Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Aleksei Smirnov: Sleepwalker - Сомнамбула (2012) - Trailer

Somnambulist (2012)

 Director: Aleksei Smirnov

Cast: Andrey Dementyev (III) , Sergey The April , George Koltushkin , Alexander Zlatopolsky , Nikolay Mihaylov (IV) , Vera Sibireva

"La Sonnambula"

The film based on the story that took place in a boarding school for orphans in the Voronezh region in 1993.


"La Sonnambula"

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Alexei German - Biography

Born: 20 June 1938 - Deceased: 21 February 2013

The Russian film director Alexei German is one of the most authoritative masters in contemporary cinema. The director’s focus on the issues of history and time reveals itself in the two most evident peculiarities of his films: they are almost all black-and-white, like the newsreels of the 1930-50s; in each of them German resorts to a method rarely used in cinema – a character’s look straight into the camera directly connects the viewer with the screen world.

Alexei Georgievich German was born on 20 June 1938 in Leningrad, into the family of the famous writer Yuri German (1910–1967).

In 1955-1960 Alexei studied at the direction faculty of the Leningrad State Theatre and Music Institute, in the workshop of the well-known film director Grigori Kozintsev.

Alexei German’s graduation work was the first part of stage play Obyknovennoye chudo(Ordinary Wonder) by Yevgheny Schwartz with Sergei Yursky as King. When Georgy Tovstonogov saw the production he invited German to work as a film-director in the Bolshoi Drama Theater named after Gorky. Alexei worked there from 1961 to 1964.

In 1964 he turned to cinema working at Lenfilm studio as the second film director of the feature Rabochiy posyolok (Workers' Quarters) (1965) by Vladimir Vengerov. In 1967 together with Grigori Aronov he directed Sedmoy sputnik (The Seventh Companion) (1967). is next film under the title Proverka na dorogakh (Checkpoint) (1971) starring Rolan Bykov and Anatoli Solonitsyn was banned by communist authorities and was not released until 1985.

More here.

Director Alexei German senior dies

Prominent Russian director Alexei German senior has died at the age of 74 in Saint Petersburg, his son Alexei told reporters.

In November the director underwent a surgery after a fall but later was diagnosed with pneumonia. Alexei German senior had his own style in cinematography. Among his most popular films there are “Twenty days without war”, “My friend Ivan Lapshin”, “Khrustalev, my car!”

In recent years German senior had been working on a film set to the Strugatsky brothers` sci-fi novel “Hard to be a God”.

Aleksei German: Twenty Days Without War - 20 дней без войны (1976)”

Vsevolod Pudovkin: Chess Fever - Шахматная горячка (1925)

Chess Fever (1925)

Directors: Vsevolod Pudovkin, Nikolai Shpikovsky
Writer: Nikolai Shpikovsky
Stars: Boris Barnet, José Raúl Capablanca and Zakhar Darevsky

Chess Fever (1925)

Chess Fever is a fascinating glimpse of everyday life in Lenin's Moscow. Pudovkin plays a classic montage trick, this time on the international chess stars who have gathered in Moscow for a tournament. Sending his crew to the tournament under the pretence that they are making a newsreel, he intercuts the players' concentrated faces with shots of his own actors in a frivolous love story about a woman driven half-mad by her chess-addict boyfriend.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Vladimir Zaykin: The Listener - Слушатель (2005)

Director:Vladimir Zaykin
Cast:Dmitry Dyuzhev,Mikhail Yefremov, Lyubov Tolkalina, Yevgeniy Steblov, Nikita Vysotsky

Kolyakanova Sergey, the top-manager of the big company, probably couldn`t expect such sharp and fast turn of his life. He has lost both family and work and even his house. Landing on the street level he met his old acquaintance, the student of his year with the same way of life. The leading character decided to find a job with the help of the employment agency. He was offered a job and was ready to try…

I doubt, whether he could imagine, that job description of the profession named “listener” includes the listening of bad language and getting his lumps from the nervous Fedulov`s family members. But this makes the work more and more profitable! The business blossomed out just until the family bankruptcy.

 “The Listener” is a quite merry family comedy adorned by the galaxy of famous actors.

Shostakovich "Hamlet" Film Music

In 1974, Bernard Herrmann and the National Philharmonic recorded a suite from the music that Shostakovich wrote for the Soviet movie of "Hamlet" (1964). From it, we hear 'The Ball at the Palace,' 'Scene of the Poisoning,' 'Arrival of the Players,' and the 'Duel and Death of Hamlet.'

