Saturday, 30 March 2013

Scoping Sergei Eisenstein's Bookshelves


The great Soviet film director Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948) considered cinema “the highest of the arts,” but he was passionate about books. In his memoirs, he rhapsodized about bookstores and the books he found in them: “They fly to me, run to me, cling to me,” he wrote, “so long have I loved them...” People who visited Eisenstein often said they found him sitting among huge piles of books.

When he died, his friends packed up his books and moved them to another apartment, where they remain to this day. The collection, which is not currently open to the public, is overseen by Naum Kleiman, the world’s leading Eisenstein scholar and Director of Russia’s Cinema Museum.

These photographs show a small percentage of the books Eisenstein owned. You can see some of his many histories of literature, theater, and art. He had close to 200 books on psychology, sex, and religion, and many more on American, European, Mexican, Asian, and African-American history and culture (he considered making a film about the Haitian Revolution with his friend Paul Robeson in the lead).

More here.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Cinematryoshka: 40 years without famous director Mikhail Kalatozov

Russian cinema is like a matryoshka: following the recursive method, which in the art criticism is called "mise-en-abîme", it plays with the various meanings. This video-blog is to help you to gain an insight into contemporary (and as in this case - not contemporary, timeless) Russian cinema.
Today we commemorate the 40th anniversary of Mikhail Kalatozov's death.

More: Cinematryoshka: 40 years without famous director Mikhail Kalatozov

Monday, 25 March 2013

Ivan Pyryev: The Cossacks of Kuban - Кубанские казаки (1949)

Kuban Cossacks (1949)

Director: Ivan Pyryev
Writer: Nikolai Pogodin
Stars: Sergei Lukyanov, Marina Ladynina, Aleksandr Khvylya

The Cossacks of the Kuban from Mosfilm (1949) is a color film, glorifying the life of the farmers in the kolkhoz of the Soviet Union's Kuban region, directed by Ivan Pyryev and starring Marina Ladynina, his wife at that time.

Awards :

Prix de la musique à Isaac Dounaevski au festival de Karlovy Vary, 1950
Prix du Travail à Ivan Pyriev, 1950
Prix Staline, 2e niveau à Isaac Dounaevski, à Marina Ladynina et à Ivan Pyriev, 1950


Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Alexei German I knew

Last week, Russians bid farewell to a man many considered to be the country’s greatest living filmmaker. Largely under-appreciated in the West, Alexei German’s films delighted in their complexity, tones, textured aesthetics, and the absence of simple heroes or villains. Ian Christie remembers him

2013 should have been the year that Alexei German’s long-awaited sixth film finally appeared. With just five films released in forty-five years as a director, German has long occupied a unique position in film history, comparable only to that of Terrence Malick. His latest, based on a novel by the Strugatskys, almost unbelievably has been in production since 2000. But on 21 February, German’s death was announced.

I heard the news while in the Czech Republic, where German apparently shot part of what will now be his last film, and felt an immediate sense of loss, as I recalled how both he and his remarkable oeuvre had entered my life at crucial moments during the last decade of the Soviet era. German was born in 1938 and actually began directing in 1968, but as with others of his generation – like Aleksandr Askoldov and Kira Muratova - his early work was either buried or ‘shelved’, as the saying went.

My first encounter came in 1984, when the Soviet Filmmakers Union invited me to assemble a delegation of British ‘independent’ filmmakers, so that they could see at first hand the kind of avant-garde work that never reached official platforms such as the Moscow Film Festival. Our little group included the filmmakers Sally Potter and Derek Jarman, neither as well known as they would become, along with Ed Bennett, Peter Wollen and Peter Sainsbury from the British Film Institute Production Board. Among the films the Union offered to show us was German’s Twenty Days Without War, which had been made in 1977 but never seen abroad. Jarman, who was shooting clandestinely what would become his Imagining October, was deeply impressed by this understated, melancholic reflection on the heightened realities of wartime life on the home front. The world-weary war reporter on leave from Stalingrad, we learned was played by Yuri Nikulin, an ex-clown, who was also one of the most popular of screen comedians. His love interest was played by an equally popular actor and singer Ludmilla Gurchenko; but oblivious to this casting against reputation, we only knew we had seen something of extraordinary integrity in the burnished black-and-white that German always used.

