Monday, 29 April 2013

Dmitrii Fiks: The White Moor, or Intimate Stories about My Neighbours - Белый мавр или три истории о моих соседях (2012)

Director: Dmitri Fiks
Writer: Maksim Stishov
Stars: Andrey Sokolov, Ekaterina Strizhenova, Aleksandr Galibin

White Moor or the Intimate stories about my neighbors (2012)

The White Moor, or Intimate Stores about My Neighbors is a film driven by the romantic intrigues of what director Dmitrii Fiks calls “the top of the middle class.” The troubled personal lives of three professionally successful men are examined in an almanac film that is a loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello. The three storylines each portray husbands in relative states of impotence: Andrei (Aleksandr Galibin), who cannot obtain a divorce from his wife to marry his mistress; Misha (Andrei Sokolov), who is estranged from his once-cheating wife and lesbian daughter; and Lenia (Igor' Vernik), a closeted homosexual facing increasing pressure from his wife to have another child.

White Moor or the Intimate stories about my neighbors (2012)

The marital problems of the families are inextricably linked to each respective husband’s economic standing, a fact reinforced by the film’s mise-en-scène. Almost all important plot developments take place behind the wheel of expensive foreign cars. Whether Andrei is orally pleasured by his mistress, Misha is kicked out by his wife, or Lenia is harassed to produce another child, this is a class of Russians in motion. The film’s opening scenes reinforce an obsession with vehicles: Andrei’s wife hits and kills a man on a bicycle while she is driving, and Misha’s friend, Iura, is injured in a car crash that kills his wife, Ania. It is only in the final scene, moreover, that the three protagonists assemble in the same physical space as their cars weave past one another. If the train contextualized a way of thinking about social advancement in the days of Anna Karenina, The White Moor presents the car as the new symbol of class development.

White Moor or the Intimate stories about my neighbors (2012)

The car, however, is not the sole symbol of mobility in the film. A vacation in Egypt, a business trip to Tver', and a lusty stay in a swanky dacha all reinforce the idea that these are Russians whose interests and conflicts rest on their relationship to the means of production. It is in Tver', for example, on a trip to examine one of his many dental clinics, that Lenia is able to sleep with another man, just as it is at her dacha that his wife, Vika (Zhanna Epple), meets a well-to-do man who will help her conceive, arriving, of course, in his expensive SUV. The intrigue between Andrei and his controlling wife, Natasha (Anna Iakunina), similarly must play out “elsewhere,” as Andrei contemplates to what end he will go to free himself from his suffocating relationship.

More here.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Aleksey Balabanov: Me Too - Я тоже хочу (2012)

I want (2012)

Director: Aleksey Balabanov
Writer: Aleksey Balabanov
Stars: Oleg Garkusha, Yuriy Matveev, Aleksandr Mosin

On the set of "I want"

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?

Я тоже хочу (2012)

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.

Reviewed by Irina Anisimova © 2013 in KinoKultura

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Mikheil Chiaureli: The Unforgettable Year 1919 - Незабываемый 1919-й (1952)

Director: Mikheil Chiaureli
Writers: Mikheil Chiaureli, Aleksandr Filimonov,
Stars: Pavel Molchanov, Mikheil Gelovani, Boris Andreyev

An incredible piece of Chiaureli's work as (according to the BFI Companion) one of the principal cinematic architects of the Stalin cult of personality. The film, like Love and Hate, takes place in 1919 and tells a civil war story; but unlike that movie, this one is focussed clearly on a particular leading personality in the struggle against the whites: Stalin.

May 1919. The city of Petrograd, the Bolsheviks' stronghold in Russia, is attacked by the counter-revolutionary White Army of General Nikolai Yudenich, who is supported by the imperialist British, and especially by the warmongering Winston Churchill. The city's High Soviet is demoralized and about to order an evacuation, while the White fifth column inside it plots an insurrection. The Krasnaya Gorka fort dispatches a detachment of Baltic Fleet sailors to assist Petrograd, among them is the young Vladimir Shibaev. As the Red Army faces defeat by the Whites, Joseph Stalin arrives on the battlefield, rallies the communists and routes the enemy, saving the city. ...