Monday, 18 February 2013

Mikhail Schweitzer (Shvejtser): Someone Else's Kin - Чужая родня (1955)

Someone Else's kin (1955)

Director: Michael Schweitzer
Cast: Nikolai Rybnikov , Nonna Mordjukova , Nikolai Sergeyev , Alexander Denisov , Elena Maximova

A young woman caught between two fires: a passionate lover and family.

Nonna Mordjukova - Stesha, Nikolai Rybnikov - Fyodor Gavrilovich nightingale
Nonna Mordjukova - Stesha, Nikolai Rybnikov - Fyodor Gavrilovich 

Nonna Mordjukova

Friday, 15 February 2013

Vyacheslav Krishtofovich: Lonely Woman Seeks Life Companion - Одинокая женщина желает познакомиться (1986)

Director: Vyacheslav Krishtofovich
Writer: Viktor Merezhko
Stars: Irina Kupchenko, Aleksandr Zbruev, Elena Solovey

A tall, regal, reserved 43-year-old woman named Klavdiya (Irina Kupchenko) has grown so despairing over her unmarried status that she posts five little notices in the vicinity of her apartment complex, with their message more or less that of the film's title. She appears sad, nervous and uncertain about having taken this drastic step.

Klavdiya is, after all, a very attractive and self-sufficient woman, and her quiet life is not without its rewards. ''You've no one to take you to the movies,'' a friend points out. ''But there are so few good movies,'' Klavdiya replies. It's true, and this one won't make the list any longer.

The ad attracts virtually no takers, but it does bring to Klavdiya's drab doorstep the irritating Valentin (Aleksandr Zbruyev), who has a hangdog demeanor, a drinking problem and a past history as a circus clown. Klavdiya doesn't like him, particularly when he baldly interrogates her about her prospects and tries to extort a loan. Valentin finds repeated excuses to try charming his way into Klavdiya's life and to hover, albatrosslike, over her every activity. ...

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Kirill Serebrennikov: Betrayal aka Treason - Измена (2012)

Betrayal (2012)

Director: Kirill Serebrennikov
Stars: Albina Dzhanabaeva, Dejan Lilic, Svetlana Mamresheva

Betrayal (2012)

Kirill Serebrennikov’s new film, Betrayal, makes a strong and unexpected impression. Judging by the title we may expect to see yet another melodrama. However, this is far from the truth and the intentions of the filmmaker—although he does count on misleading the viewer and unravels an everyday, domestic story with adultery, which is actually a dramatic parable about betrayal as an invincible and dangerous consequence of an inevitable temptation. If you wish: temptation as a particle of universal sin; not only corporal, but also mental temptation, as the deceived wife seduces the similarly deceived husband, having drawn him into her secret knowledge of her husband’s adultery with... his wife. The new partnership between the betrayed spouses is linked through the new, common knowledge, and takes shape from the start through general and joint suffering, which leads to a new coil of the same betrayal. The weakness of human resistance to temptation endows the film with a dramatic and bitter-ironical intonation throughout as it oscillates between drama and farce.

Betrayal (2012)

From the pleasure of the betrayal committed in a forbidden and therefore “paradisiacal” territory, in secrecy from others, as they say, “costs them their heads.” However, this knowledge of a sin committed behind their backs makes the life of the deceived spouses equally intolerable and similar to hell, provoking them eventually to lose their heads in the sweet, new, joint sin.

Betrayal (2012)

The script of Betrayal was written by Serebrennikov in the co-authorship with Natal’ia Nazarova. However, the film strongly differs from everything the director has done previously in cinema. The heat of passion in his film is so insuperably attractive and strong that the film even seems at first like a provocation of the Russian tradition that morally condemns the flaw, a slap in the face of the New Testament that says “it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” (Matthew 18:7). Looking ahead through the complex action at the film’s ending, you understand and feel the inaccuracy of your initial presumption, which leaves you ultimately alone not only with the repeated betrayal in the plot, but also with the new inevitability of a quite mystical.

