Monday, 18 April 2016

Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov sends new film to Cannes

Director Kirill Serebrennikov, who is also artistic director of the Gogol-Center Theater in Moscow, will enter the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival (May 11-22) with his film(M)Uchenik ("Apprentice") .

(М)ученик (2016)

The film takes place in a modern-day Russian city and tells of the difficulties experienced by a schoolboy called Benjamin (played by Pyotr Skvortsov) and his relationship with his teachers, peers and single mother.

It could be seen as a film version of the play of the same name staged at the Gogol-Center Theater, which premiered in early 2015. The play and the film are based on a play by German playwright Marius Von Mayenburg.

“Marius and I met long before the opening of the play Apprentice at the Berlin theater Schaubühne in 2012,” Serebrennikov told RBTH.

“Later on we met again and I asked him to make a Russian version (of the play), moving the action to Russia, to which he kindly agreed.”

According to the director, the success of the stage version in the Gogol-Center Theater inspired him to make a film version. The filming took place in August 2015 in Kaliningrad (the Russian Baltic Sea exclave bordering Poland). 

 “It was an absolutely amazing time! Everything worked perfectly,” said Serebrennikov. The film stars Yulia Aug and Viktoria Isakova as well as actors from the Gogol-Center Theater. 

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Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Iurii Grymov: The Mastermind - Коллекционер (2001)

Director: Iurii Grymov
Cast Aleksei Petrenko, Evgenii Tsyganov, Karen Badalov, Andrei Prikhod'ko, Ekaterina Volkova, Irina Mazurkevich

 Iurii Grymov has been known to television audiences across Russia as the director of commercials and music videos—genres in which has developed a recognizable style and which have promoted him to media stardom. That this promotion has been consistently accompanied by condescension and sneers from traditional intellectual and artistic circles is perhaps part of the reason for Grymov's ventures into art-house theater and film production. The Mastermind comes after the short film Masculine Candor (1996) and the film adaptation of Turgenev's classic Mu-Mu (1998). Based on Levan Varazi's novella and drawing inspiration from the cerebral cinematic styles of Tarkovskii and Buñuel, the film does not hide its claims to conceptual and visual impact. In the director's own foreboding words: "On the screen you will see your own dreams shown so sincerely that you will want to strangle the person sitting next to you for having spied on them."

The action in the film takes place in the house of an eccentric collector (played by Aleksei Petrenko)—a veritable Noah's Ark, filled with the most diverse objects from the worlds of nature and human culture. Three male and three female characters find themselves there with the apparent purpose of helping the collector organize his belongings. The narrative structure of the film proceeds conceptually from this process of organization and categorization, as each narrative segment is framed with reference to a specific part of the collection. In the collector's enigmatically prophetic words, we are given to understand that the characters' task is double: as they sort out his collection, they are also "sorting out" their own lives, relationships, identities, and beliefs. Their aimless meandering through the maze of rooms and objects, interspersed with hallucinatory visions, erratic exchanges, and equally erratic actions, is meant to allegorize a search for meaning and purpose. The collection itself—arguably, the main "hero" in Grymov's film—confronts the viewer with a number of possible symbolic readings: an allegory for the seeming randomness of life? a diabolic trap for "lost souls"? another recasting of the post-modern condition? a symbolic garbage dump on the outskirts of an exhausted human civilization?

The bewildering assembly of animate and inanimate things accounts for much of the visual appeal of The Mastermind. It allows Grymov to construct abstract spaces and set up striking visual arrangements (for example, the first part of the love scene between Petr and Masha). Yet much of this appeal is undermined by the film's stubborn tendency to resolve (and dissolve) every visual composition into a semantic scheme. The viewer is constantly oppressed by the suspicion that every object or situation presented to him/her encodes a cryptic revelation. The fact that the collector's house and the movie screen are teeming with living beings and material objects (from fish and porcupines to industrial machines, from classical paintings to dildos) makes only too palpable the atmosphere of rarified abstraction. All the stuff that Grymov "collects" and arranges for us renders the air of pretentious conceptualism and symbolic profundity that much more... stuffy. Contributing to the effect is the make-up of Grymov's characters: without ever coming to life, they drift through the narrative as schematic bundles of twisted emotion and bungled philosophy. Nowhere is this make-up more exposed than in the figure of the collector: a strange amalgam of Mephistophelian and evangelical features, glued together by enigmatic behavior, portentous sermonizing, and tantalizingly pregnant equivocations.