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Yuli Raizman: Dream of a Cossack -Кавалер Золотой Звезды (1950)

Director: Yuli Raizman
Writers: S. Babaevskiy (novel), Boris Chirskov
Stars: Sergey Bondarchuk, Anatoli Chemodurov, A. Kanayeva

Sergei Tutarinov a veteran of the Great Patriotic war returns to his native village to take an active part in its restoration. His initiatives are strongly supported by the local Secretary of the Communist party. Tutarinov becomes chairman of the party and begins to rebuild the whole town after the defeat of the Germans.

Yuli Yakovlevich Raizman, film-maker: born 15 December 1903; died 11 December 1994. Yuli Raizman was one of the finest of all Soviet film directors, in addition to being one of the most long-lasting.

Joining the Mezhrabpom-Rus Studio in Moscow in 1924; he was still fit and working for Mosfilm in the late 1980s. His final film, A Time of Desires (a dispassionate and rather cruel study of Soviet nouveaux riches), was released in 1984. In collaboration with the scriptwriter Yevgeny Gabrilovich, Raizman was responsible for a clutch of movies which - almost uniquely in their time - hinted that the experience of Communism was among other things an experience of suffering.

Sometimes he went the other way too. There were a number (but not a large number) of Socialist Realist films in the late 1940s and early 1950s, including The Knight of the Golden Star (unshown at the National Film Theatre retrospective of Raizman's filmsin 1984).

Of this genre, the director remarked that he merely wanted to see if he could "spit as far as the other fellow". As justification for a pure experiment in style - as opposed to a credo deeply believed in - this may or may not be disingenuous. Certainly, throughout his career, Raizman managed, more or less, to stay out of trouble. But it could have been because of an innate and rather aristocratic reticence as much as to discreditable alternatives.

As a Jew, and an exceptionally sophisticated artist, Raizman had a strong sense of style, inherited perhaps from his father, Iakov, who was a famous couturier, responsible among other duties for costuming the Moscow Arts Theatre in the period up to the Revolution, he must have been vulnerable to the campaign against "cosmopolitanism" which Stalin unleashed in the late 1940s; but he weathered that storm as he weathered all others. The most dangerous period of his career (as for so many other artists and intellectuals) was 1937. Raizman mixed at that time in the circle of Elena Sokolovskaya, the deputy head of Mosfilm, who earlier that year, for no particular reason, was arrested and subsequently shot. For Raizman an uncomfortable couple of months - at least - followed this arrest.

But he was rescued from embarrassment by the enormous national and international success of his current release (his first collaboration with Gabrilovich), The Last Night, an essay in Bolshevik heroics. The film's surface ideology endorses the usual Soviet platitudes: vigilance against enemies, omniscience of the Party, deific status of Lenin, and so forth. But in comparison with other films of the period (Mikhail Romm's Lenin, 1918, for example) it is notably lacking in bloodthirstiness. In u nexpectedplaces it is humorous and gentle. And as well as being visually elegant (a quiet, formal pictorial innovativeness was one of Raizman's hallmarks) it reveals, like all of his best films, an effort towards psychological complexity.

Raizman trained at Mezhrabpom-Rus - the most commercial and American- oriented of the studios operating in the 1920s. In film history terms, it was a period of vigorous experimentation; but from the outset Raizman felt no particular attraction towards fashionable theories of montage....

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Alexander Sokurov's 'Faust' Wins Russian Award Nika

Alexander Sokurov’s Faust was celebrated as the best film at the Nika award ceremony, which was held in Moscow on Tuesday, while Andrei Proshkin’s Orda (The Horde) scooped the largest number of trophies.

Faust, which collected the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and the local critics’ White Elephant award, competed in the best film category with The Horde, Pavel Lungin’s Dirizhyor (Conductor), Avdotya Smirnova’s Kokoko and Karen Shakhnazarov’s Bely Tigr (White Tiger).