Reviewed by Olga Surkova © 2013 in KinoKultura

Monday, 11 February 2013

Tarkovsky's interpreter reveals details about his life

In the summer of 1985, the great, Russian filmmaker, Andrei Tarkovsky, shot what turned out to be his last film; he died the following year. Tarkovsky directed five films in the Soviet Union, including classics like “Stalker” and “Andrei Rublev,” then “Nostalghia” in Italy and his final masterpiece, “The Sacrifice,” in Sweden. Layla Alexander-Garrett worked as his interpreter during the shooting of “The Sacrifice”; “Andrei Tarkovsky: Collector of Dreams” is based on the diaries she kept that year and shows the director in a very human light.

Tarkovsky’s cinematic trademarks include an emphasis on spiritual themes (which brought him into conflict with the atheist Soviet authorities), long, slow takes and haunting music. His last movie’s strange story involves the “sacrifice” of an aging actor and critic, who leaves his family and burns down his own beautiful house in order to prevent nuclear catastrophe.

The Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman, praised Tarkovsky, calling him the greatest filmmaker: “who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.” Images of dreams and reflections recur throughout Alexander-Garrett’s memoir. The two longest sections describe the actual shooting, often frame by frame, of “The Sacrifice.”

The chapter on “Gotland Dreams” is a particularly evocative and fascinating portrait of an artist, working with, and sometimes against, the windswept, Baltic landscape he has chosen to represent timeless simplicity. She reveals his stubborn methods (like insisting all the dandelions are removed from the grass), verging on the sublime as he allows the sun to shine straight into the camera for the closing shots after hours of deliberately veiled light and overcast skies.

On her first encounter with Tarkovsky’s work, a screening of “Ivan’s Childhood” at school, Alexander-Garrett writes “it was as if someone had torn away my skin.” The chance to work with her hero is unexpected and she records it in a lively style; the reverence of the star-struck child sometimes resurfaces, but she can see Tarkovsky’s failings too: his impulsive moods and possessiveness; his autocratic insistence that his interpreter remove her sunglasses; or his insistence that she drink ice tea rather than Coke.

More here.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Svetlana Baskova: For Marx - За Маркса (2012)

Director: Svetlana Baskova
Cast: Sergei Pakhomov , Vladimir Yepifantsev , Denis Yakovlev , Victor Sergachev , Lawrence Svetlichnyi , Vladimir Yakovlev (II)

Awards : Special Jury prize Independant European Film Festival VOICES, Russia, 2012 Event of the Year Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Russia, 201

The workers in a steel factory have organised an independent trade union to protest against intolerable working conditions, rotten cafeteria food, wage cuts, and layoffs. The factory owners, who have the official trade union on their payroll, seek to combat their activities with every trick in the book. With a focus more on irony than psychology, the film cites all kinds of historical, literary, and aesthetic discourses in intelligent, entertaining manner. While the capitalist (portrayed here in the style of the oil barons from American TV series) is concerned with expanding his collection of representative art as a means of expressing his power, the members of the workers’ film club debate aesthetic concepts by pitting Brecht against Hollywood. And the independent unionists discuss the theses of Marxist historian Mikhail Pokrovsky, who relates the history of Russia as one of class struggle. While its content may be the stuff of heroic sagas (film history showing where rotten cafeteria food can lead), contemporary turbo-capitalism is more familiar with broken heroes and showdowns rather than revolution. Both Brechtian and Hollywood in formal terms: alienation effect and bloodbath.

For Marx (2012)

Berlinale interview: Svetlana Baskova

Already one of the most buzzed-about films at the Berlinale, Svetlana Baskova's "For Marx" is receiving accolades from enthusiastic and grumbling critics alike. Preview the film with a talk with the Moscow-born director.

In 1999, the Russian government banned Baskova’s Green Elephant from general release due to its graphic depiction of violence amongst soldiers at a time when the country was embroiled in Chechnya. Now cited as an exponent of Russia’s post-communist, post-capitalist ‘New Left’, Baskova’s ideology-based aesthetics remain controversial.

For Marx deals with the birthing struggles of an independent trade union at a smelting plant – quoting not only Marxist utopias, but also Sergei Eisenstein’s 1924 Strike and films from Godard’s Marxist Dziga Vertov period.

The film's first Berlinale screening is Friday, February 8, 10pm.

Your film has elements of farce. Did you come across farcical situations during your research?