One year on, the Moscow Film Festival of 1985 would prove to be a milestone in the transformation of the USSR. The most controversial competition film by far was Elem Klimov’s Come and See, a ferocious vision of the partisan war against the Nazis in Belorussia that took first prize – a harbinger of the revolution within Soviet cinema that would soon put the previously banned director Elem Klimov in the forefront of Gorbachev’s reforms as first secretary of the Union. But during the festival, a discreet invitation went out to selected visitors that there would be an unannounced screening. A bus took us to a remote cinema and, without explanation, we found ourselves watching an unsubtitled print of German’s masterpiece, My Friend Ivan Lapshin. I was lucky, because my interpreter knew the work of the popular writer Yuri German, Alexei’s father, on whose stories the film is based. All around us, interpreters and puzzled festival visitors were struggling to make sense of this subtly disconcerting film. ...

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Oleg Pogodin: Home - Дом (2011)

House (2011)

Director: Oleg Pogodin
Writer: Oleg Pogodin
Stars: Sergey Garmash, Bogdan Stupka, Yekaterina Rednikova

Parts of Oleg Pogodin’s Home are like the film’s characters: incompatible but forced to stay together. And just like the characters form a family, different parts of the film do make a whole, which surprisingly holds together and at times delights the viewer. Beautifully shot and superbly cast, Home is a flawed yet compelling film that incorporates elements of gangster story, family epic and even western. This mélange reflects the director’s love for American filmmakers in the likes of Terrence Malick, Sam Peckinpah, and Francis Ford Coppola. A trained film critic with a cinephile’s eye, Pogodin transplants American tales to the black soils of Southern Russia, and the result is both local and epic, as the film, set in a family home, in the end turns to sweeping conclusions about the Russian character.

House (2011)

The story is deceptively simple: four generations of the Shamanov family, headed by a strong-willed Grigorii (Bogdan Stupka) and his sensible wife Nadezhda (Larisa Malevannaia), live in an imposing house in the middle of the Don River steppes. The family, getting ready to celebrate Grigorii’s father’s centennial birthday, is joined by Grigorii’s daughter Tamara (Evgeniia Dmitrieva), coming from Moscow and, unexpectedly, by his eldest son Viktor (Sergei Garmash), who returns home after 25 years of absence. What could be a complex enough exploration of a dysfunctional family gets a twist with Viktor’s backstory: a fugitive mobster, he came home to say farewell to his parents as a gang of criminals is on his tail.

Reviewed by Raisa Sidenova © 2012 in KinoKultura


Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Mark Donskoy : Foma Gordeev - Фома Гордеев (1959)

Maria Milkova

Director: Mark Donskoy
Writers: Boris Bailik, Mark Donskoy,
Stars: Sergei Lukyanov, Georgi Yepifantsev,Pavel Tarasov

Foma Gordeev (1959)

Locarno International Film Festival - Best Director

Mark Donskoi may not be as familiar to Western audiences as Eisenstein, Pudovkin, or Dovzhenko; his films are in no way as readily recalled as Battleship Potemkin, Mother , or Earth. Like other Soviet filmmakers, he propagandizes about the glories of the Bolshevik Revolution and highlights the life of Lenin. But Donskoi's great and unique contribution to Russian cinema is his adaption to the screen of Maxim Gorki's autobiographical trilogy: The Childhood of Gorki, My Apprenticeship , and My Universities , all based on the early life of the famed writer and shot during the late 1930s. (Years later, Donskoi adapted two other Gorki works, Mother —the same story filmed by Pudovkin in 1926—and Foma Gordeyev. )

In the trilogy, Donskoi chronicles the life of Gorki from childhood on, focusing on the experiences which alter his view of the world. At their best, these films are original and pleasing: the first presents a comprehensive and richly detailed view of rural life in Russia during the 1870s. While delineating the dreams of nineteenth-century Russian youth, Donskoi lovingly recreates the era. The characters are presented in terms of their conventional ambitions and relationships within the family structure. They are not revolutionaries, but rather farmers and other provincials with plump bodies and commonplace faces. The result is a very special sense of familiarity, of fidelity to a time and place. Of course, villains in Gorki's childhood are not innately evil, but products of a repressive czarist society. They are thus compassionately viewed. Donskoi pictures the Russian countryside with imagination, and sometimes even with grandeur.

Donskoi's later noteworthy works include How the Steel Was Tempered , one of the first Russian films to deal with World War II. While based on a Civil War story, the filmmaker includes only the sequences pertaining to Ukrainian resistance to German invaders in 1918, paralleling that situation to the Nazi invasion. The story also recalls the Gorki trilogy in its presentation of a boy who is changed by his encounter with life's challenges.

Read more: Mark Donskoi - Director - Films as Director:, Other Films:, Publications