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Saturday, 9 April 2016

Alexander Nezlobin: The groom - Жених (2016)

Director: Alexander Nezlobin
Cact: Svetlana Martsinkevich,Philippe Reinhardt

Helmut (Philippe Reinhardt) arrives in Russia to make an offer Russian beauty Alena (Svetlana Martsinkevich) , with which he met in Berlin. The happy couple went to the village to meet the relatives of the bride.

However, there also arrives and the ex-husband of Alena Tolya (Sergei Svetlakov) who suddenly decided to return his wife.


Larisa Sadilova: Needing a Nanny - Требуется няня (2005)

Director: Larisa Sadilova
Cast: Marina Zubanova, Aleksei Makarov, Viktoriia Isakova, Ira Shipova, Raisa Riazanova, Valerii Barinov

On its surface, Larisa Sadilova's third feature film since her acclaimed 1998 debut, Happy Birthday!, is only peripherally about race and ethnicity: a woman, Galia, arrives from rural northern Russia and is hired as a nanny for the daughter of a well-to-do (and honest) family, also Russian. The family does employs a group of Uzbek builders, who are living on their plot of land while doing renovations, but for the first quarter of the film or so they are indeed a peripheral presence, as Sadilova focuses on the relat ionship between Galia, the child, and the parents.

After overhearing the couple making disparaging remarks about her appearance, the nanny begins to spiral inexorably towards more and more treacherous acts, including turning the girl into a death-obsessed bully, plotting to sabotage her employers' marriage, and extorting money. What at first seems like an increasingly out-of-control vendetta based on class antagonism, however, soon encompasses every character in the film, including the Uzbeks, who in fact suffer the most permanent damage at the hands of Galia as she transforms into a monster (as cinematic nannies are not unknown to do).

An intriguing combination of contemporary social observation and fine psychological nuance, Larisa Sadilova's new film "Needing a Nanny" may look modest enough -- its cast is small and the locations simple -- but stays in the memory.

Respected as an emerging director, Sadilova in her latest work captures something of the world of her 2003 film, "With Love, Lilya," the story of a broiler factory worker's search for love. Experimenting with a more European style of naturalism, a form little explored by Russian directors in the last decade, that film won more acclaim abroad than at home, picking up a prestigious Tiger Award at the Rotterdam International Film Festival.

Actress Marina Zubanova, who played the heroine of "With Love, Lilya," returns in Sadilova's new film as Galina, the nanny of its title. She is hired by a prosperous couple, businessman Andrei (Alexei Makarov) and his manager wife Vera (Viktoria Isakova), to look after their 4-year-old daughter Alya (Irina Shipova) as Vera prepares to return to work.

Most of the action takes place in and around the couple's country house, whose final construction is being completed by a gang of Uzbek workers. Sadilova's own script catches subtle details of the almost unspoken class system typically found in Russia over the last decade. Andrei and Vera may be successful and able to afford a new house and a housekeeper, but their interaction with others, such as their parents, whose much more modest lives have changed little over the years, anchors them in a convincing background.