Today, Russia is an ongoing farce. Nothing is genuine anymore, to the point where it becomes hard to distinguish. When I showed the film to workers, they said that the factory owner was a bit grotesque and didn't seem to be very realistic. When I showed it in Moscow to businesspeople, they said, “I don't know about the workers, but the factory owner is definitely true to life.”

After all those years of Soviet rule, when normal people were deprived of any means of influence, and of course of responsibility, most of those who entered politics or business have been relating to it as a 'game' – as if they were playing the role of the businessman from their Soviet books.

For many businesspeople –and MPs – this game has turned into a constant cocaine trip, because playing constantly at the highest level is quite difficult. Intentionally, our factory owner comes across as if he always were on drugs, from his makeup to his jerky and somewhat artificial emotions. Farce runs throughout Russian life. From an artistic point of view it's not that bad – it provides a lot of material to work with. 

The last man standing survives by playing off the workers against the management. Was this a type of person/situation you actually came across? He also takes it for a game, but survives primarily due to his cynicism. He makes it to the very end, at the price of obliterating all his feelings. Probably because he was in a demeaned position himself.

The romanticism of the 1990s is in the past now. It has been replaced by cynics, tired of playing and unable to feel anything. This becomes very clear in the so-called “Dima Yakovlev Law” [a 2013 law which bans some US citizens from entering Russia, suspends the activity of NGOs receiving any money from America and bans adoptions of Russian children by US citizens], the context and the pretext of which are well beyond any common sense.

Your hero could be a character from Dead Souls by Gogol, although he doesn't know it. Is innocence an option in today's Russia?

The innocence is on the other side of the ‘barricades’. The majority does not know how to live with this kind of gaming capitalism. They don't want to play, or they can't – because they can't afford it. Living 'for real' is extremely difficult when you're totally in the midst of this game. The main hero hesitates constantly and about everything, which is his vulnerability. This vulnerability is characteristic of the overwhelming majority of Russians. This is why we still don't have a real opposition with a real plan and a real programme in Russia.

The film and literature quotes are like a running gag. Are they there to amuse?

They are a response to the regime of constant playing. Playing can be defeated with the appropriate references, which Soviet education provides. What is the answer to the game played by our Orthodox church? Quoting (Vissarion) Belinsky. How to respond to this new holiday on November 4 – the ‘Day of National Unity’, another element of farce? With a thought by the historian Mikhail Nikolayevich Pokrovsky: “Are we really one nation, the factory owners and we?”. Those quotations are not there to amuse. They have become our weapons.

Is your film a comment on today's Russia?

An artist is not a political activist. He does not give any answers, he asks questions, often against his or her will. I do love my country, but I can't make patriotic films. Just think of Gogol and the story of the second volume of Dead Souls. He wanted to write a patriotic book. But he couldn't. So he burned everything he wrote.

This film is less about commenting than it is about questioning. If Russia recognizes itself in my work, then the question was asked the right way.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Sergey Ovcharov - Barabaniada aka Drumroll - Барабаниада (1993)

Director: Sergei Ovcharov
Writer: Sergei Ovcharov
Stars: Aleksandr Polovtsev, Andrey Urgant, Viktor Semyonovsky

Awards : Prix spécial au Festival Kinotavr à Sotchi, 1993

Film with no dialogue: about a naive and good man, a Buster Keaton type, who gets a drum from a dead man and roams post-totalitarian Russia with it. It reflects the chaos and disillusionment of that period

The fascinating Barabaniada is a surrealist allegory about a post-totalitarian society in which all values have disappeared without anything emerging to take their place. In this film without dialogue a young man - a kind of Buster Keaton - gets a drum kit called Stradivarius. On his aimless roamings through a poverty-stricken Russia, in which he sees the chaos and despair of his country pass by, the drum starts to dominate his life.The film starts when the protagonist is getting drunk with his colleagues from the funeral band. He is taken by the dead man to a world where objects rule the roost. The drummer has no idea what he is walking behind or where he is going, but he is not able to resist the evil power that his drum exercises over him. The film is intercut with black & white footage of drummers from all over.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Dovzhenko's Earth (Zemlya) - A Visual Exploration

Mykola Pymonenko, Reaper 1889, Ukraine


If it’s necessary to choose between truth and beauty, I’ll choose beauty. In it there’s a larger, deeper existence than naked truth. Existence is only that which is beautiful.
(Alexander Dovzhenko)[221]

Dovzhenko's Earth (Zemlya) - A Visual Exploration: