail Kozakov after the play by Leonid Zorin; the actor played a charming post-graduate student named Kostik Romin. His episodic roles in Nikita Mikhalkov’s Relatives (Rodnya) (1981) and Roman Balayan’s psychological drama Flights in Dreams and in Reality (Polyoty vo sne i nayavu) (1982) were also a success. Among the later films featuring Oleg Menshikov one can single out Stripe of Obstacles (Polosa prepyatstviy) (1984), Through Main Street with an Orchestra (Po glavnoy ulitse s orkestrom), My Favorite Clown (Moy lyubimyy kloun) (1986), Big and Small Volodya (Volodya bolshoy, Volodya malenkiy) (1985), Captain Fracasse (1984), Moonzund (1987), and The Pit (Yama) (1990).

Oleg Menshikov

For his work in Stanislav Govorukhin’s film Splashes of Champagne (Bryzgi shampanskogo) (1988) Menshikov was awarded A.Dovzhenko Silver Medal. In 1990 Oleg Menshikov had an opportunity to try his wings on the overseas stage and the actor gained world fame with his role of Sergei Yesenin in the international stage production When She Danced . The play was staged in the London Globe Theater under the aegis of Vanessa Redgrave, who played Isadora Duncan. In 1992 Oleg Menshikov got Laurence Olivier Award of the British Academy of Arts for that role. Later he appeared on stage as Ikharev in Nikolay Gogol’s The Gamblers.

Oleg Menshikov

After returning home Oleg Menshikov successfully played the lead in the play Nijinsky (for Bogis Agency), and soon afterwards acted as Andrei Pletnev in Aleksandr Khvan’s film Dyuba-Dyuba (1993), written by Pyotr Lutsik and Aleksei Samoryadov and marked with a number of national film prizes. Dyuba-Dyuba put the actor among the leading Russian actors of his generation.

More here.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Renat Davletyarov: The Steel Butterfly - Стальная бабочка (2012) - Trailer

Steel Butterfly (2012)

Director: Renat Davletyarov
Cast: Daria Melnikova , Anatoly Bely , Darya Moroz , Peter Vince

Khanin is a senior officer in a criminal investigation squad at one of Moscow’s regional police stations. He is about forty, single, without any savings, without promotion, and with almost no friends. The meaning of his life is work, in which he immerses himself. He does not notice that he gradually loses the most basic human feelings and is no longer able to empathize with his surroundings. An emergency governs the district when a serial murderer is going round. Khanin cannot predict his actions. Unexpectedly an orphan girl by the name of Plague comes to his aid. She is like Khanin in her indifference to the world around: there is nothing left in her soul but embitterment about the world. But the teamwork changes this: Khanin becomes a real friend for Plague, and she becomes the first person to whom Khanin cannot remain indifferent.

Anatoly Bely, Darya Melnikova
Anatoly Bely , Darya Melnikova 

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Boris Khlebnikov: Help Gone Mad - Сумасшедшая помощь (2009)

Help Gone Mad (2009)

Director: Boris Khlebnikov
Writers: Boris Khlebnikov (screenplay), Aleksandr Rodionov (screenplay)
Stars: Yevgeni Syty, Sergei Dontsov,Anna Mikhalkova

Help Gone Mad directed by Boris Khlebnikov is a testimonial to the emerging innovative (and intellectually challenging) character of contemporary Russian cinema exemplified by such filmmakers as Aleksei Balabanov, Kira Muratova, and Aleksei German Jr. among others.[1] Their films are neither conventional historical films nor biopics characterized by a monumental “epic” style, conventional generic nor obscurely avant-garde filmmaking. But these films are clever, critical, and erudite. The filmmakers engage with Russian culture through allusions, directly or indirectly to media, by a complex treatment of narrative and image. Avoiding didacticism, they figuratively probe madness and politics, war, the effects of mindless and soul-destroying bureaucracy, thwarted desire, the deleterious consequences of a lack of belief in life, and the uses and abuses of the past.

Anna Mikhalkov, Eugene Fed

Similar to Free Floating (Svobodnoe plavanie, 2006), Help Gone Mad is an eclectic work that merges silent cinema, comedy, satire, realism and fantasy, pantomime, and allegory to entertain a number of motifs that bear on the evolution of recent Russian cinema: regionalism, pastoral and urban life, the law, police, madness and bodily existence. Narrative is fractured and subordinated to the film’s allegorical treatment of character and other visual (and auditory) emblems. Its uses of allegory are of a critical and speculative character consonant with Gilles Deleuze’s descriptions of Walter Benjamin’s conception of modern allegory: “Walter Benjamin … showed that allegory was not a failed symbol, or an abstract personification, but a power of figuration… uncover[ing] nature and history according to the order of time. It produces a history of nature and transforms history into nature in a world that no longer has its center” (Deleuze 1993: 125). This form of allegory, offers a vision (through thought) of decaying structures, ruins that “no longer hold away over the collective imagination” and thus it becomes possible “to recognize them as … illusory dream images” (Buck-Morss, 159), forms of magical thinking.

Help Gone Mad is such an allegory, undertaking a de-centered examination of contemporary culture and history. Albeit by indirection, the film offers the spectator an investigative cinema in which language, sound and silence, visibility and invisibility, are emblematic of the precariousness of seeing, naming and acting. Disdainful of conventional realism, the film selects three allegorical male figures: a childlike (porcine) Evgenii (Evgenii Sytyi); an unstable delusional old man, retired and claiming to have been an engineer (Sergei Dreiden); a hallucinatory policeman, Godaev (Igor’ Chernevich) identified by his colleagues as a veteran of the war in Chechnya.

Reviewed by Marcia Landy © 2009 in KinoKultura

Awards :

Best Actor in a Supporting Role Sergei DREYDEN , "NIKA" Prizes, Russia, 2010
Best directing Boris KHLEBNIKOV , Festival of Central and Eastern Film , Germany, 2009
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Anna MIKHALKOVA , Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Russia, 2009

Like his previous film, Free Floating, director Boris Khlebnikov’s Help Gone Mad is a quiet, quirky examination of the lives of people living on the periphery of contemporary Russian Society. Trained as a film critic, rather than as a director, Khlebnikov’s films are typical of art-house cinema―well liked by critics and festival audiences (they have won prizes in Cannes, Moscow, and Sochi), but poorly attended by general. Help Gone Mad was co-written by Aleksandr Rodionov, a playwright associated with the theatre, teatr.doc (where the stage version of Vyrypaev’s Oxygen was performed) who has become a mainstay of contemporary Russian cinema, contributing to the screenplays for Free Floating, Khomeriki’s Tale in the Darkness, and Proshkin’s Live and Remember.

The film follows Zhenia (Evgenii Sytyi), a Belarusian guest-worker who, having lost everything during a mugging shortly after his arrival in Moscow, is taken in by a retired engineer (Sergei Dreiden), quickly becoming the Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote. Although it seems at times that Zhenia’s loyalty to the engineer stems almost entirely from the latter’s willingness to feed and shelter him (throughout the films Zhenia eats and sleeps at every possible opportunity), the guest-worker dutifully aids his master in his mad attempts to save the people of his apartment complex. And they need saving; the neighborhood is patrolled by a lazy but brutal policeman (Igor' Chernevich) who, exhibiting his own symptoms of madness, hallucinates about the imminent loss of his job.

The action takes place in a desolate suburban landscape, seemingly entirely cut off from the center. We are confronted by long shots, scaled to dwarf their human subjects, framed around the geometry of the built environment―crosses created by the intersection of prefabricated concrete housing units, horizontal stripes painted across facades, and the intricate hatchwork of iron grilles intended to prevent burglaries. Here the major sign of life, as Zhenia discovers shortly after his arrival, is the turning on and off of lights within the grid of windows facing a courtyard. This space is marked by a near absence of nature, with the major exception of a duck pond, which is afforded significant power by the engineer (even here, though, the ducks live in a wooden house).

This lack of nature serves to highlight Zhenia’s displacement from his Belarusian village (where the correctness of his fit is highlighted by the film’s opening shots connecting him to the pig that is traded for his ticket to Moscow), but he is not the only displaced person in the film. The engineer’s daughter (Anna Mikhalkova) is displaced by Zhenia, who occupies her father’s attention, her former bedroom, and even her childhood toys. The engineer is also displaced temporally, fondly remembering a time when things were, somehow, in a way he can’t quite describe, better.

