Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Stalingrad Directed by Fedor Bondarchuk Nominated for Oscar - Watch Trailer

Fedor Bondarchuk’s Stalingrad - the first Russian IMAX 3D film - has been nominated for the best foreign feature film Oscar Award.

The decision has been announced by the Russian Oscar committee following its voting results.

Stalingrad is the first Russian film in the IMAX 3D format. Its budget amounts to $30 million. According to the film director, September 28 will see the first run of the film in Volgograd (which was renamed into Stalingrad in the Soviet epoch), whereas the Moscow premiere is scheduled for October 2. The film will go on general release as soon as October 10. The film will also be screened abroad. In particular, it is planned to run in over 3000 movie theaters in China.

Stalingrad was competing for the Oscar nomination with A Long and Happy Life by Boris Khlebnikov, Short Stories by Mikhail Segal, Kin-dza-dza by Georgy Danelia, Major by Yury Bykov, Rita's Last Fairy Tale by Renata Litvinova, and Legend No. 17 by Nikolay Lebedev. In turn, the RF Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky supported the choice of the Russian Oscar committee.

It should be noted that in 2014 Fedor Bondarchuk plans to start shooting a film about Pavel Durov - the founder of the VKontakte social networking website – based on the same-name book Durov's Code by Nikolay Kononov.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Alexei German: Trial on the Road - Проверка на дорогах (1971)

Director: Aleksey German
Writers: Yuri German (stories), Eduard Volodarskiy
Stars: Rolan Bykov, Anatoliy Solonitsyn, Vladimir Zamanskiy

Проверка на дорогах (1971)

Banned for fifteen years and threatened with destruction by Soviet authorities, Guerman's solo directorial debut is clearly the work of a born master. Based on a true story documented by Guerman's father, Trial on the Road centres on a German soldier captured by the Russians in Nazi-controlled Byelorussia, who turns out to be a contrite defector who wants to return to the fold of the partisans. Forced to prove his loyalty to the homeland in increasingly perilous missions against the invaders, he achieves heroism in a sequence that recalls Melville's Army of Shadows in its masterful building of suspense. Accused of "de-heroizing" Soviet history with its moral complexity and multiple ambiguities, Trial on the Road became an acknowledged classic even in its enforced absence.

German’s first feature, Proverka na dorogakh(Trial on the Road), was finally shot in 1971; in retrospect it seems almost incredible that it was filmed at all. Soviet, indeed, Russian identity since World War Two had been founded on that bitterly won victory: the march to Berlin did more than any cult of personality to legitimate Stalin’s rule. German’s film undermines the fable of unwavering heroism and loyalty that sustained the self-perception of whole generations of Soviet citizens. A former Red Army lieutenant defects to the Nazis on ideological grounds, then decides to switch sides again to defend his homeland. The partisan brig­ade who capture him are suspicious and test his loyalty in a series of operations behind enemy lines. The motivations for the main character’s actions are barely discussed: questions of treason, of ideological as opposed to patriotic commitment are left largely unaddressed, and there is an uncomfortable sense of futility lurking behind any seeming acts of heroism. Proverka na dorogakh was shelved until 1986 because, according to internal memos of the state film agency Goskino, it ‘distorts the image of a heroic time’—‘the people it depicts could only have lost the Great Patriotic War’; the subtext being that German’s film ‘makes us someone other than who we want to be’.
More here.

Inspired by a real case documented by Guerman’s father, Trial on the Road tells the story of a sergeant in the Red Army during World War II who has defected to the Nazis and, as the film begins, switches sides yet again. His loyalties questioned by all except for a benevolent commander, the soldier is forced to prove his patriotism via a series of increasingly perilous missions. The visual flourishes of Trial on the Road’s battle scenes even attracted the notice of some in Hollywood, but Guerman himself remains proudest of such innovative touches as actors who gaze directly into the camera. For daring to question the orthodoxy that World War II was a heroic struggle free of ironies and ambiguities, the film was shelved for fifteen years.
More here.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Alexander Veledinsky: The Geographer Has Drunk Away The Globe - Географ глобус пропил (2013)