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Friday, 8 April 2016

Aleksandr Zarkhi and Iosif Kheifits: My Motherland - Моя Родина (1933)

Directors: Aleksandr Zarkhi and Iosif Kheifits
Cast: Bari Khaidarov, Aleksandr Melnikov, Ianina Zheimo, Gennadii Michurin, Konstantin Nazarenko, Oleg Zhakov, Iui Fa-Shou

My Motherland is the first film in Soviet cinema history to be banned personally by Stalin. After a private screening, the Great Leader reportedly uttered: "This film was not made by Soviet people." On 3 April 1933, Pravda included in its "khronika" section the brief official announcement: "The screening of the picture My Motherland is forbidden in all of the USSR as harmful."

Моя Родина (1933)

One review, attacking the film's use of caricature, reveals in greater detail why the film was deemed to be inappropriate for Soviet people. Within the genre defined by Zarkhi and Kheifits as "historical realism," caricature was too low-brow for the more serious matter at hand: to portray properly and realistically on screen an important moment of the Soviet past. Chinese and Red Army soldiers alike are depicted as ridiculous: they maintain poor hygiene, their clothes are ill-fitting, and they speak and behave without a sense of political consciousness. In a Soviet rising-to-consciousness narrative set during the Soviet campaign in Manchuria, it is problematic for the imperial center to be shown as achieving consciousness simultaneously with the "uncivilized" Chinese ragamuffins it seeks to colonize. To add insult to injury, the film's opening credits make a dedication to the 15th anniversary of the Peasant-Worker Red Army.

Apart from meddling with the order of imperial relationships and destabilizing the strong Soviet center, another major—then unspoken—element would have made the film unpalatable to Stalin and the film's lesser critics. My Motherland is rife with eroticism. The first Russian-speaking characters to appear on screen are prostitutes and expatriates. At one point early in the film, the Chinese hero Van the Tramp returns from work late at night. The only other person awake is a Russian prostitute. Van lies in bed watching her as she stands scantily clad and eats a piece of fruit. Then, in a surprising reversal, the woman suddenly tosses Van the fruit and buttons her blouse. Still prostrate, Van now takes a bite of the fruit, and becomes the object of the erotic gaze. Van's character remains eroticized and becomes increasingly feminized throughout the film.

Though Van is recruited to serve in the army, he is an atypical soldier and far from a masculine ideal. He is physically slight and afraid of battle. He often wears hats that appear like a long mane of hair. In one scene, he primps in front of a mirror trying on distinctly feminine objects as accessories, before engaging in a wild, dance-like spectacle before the camera. Van literally becomes Edward Said's "Other," the exotic "Oriental," feminized and performing on a stage for a Soviet audience.

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Aleksandr Faintsimmer: The Czar Wants to Sleep - Поручик Киже (1934)

Поручик Киже (1934)

Director: Aleksandr Faintsimmer
Writer: Yuri Tynyanov
Cast: Mikhail Yanshin, Boris Gorin-Goryainov, Nina Shaternikova

Михаил Яншин

If the shade of Paul I, Czar of all the Russias, could watch "The Czar Wants to Sleep," the latest Soviet importation at the Cameo Theatre, it certainly would admit that M. Yanshin of the Moscow Art Theatre has treated the half-mad Emperor much more kindly than did Emil Jannings, the German actor, in "Patriots" some years ago.

Нина Шатерникова

This mildly amusing satire on czarism and all its works is based on the traditional incident of a non-existent Lieutenant Kidzhe, blamed by an aide-de-camp (E. Garin) for a sneeze that broke His Majesty's uneasy slumber. The film story goes that Lieutenant Kidzhe first is ordered to receive 100 lashes and be exiled to Siberia, but when the Czar's favorite (M. Shaternikova) explains that he really is a most faithful officer and cried out because pinched by his sweetheart (S. Magaril), Paul decrees that he be brought back and made a colonel. He is rapidly promoted to a major generalship and even married off to his appetizing sweetheart, but unfortunately dies in the hospital just before he is due to present himself before his gracious imperial master. Whereupon the aide-de-camp succeeds to the major generalship and the "widow," and the Czar mourns aloud over the loss of "my best officer," his sadness intensified by the "discovery" that Kidzhe squandered royal funds just before his demise.