More here.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Renata Litvinova: The Goddess - Богиня: как я полюбила (2004)

Director: Renata Litvinova
Writer: Renata Litvinova
Stars: Renata Litvinova, Maksim Sukhanov,Svetlana Svetlichnaya

Since her screen acting debut in Kira Muratova’s Passions (1994), Renata Litvinova has become one of the most immediately recognizable figures in modern Russian cinema. Bold and precise red lipstick, the classic scent of Red Moscow perfume, sculpted waves of blond hair, and careful attention to wardrobe—such minutiae generate a sense of glamour indebted to the sirens of the silver screen. Simultaneously, Litvinova’s cult status is intimately connected with her style of performance, particularly in Muratova’s films. Hers is a hyper-stylized performance, in which the understanding of character is inevitably restricted to surfaces, leaving no access to interiority or in fact exposing that beneath her exterior lies only a consuming emptiness. In essence, the symbolic dynamic that Litvinova introduces into any given film is the absolute attractiveness of the death drive, a Charybdis that not all around her can successfully navigate.

In The Goddess, Litvinova examines this dynamic further, expanding on the experience of one individual from her array of beautiful homunculi. Faina is an investigator with a division of Moscow police, who has an uncanny and hit-and-miss style of inspection, who lives in a moodily dilapidated apartment with red high heels for house-slippers, and who is haunted by dreams that exhort her toward death. All of the above seems related directly to her great tragic flaw: “I do not understand anything about love.” Faina states this, truthfully and without affectation, and elicits any number of allusive definitions of love: it is a river one cannot climb out of; it is something not quite fleshy, but still bloody; it is viscerally fleshy as well as bloody; it is the meaning of life. These definitions, for the most part realized verbally instead of visually, fail for the greater part of the film to resonate within Faina’s loveless soul.

The space left by love’s absence is filled with a burgeoning multitude of symbols with a single, indefatigably consistent referent: dead fish and pesky ravens, chilled flies and dampness and cigarette butts―all of these coalesce into a very profound sense of lifelessness. Uniting these sites of death is a sense of decrepitude, nowhere more palpable than in the wayfarer’s station between life and death, the glass-walled cafeteria where individuals pick over the remains of liquid meals—soup and cognac.

More here.

Known for her ethereal voice, stream-of-consciousness language, and retro blonde glamour, Renata Litvinova has been something of a mass-media icon for over a decade thanks to her roles in several films by Kira Muratova and her frequent television appearances, often as a fashion commentator. She is also a VGIK-trained screenwriter, and has written or co-written a handful of feature films, most memorably Valerii Todorovskii’s Land of the Deaf (Strana glukhikh, 1998), based on her novella To Possess and Belong (Obladat' i prinadlezhat'). She recently established an international presence with her role in Peter Greenaway’s The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part Three: From Sark to Finish (2003). The Goddess is Litvinova’s debut as a director of acted cinema, and it showcases all of these personae—writer, actress, cult figure, Muratova protégée—in ways that illustrate both the drawbacks and advantages of being one’s own muse.

Litvinova directs herself as Faina, a Moscow detective investigating the disappearance of a little girl. Despite narrative and stylistic nods to detective noir in the first half, however, the investigation is ultimately incidental to the film. Already considered eccentric by her police colleagues, Faina grows less and less interested in making sense of empirical reality and becomes increasingly absorbed by the otherworldliness represented by looking glasses and dreams (mostly of her dead mother, played by Svetlana Svetlichnaia, a legendary Soviet femme fatale in her own right, from Leonid Gaidai’s film Diamond Arm [Brilliantovaia ruka, 1968]). Litvinova finally abandons the crime genre completely in favor of what might be termed decadent surrealism, an impressionistic visual and verbal infatuation with death and love.

Death dominates Faina’s consciousness, and therefore the diegesis, both metaphorically and metonymically. Litvinova’s skill as a screenwriter is most apparent in the variety of ways she manages to combine death and her other theme, love, in single images or events. An ominous black raven leaves a row of dead fish on Faina’s windowsill, the way a pet brings trophy kills to its beloved owner. Her mother and the other denizens of the afterlife who populate her dreams lovingly encourage her to embrace death without fear. A woman in a cafeteria describes the details of her own will, emphasizing her imminent death not as a tragedy, but an act of devotion to her sister, the beneficiary. Faina encounters a near-suicide, a suicide, a double suicide, and a professor able to visit the realm of the dead via intravenous drugs and antique mirrors. This last encounter allows Faina (and Litvinova the writer/director) to complete her trajectory towards exclusive obsession with love and death or, more precisely, with death as the key to understanding and achieving love, an emotion and a concept that Faina admits has always escaped her. ...

Reviewed by Seth Graham©2005 in KinoKultura

Tatiana Doronina - Biography

Tatiana Doronin

Tatiana Vasil’evna Doronina (1933) is a film and theatre actress, a People’s Artist of the USSR, and the head of the Gorky MKhAT (Moscow Academic Art Theatre).

Tatiana was born in Leningrad on 12th September 1933. After the war started her family moved to the town of Danilov in the Yaroslavl Region. This is where she spent her childhood and went to school. Then the family returned to Leningrad, where she went on with her studies. When at school she was already fond of theatre. She was so eager to play on stage that after the eighth grade she secretly went to take examinations in the Moscow school-studio of MKhAT. Surprisingly, but she did pass the exams successfully and could be admitted but for her early age.

After finishing school she again resolved to enter a drama school. In order not to fail she took exams in all educational theatre institutions at once: MKhAT Studio, Shchepkin School and Shchukin Schools, and GITIS. Amazingly enough, she was admitted everywhere! But just like before she chose MKhAT Studio. There she studied under Pavel Massalsky – one of the strongest drama teachers.

Tatiana Doronin

In 1955 Tatiana made her film debut in The First Echelon (Pervyy eshelon) starring in duet with Oleg Yefremov.

In the same year Tatiana got married – her first husband was actor Oleg Basilashvili, who was in the same year with her. After graduation Tatiana Doronina followed her husband to Stalingrad where they played in a drama theatre. Having no good prospects to strive for there, the couple returned to Leningrad after some time. Soon they were admitted to the famous BDT (Big Drama Theatre): Tatiana was invited there, and she managed to persuade the director to employ her husband as well. Tatiana Doronina’s brilliant acting in the play Barbarians gained her great popularity and love of spectators.

Tatiana Doronin

After 8 years of marriage with Oleg Basilashvili she suggested divorce. Her second husband was critic Anatoly Yufit. He was a professor, head of subdepartment in the Leningrad Theatre Institute. They lived together for three years.

As a well-known theatre actress already Doronina resumed her film career. She made splendid appearance in a number of film roles, such as, for example, in the movies Elder Sister (Starshaya sestra) (1967), Three Poplars in Plyushchikha (Tri topolya na Plyushchikhe) (1967). Thanks to her dedication and inexhaustible talent Doronina already then received the title of the best actress twice.

In 1966 Tatiana got married to Edvard Radzinsky. Together they moved to Moscow the same year. There the actress began to play on stage of the Moscow Art Theatre. Soon while on screen tests for the film Once Again About Love (Yeshchyo raz pro lyubov) (1968) where Doronina starred she got to know her fourth husband – Boris Khimichev.

Tatiana Doronin

In 1977 Tatiana Doronina left MKhAT for Mayakovsky Theatre. In one of the stage works there she again met Boris Khimichev. After a few years of marriage with Boris she once informed him that she was going to marry another man. The star’s new husband was Robert Tokhnenko. In relations with her fifth husband Tatiana still dominated.

In 1983 Doronina returned to MKhAT. Since 1987 Tatiana Doronina has been the head of Gorky МKhAT. Apart from working as the theatre’s art director she is into staging and still goes on playing on stage.


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Egor Anashkin: Leader Raznokozhih - Вождь Разнокожих (2012) - Trailer

Raznokozhih leader (2012)

Director: Egor Anashkin
Cast: Nikita Ivanov , Mariya Mironova (II) , Dmitry Dyuzhev , Gregory Siyatvinda , Igor Vanyushkin ,

Family comedy based on the famous short story by O. Henry, "The leader of the Redskins."
Nikita Ivanov, Maria Mironova (II)
Nikita Ivanov , Maria Mironova (II) 

Dmitry Dyuzhev, Maria Mironova (II)
Dmitry Dyuzhev , Maria Mironova (II) 

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Sergei Gerasimov: Leo Tolstoy -Лев Толстой (1985)

Leo Tolstoy (1984)

Director: Sergei Gerasimov
Writer: Sergei Gerasimov
Stars: Sergei Gerasimov, Tamara Makarova, Borivoj Navrátil


Director and lead actor Sergei Gerasimov has focused on the last days of Leo Tolstoy's life, and while he has a screen presence as Tolstoy, the three-hour length is a bit long for the amount of story there is to tell.

At the end of his life, Tolstoy was taken with a rustic mysticism, and was even more dedicated to helping the peasants (he wrote a reading primer for them earlier). He spent much of his life maintaining a deep faith in God and advocating a resistance to "evil," the resistance of a pacifist since he promoted non-violence as his personal creed. In his last days, he and his wife have disagreements, and he finds an outlet for his intellectual ruminations with his own physician. Then he leaves home one night in the dead of winter, coming back many hours later with his physical and mental state in rapid deterioration. After three days he leaves again and goes to a railroad station where he dies in the home of the station master. His unusual behavior was motivated at least in part by his repulsion for his wealthy manor. Tolstoy's last days are covered in this film like a stack of separate note cards that are picked up and laid down one at a time, each examined for its own content. With more exploitation of the medium, Gerasimov could have achieved a fluid coordination, and a seamless tale. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Tamara Makarova - Russian Greta Garbo

Tamara Makarova (13 August 1907 – 18 January 1997) was a Soviet actress. She appeared in 31 films between 1927 and 1984.

Tamara Makarova
Tamara Makarova was titled a woman-mystery. This entrancing became a source of inspiration for her husband, a famous film director, Sergei Gerasimov, unofficially considered to be the main film director of the Soviet Union and his wife - the top film star.

Makarova was born in the family of a military doctors, graduated from the theatrics institute in Leningrad, was an actress of "Lenfilm" studio and a professor in VGIK. Tamara Makarova gained fame all throughout the Soviet Union with Gerasimov's film "Semero smelyh" ("The seven brave") released in 1936. After that her husband released films she starred in one after another - "Komsomolsk", "The teacher", "Masquerade". The last film was finished right before the When the WWII broke out.
Makarova was a Leningrad citizen and did not evacuate but stayed in the city to take part in the defence. She worked as a political and sanitary activist and then a nurse in the hospital. In 1943 Makarova and Gerasimov left the city and settled down in Central Asia. Tamara Makarova spent much of her career working closely with Sergei Gerasimov, she starred in 16 films. Her husband and she were both working in All-Russian State University of Cinematography and prepared many generations of Russian actors
Such famous Soviet actors as Sergei Bondarchuk, Ludmila Gurchenko, Natalia Fateeva, Galina Polskih, Zhanna Bolotova, Sergei Nikonenko and others are all the graduates of Mararova and Gerasimov's workshop. Tamara Maakarova continued her movie career as well. Her filmography includes: the role of Sofya Andreyevna in "Lev Tolstoy", Peter`s mother in "Yunost Petra", Aleksandra Vasilyeva Petrushkova in "Lyubit cheloveka", Dr. Tatyana Kazakhova in "Selskiy vrach", Oleg`s Mother in "The Young Guard", Elena Alexeievna in "Dochki-materi" and others. Makarova died in 1997 and was buried in Moscow in Novodevichy Cemetery.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Balabanov’s "I also want to" premiered at Venice Film Festival

Earlier, the acclaimed Russian director’s new cinematic effort was applauded by an audience of journalists and critics at the media preview.
I also want to” is a phantasmagoric journey in search of happiness. Odd characters make their way towards the "the bell tower of Happiness" in a radiation-contaminated zone where eternal winter reigns. Not all of them are destined to be happy, however. The film will be simultaneously premiered on the Internet.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Aleksei Mizgiryov: The Convoy - Конвой (2012)

Director: Aleksei Mizgiryov
Writer: Aleksei Mizgiryov (screenplay)
Stars: Oleg Vasilkov, Azamat Nigmanov, Dmitriy Kulichkov

Конвой (2012)

Awards :
Best actor Azamat NIGMANOV , Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Russia, 2012
Best music Aleksandr MANOTSKOV , Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Russia, 2012

In this hard-hitting, gritty portrait of the police and army in today’s Russia, the traumatized Captain Ignat, played flawlessly by Oleg Vasilkov, is ordered to find some missing money and to bring back a deserter and hand him over to a military court. Ignat travels with a Sergeant who’s looking to party during their 24 hours in Moscow. They find the deserter (Azamat Nigmanov), who uses humor to disguise his mortal fear of being handed over to the military. A Mafia boss looking for revenge sidetracks the trio briefly and they enter into a lair of violence. Captain Ignat is an uncompromisingly tough guy, but what is the reason for his sudden fainting spells? Part suspense drama and part crime story, The Convoy, produced by Pavel Lungin, digs deep into the psychology of a damaged human being whose journey across wintry Moscow is both a nightmare and a lesson in tolerance and forgiveness. In his third feature, socially minded director Alexey Mizgirev graphically portrays a world of power and subjugation that, in the final analysis, makes a profound statement about the perilous nature of rage. ...

 According to the Army commander in Aleksei Mizgirev’s third feature-length film, Convoy, everyone is “sick of disorderly conduct.” Yet disorderly conduct is at the heart of the plotline of Convoy, defining its characters, the situations in which they find themselves and their conduct. In the film, Mizgirev explores human behavior in extreme situations, as well as the good and the bad hidden (or not so hidden) inside people.

Convoy tells the story of the psychologically troubled Army Captain Ignat as he struggles to cope with his increasing dislocation from reality. Following an altercation with some drunken men, Ignat finds himself in front of his commander, facing criminal charges. In order to keep Ignat out of trouble, the commander sends him to search for and return two deserters, who are hiding somewhere in Moscow with 19,000 rubles (US$ 700) of stolen government money. While the first deserter commits suicide after murdering a police officer, Ignat—together with the sergeant attached to help him—find the second deserter hiding in his mother’s house. The process of returning the clownish deserter, Artem Tugaev, to the provincial base where they have come from, is hindered by the pull and negativity of Moscow. Ignat, the sergeant and Artem inadvertently become ensnared in the underside of Moscow life, witnessing the brutality of both the police and of the criminal underworld. Yet Ignat is plagued by migraines, which lead to hallucinations and blackouts, while also hinting at deeper psychological issues, which he is unwilling to face. Ignat’s encounter with Artem brings about a fundamental change in his negative outlook on life and his inability to confront his physical and psychological pain. By the end of the film, Ignat has undergone a significant change in attitude, although it is too late for him to be able to help Artem.

Reviewed by Laura Todd © 2013 in KinoKultura

Tatiana Samoilova as Anna Karenina (1967)

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Russia hopes to win in Venice

Kirill Serebrennikov does not particularly like film festivals. 'I don't feel at ease. I only relax after the screening of the movie,' he says in his blog. But the Russian director does not seem at all uncomfortable on the red carpet at the 69th annual Venice Film Festival. Surrounded by reporters and photographers, Serebrennikov arrives at the Lido on the wave of expectation that follows Aleksander Sokurov's  Golden Lion triumph last year with the film ‘Faust’. Sokurov is a
tough act to follow, even for Serebrennikov, who is admired at home for his amazing ability to combine classical stories with original, extravagant revisions. He has done this over the years with numerous theatrical productions, receiving critical acclaim in 2006 when his ‘Izobrazhaya zhertvu’ (Playing the victim) won at the first annual International Rome Film Festival.
Now the challenge moves to Venice. It may prove difficult this time around, now that the impressive ‘Faust’ has raised expectations among those who love and follow Russian cinema. 'Italy is a country that brings me luck,' he confessed, almost crossing his fingers and adjusting the white cap pulled down on his head.

This second day of the festival is drenched in the gorgeous, late-August sun. But it belongs to Serebrennikov, as he allows himself to be swept away by the flash of photographers that surround him on the terrace of the Excelsior hotel. In front of the swimming pool with a view to the sea, the director, accompanied by actresses Franziska Petri and Albina Dzhanabaeva, speaks of his film ‘Izmena,’ which means betrayal in English. The story is canonical; it tells of the encounter between two strangers who discover that their partners are cheating on them. 'The film is about jealousy, deceit,  disappointment,' Serebrennikov explained. 'These are feelings that everyone encounters on a daily basis.'

Russia Beyond the Headlines talked with Serebrennikov about Russian movies and his achievements. 

Russia Beyond the Headlines: This is not your first film festival in Italy. What is it like for you being here in Venice?

Kirill Serebrennikov: I won in Rome in 2006 with ‘Izobrazhaya zhertvu’. But this is my first time here in Venice. For me it is a great joy. There is an excellent program, beautiful movies and amazing organization.
RBTH: Do you feel the stress of having to somehow compete with ‘Faust’ by Sokurov?
K.S.: Absolutely not. There should be no competition in art. And above all, it is not something measurable: you cannot calculate how much better the Sokurov ‘s films are. Art is subjective.

RBTH: Do you know the other two Russian directors here in Venice, Aleksey Balabanov and Lyubov Arkus?

K.S.: Of course I do. They are very good directors. Aleksey Balabanov has been one of the most successful directors on the Russian film scene for many years. All of his films are very well-known. And he creates films that are intelligent and touching. 

RBTH: And the Italians?

K.S.: I am familiar with the older film directors, those who have made history. I love Fellini, Pasolini. But if I had to name my favorite Italian director, I would say Visconti, without a doubt.

RBTH: Getting back to the Festival, who do you think will win the Golden Lion?

K.S.: I won't deny that I am rooting for us to win; obviously I support Russian cinema. But if they do not award the prize to Thomas Anderson,  I swear I'll jump in the pool right now (laughing). 

RBTH: Why did you decide to direct a film about infidelity?

K.S.:  With this film I meant to explore myself and the human race in-depth. I wanted to study one of the many aspects of love, to find out how people react when faced with such difficult situations. This is just one of the many aspects of love, mind you. Obviously it is not the only one. There could be many other things to say and tell.

More here.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Vladimir Petrov : Kutuzov - Кутузов (1943)

Director Vladimir Petrov
Cast: Sergey Blinnikov, Boris Chirkov, Alexey Diky,

Kutuzov (1943)

A historico-biographic film about Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov (1745-1813), His Lordship Smolyensky - Russian warlord, General-Field Marshal, the follower of A.V. Suvorov. The film shows the events of the war of 1812.

Story: Napoleon (Semyon Mezhinsky) invades Russia in June of 1812 and quickly gains ground. General Barclay (Nikolai Okhlopkov) abandons Smolensk, causing General Bagration (S. Zakariadze) to denounce him to the Tsar (N. Timchenko) as a traitor. The Tsar calls in General Kutuzov (Aleksei Dikij) to save the homeland. Not long after, Russian troops are gathered around campfires, celebrating the change in command. Barclay was of Scottish descent, and the troops are tired of constantly retreating. Kutuzov is a real Russian, and they are sure his appointment will mean an advance. The next day, the amassed troops cheer wildly as Kutuzov rides past. But to their surprise, Kutuzov continues to pull back until he reaches the village of Borodino. On the day of September 7, 1812, the opposing armies clash on the field of battle near Borodino.

As General Kutuzov sits in a hut reviewing his battle plans, messengers come in from all the generals asking for reinforcements. Kutuzov calmly denies that any reserves are available. After the messengers have left, the Cossack commander asks to send his Cossacks into battle, but Kutuzov tells him that he'll let him know when it is time. Meanwhile, Napoleon sits impassively on a hill overlooking the battle, one leg propped up on a drum. Great masses of soldiers rush through the smoke and explosions one way. Great masses of soldiers rush through the smoke and explosions the other way. Mounted soldiers mass and charge. We catch glimpses of close skirmishes where characters we've come to know from the celebrations when Kutuzov was appointed commander are injured and killed. Russian General Bagration leads a heroic charge against the French, and is mortally wounded.


As repeated assaults by the French army push back the center of Kutuzov's line, Napoleon's generals beg him to send in the Guard, who are being held in reserve, to finish the job. In the meantime, noting the weakness of his line, Kutuzov sends the Cossacks to harass Napoleon's flank. Worrying about the oncoming Cossacks, and fearful of committing the Guard so far from France, Napoleon orders them to stay back, permitting the balance of Kutuzov's army to escape the field. Napoleon is denied a decisive victory.

More here.