Director: Alexander Veledinsky
Cast:  Konstantin Khabensky, Elena Lyadova, Anna Ukolova, Evgenia Khirivskaya

 Географ глобус пропил (2013)

Awards :

First prize Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Sochi (Russia), 2013
Best actor Konstantin KHABENSKY , Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Sochi (Russia), 2013
Best music Aleksey ZUBAREV , Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Sochi (Russia), 2013
Prize of Film Distributor's Jury Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Sochi (Russia),2013

Though he can barely read a map, a cranky but lovable biologist becomes a provincial geography teacher in the tragicomedy The Geographer Drank His Globe Away (Geograf globus propil), Russian director Alexander Veledinsky's adaptation of the bestseller by Alexei Ivanov. The film has been a hit at Russophone festivals, taking home top jury honors at both Sochi and Odessa. The Odessa audience award win also bodes well for the film's local release, scheduled for Nov. 7 on a pretty wide 400 screens. Further festival action is assured, though theatrical sales might be limited by the relatively mainstream nature of the material, especially once it leaves its bleak provincial city setting for the countryside. Cantankerous Victor (Konstantin Khabensky) is desperate for work and manages, despite being a biologist by training, to talk his way into a geography-teacher position at a high school in Perm, in the Russian boondocks (it's over 1,000 miles east of Moscow). But the kids in his classes are an unruly bunch and his life at home with his wife, Nadya (Elena Lyadova), offers little reprieve, as the two bicker like there's no tomorrow -- at least, until Nadya suggests they get a divorce.

Things start to look up when Victor's old buddy, Budkin (Alexander Robak), moves into the Soviet-era high-rise on the opposite side of the street, mainly because that means Victor has company for his drinking-to-forget sessions and Veledinsky -- by way of novelist Ivanov -- has an excuse to introduce more colorful, if one-note, female characters, including Budkin's ex-girlfriend, (Anna Ukolova), whose knowledge of geography is as small as Victor's; Kira (Evgenia Khirivskaya), a sexy German teacher at school and, lastly, an unexpected love interest for Budkin. Unsurprisingly, the women are all strictly observed from a male point of view.

Константин Хабенский

Ivanov's novel was set in the 1990s and its protagonists were about a decade younger than the fortysomethings shown here. Just after the fall of Communism, the future of the characters was also more uncertain than the one in this contemporary update, which, at least initially, seems to suggest that life is and will remain as bleak and stagnant as current-day, winter-time provincial Russia.

More here.

The funny, smart and rather subversive Geographer Drank His Globe Away (Geograf Globus Propil) – which won the main prizes at this year’s Odessa International Film Festival and the Open Russian Film Festival ‘Kinotavr’ at Sochi – is a film that clicks with audiences who embrace with bitter humour, sexual shenanigans, engaging performances and bleak backdrop. Set for a Russian release later this year, it should find its home on the festival circuit, though whether it may be too mainstream to work for international art house distributors.

Alexander Veleninsky has transplanted his adaptation of Alexei Ivanov’s novel from the 1990s to the present day, allowing plenty of pot shots at the current state of Russia, while also making great use of the cold and bitter backdrops of Perm, Zakamsk in the Lower Kuria district and Usva, in the Gremyachinsk district.

Агриппина Стеклова, Константин Хабенский

Biologist Victor Sergeyevich Sluzhkin (an engagingly dour but oddly charming Konstantin Khabensky, who also won best actor at Sochi) is desperate for work, and manages to convince a local school to take him on as a geography teacher, despite knowing nothing about the subject. He can’t stand the rude students, has no money and quarrels constantly with his wife Nadya (Elena Lyadova) in their tiny flat. He loves his young daughter, but can’t bear his life.

He flirts with other women and even encourages his best friend, the bear-like Budkin (Alexander Robak) to start an affair with his wife, and finds the only way to cope with his loneliness and lack of direction by smoking and copious of amounts of drinking. Against all odds he slowly finds a way of getting along with his class (which mainly involves drinking a great deal) and foolishly promises a river trip for those who get the best grades.

More here.