At the Nikas, Faust also picked up the best director award for Sokurov, the best script award for Yuri Arabov, who, incidentally, also wrote The Horde and was nominated for both, and the best actor award for Anton Adasinsky, shared with The Horde’s Maxim Sukhanov.

The Horde, which was nominated in eleven categories, ended up with seven statuettes, tying the awards’ all-time record. In addition to awards for Arabov and Sukhanov, the period piece set in the 14th century collected the best cinematography award for Yuri Raisky, the best actress award for Roza Khairullina, the best set design and the best costume design.

More here.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Oblomov (1979) - Olga singing "Casta Diva"

Russell Scott Valentino notes that the question of Russia's cultural relationship to Western Europe occupied not only nineteenth-century writers like Dostoevsky, Turgenev and Goncharov, but also twentieth-century Russian and Soviet filmmakers.

He claims that "the musical introduction of Olga, her off-camera performance of the 'Casta Diva' cavatina from Bellini's Norma, conveys a realm within which she develops throughout the film. While suggestive of beauty and lyricism it also represents an assumed, Western, non-Russian orientation to life.... one effect of this initial linkage of Olga to West European Romantic opera is to draw her authenticity (her 'Russianness') into question" (156-7).

Valentino, Russell Scott. "Adapting the Landscape: Oblomov's vision in films." Russian and Soviet Film Adaptations of Literature, 1900-2001: Screening the Word. Ed. Stephen Hutchings and Anat Vernitski. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2005.

Sergey Solovyov's Anna Karenina: classic heroine in modern context

The Russian director Sergei Solovyov presents his long-awaited “Anna Karenina”. It is released online April 1 and 2 in the framework of The Double Dv@ Online Festival of Russian Film.

“It is particularly significant following the success that Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina” had in Russian cinemas and the showing of Solovyov’s version on Russia’s Channel One. We’re programming this film in conjunction with the release of Solovyov’s more recent masterpiece, “2-Assa-2.” These two films were made simultaneously, and with the same cast – the link between them is on both a formal and mystical level,” says Valery Kichin, the Festival’s curator.

The Double Dv@ Online Festival of Russian Film gives quality Russian films that did not make it to general release another chance to reach a wider audience. It will run on the official site of Rossiyskaya gazeta from March 26 to April 12. There are two programs: "Unknown Russian Movies – Masterpieces on Show" and “Animation XXI." Films are available for 48 hours, and viewers can watch them online at any time they want during that period.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Gleb Panfilov: The Romanovs: An Imperial Family - Романовы. Венценосная семья (2000)

Romanovs.  Imperial Family (2000)

Director: Gleb Panfilov
Writers: Inna Churikova, Gleb Panfilov,
Stars: Aleksandr Galibin, Lynda Bellingham, Vladimir Grachyov

2000 “Golden Aries” award for Best Production design ( Alexander Boim, Vladimir Gudilin, Anatoly Panfilov)
2001 International Moscow Human Rights Film Festival “Stalker”. Directors Guild Award (Gleb Panfilov) 2003 St. Petersburg Governor’s prize for cinematic score (Vadim Bibergan)

The idea of making a film about the tragedy of the Tsar’s family haunted Panfilov since 1988, when he was shooting an adaptation of Maxim Gorki’s novel “Mother” and for the first time laid his eyes on the documents of the Romanovs’ case.

Romanovs.  Imperial Family (2000)

After a lengthy research in the archives, this idea finally developed into a screenplay, written by Gleb Panfilov, Inna Churikova, and Ivan Panfilov in 1990. The shooting began in 1996 and lasted exactly a year. English actress Lynda Bellingham was invited to star as Empress Alexandra, who was, after all, Queen Victoria’s favorite granddaughter.

Romanovs.  Imperial Family (2000)

Many scenes were filmed in the Czech Republic, while others were shot on location in former imperial residence in Tsarskoe Selo. The historical details of days long past are recreated in the film with impressive accuracy. In fact, the private study of Tsar Nicholas, recreated exactly as it was before the revolution, was later donated to Ekaterininsky Palace Museum where the film was shot.