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Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Dmitriy Dyachenko: What Men Talk About - О чем говорят мужчины (2010)

О чём говорят мужчины (2010)

Director: Dmitriy Dyachenko
Cast: Leonid Barats, Aleksandr Demidov, Kamil Larin

Judging from the raving Russian internet forums, reviews, and box office results, Dmitrii D’iachenko’s recent comedy What Men Talk About appears to have gained the love and following of wide audiences. Worn out from primitive slapstick comedies, compulsory nudity, and smutty “below-the-belt” jokes, contemporary Russian moviegoers readily appreciated the film’s gentle quality humor, reminiscent of the extraordinarily popular comedies of El’dar Riazanov from the Soviet era and free from hackneyed clichés populating the comedy genre nowadays.

Геннадий Скарга

D’iachenko is not new to entertainment, and since the mid-1990s has been demonstrating his skill for combining commercial viability with artistic creativity. He is mostly known for his work on television and in theater, having directed five hip film series in various genres, several documentaries (some of which were included in theater plays), more than 40 commercials and 30 corporate events. After his debut with the fairly popular Day of Radio (Den’ Radio, 2008), What Men Talk About [1] became D’iachenko second collaborative feature-film project with “Quartet ‘I’” – a well-known and one of the funniest theater groups in Moscow for the past seventeen years. Its play Conversations of middle-aged men about women, cinema and aluminum forks (Razgovory muzhchin srednego vozrasta o zhenshchinakh, kino i aliuminievykh vilkakh) which, since its premiere in 2008, has enjoyed immense success, is at the heart of D’iachenko’s cinematic adaptation. “Conversations”–marketed by “Quartet ‘I’” as sharing a kindred spirit relationship with the Evgenii Grishkovets theater–has been praised for its “male sincerity” that audiences can identify with, self-reflexive humor, and lack of pathos and edification (Nechaev, 2010). D’iachenko’s decision to adapt an already successful stage play in times of economic decline is a fairly obvious and safe financial bet that paid off: filmed on a budget of $1.9 million, What Men Talk About earned $11.4 million in the box office first week, outshining Nikita Mikhalkov’s infamous $55-million Burnt by the Sun-2.

Нонна Гришаева

Part of the film’s success, in my opinion, is that in translating a dramatic text into film, D’iachenko does not lose the essence of the original play, privileging the aesthetic of theater over the aesthetic of film. He clearly emphasizes the primacy of the dialogue and acting–with the hilarious quad chatting away (mostly about women, in a lighthearted rather than sexist way), joking and imagining fantastic scenarios. The director’s choice fell on bare-bones cinematic language, which he describes as “unusually laconic for contemporary Russian film” (D’iachenko, 2009). Interestingly, the car scenes, which take up half of the film, also worked towards preserving theatrical values and creating favorable, stage-like conditions for the actors. An economical technological solution was found: according to D’iachenko, the technique was borrowed from Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men (2006). In order to shoot inside the car, a robotic digital camera–the first in Russia–was constructed by the camera man and inventor Sergei Astakhov, and operated by Iurii Liubshin. The crew mounted the camera on a rig above the vehicle with the roof taken off. The car did not move, but actually stood on a platform in a tent-like construction, which allowed the use of studio lighting, thus creating a space not much different from the play’s set.

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Kirill Serebrennikov, Tchaikovsky Film's Director Slams Debate Over Composer's Sexual Orientation

You'd think Russia would welcome plans to produce the country's first major film about Pyotr Tchaikovsky.

But Kirill Serebrennikov, a prominent Russian filmmaker, has said he's given up securing funding in Russia and denounced a "vulgar" public debate about whether or not the celebrated Russian composer was gay.

"Everyone is very interested in this," he wrote in an angry overnight post on Facebook on September 18-19. "Everyone is pondering what we love him for, 'for this or not for this.' Vulgarity, vulgarity, philistine vulgarity...."

Serebrennikov, who is also the artistic director of Moscow's Gogol Theater, announced his plan to shoot the biopic in August 2012.

But finding sponsors turned out to be more difficult than expected, largely due to what the filmmaker has described as concerns among Russian officials that the composer is widely believed to have been homosexual.

Antigay feelings appear to be on the rise in the country, a trend that activists blame on a new law banning the propagation "of nontraditional sexual relations" to minors.

Since President Vladimir Putin signed the law in June, speculation has been rife that the film could be fined under the legislation by addressing the composer's sexual orientation.

In an attempt to quash the controversy, Serebrennikov and his co-screenwriter, Yury Arabov, have questioned Tchaikovsky's homosexuality and stressed that their biopic would not focus on his sexual orientation. Arabov has also said that the script was revised to depict the composer as a man "stuck with the opinion that he supposedly loves men."

The debate has nonetheless continued to rage, with high-ranking officials also taking part.

Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said this week there was "no evidence" that Tchaikovsky was gay, adding that "the film must be about Tchaikovsky's genius and not about rumors surrounding his biography."

Putin appeared to disagree earlier this month, when he mentioned Tchaikovsky's homosexuality in an attempt to downplay international concerns over Russia's antigay laws. "They say Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was homosexual. This is not what we love him for, but he was a great musician. We all love his music," Putin said. "What's the big deal? Don't make a mountain out of a molehill. There is nothing terrible or horrible going on in our country."

Two months ago, the Culture Ministry finally agreed to grant the film 30 million rubles ($930,000) in subsidies. 

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Controversial War Film Wins Russia's NIKA Prize

Alexander Mindadze's controversial film Mily Khans, dorogoi Pyotr (Lovely Hans, Dear Peter) — which was criticized by officials for exposing the close links between Stalin's Soviet Union and Hitler's Nazi Germany on the eve of war — has been named Russia's best film of the year at the country's NIKA film awards.

Милый Ханс, дорогой Петр (2016)

The award is the older of two rival national Oscar-style ceremonies; in January, the Golden Eagles tapped Anna Melikyan's About Love as best film, but gave best screenplay honors to Mindadze's movie, an award it also received at the NIKAs on Friday.

The movie, starring a key German cast that includes Jakob Diehl (The Baader Meinhof Complex) and Austrian actress Birgit Minichmayr (The Downfall), shows the degree to which Stalin cooperated with Hitler before the Nazi invasion of June 1941 via a story about German engineers working in a Soviet military lens factory. The film, which premiered at last year's Moscow Film Festival, was heavily criticized by Russia's conservative minister of culture, Vladimir Medinsky, who suggested no such collaboration took place.

Best director honors went to Stanislav Govorukhin for Konets Prekrasnoy Epokhi (The End of a Beautiful Epoch), a prize he also won in January at the Golden Eagles. Set in the 1960s, it is based on a novella by renowned Russian 20th century author Sergei Dovlatov.

Danila Kozlovsky earned the best actor nod for his role in drama Dukhless 2 (Soulless 2), while Irina Kupchekno was named best actress for her portrayal of a small-town history teacher who takes her class hostage in Uchilka (The Teacher).

A special award for outstanding contribution to the national cinema went veteran director Vitaly Melnikov, whose career in the Russian film industry spans 50 years.

The NIKA awards, closely modeled on the Academy Awards, were set up in 1989. In 2002, following a split within Russia's film community and cinematographers' union, Oscar-wining helmer Nikita Mikhalkov established a rival ceremony named the Golden Eagles.

Lev Kulidzhanov: The House I Live In - Дом, в котором я живу (1957)

The house in which I live (1957)

Directors: Lev Kulidzhanov, Yakov Segel
Cast: Valentina Telegina, Nikolai Yelizarov, Vladimir Zemlyanikin

Ninel Myshkova, Mikhail Ulyanov

Set in the years prior to and during World War II, the story centers on the various residents of a co-op house.

Yuri Mamin: Sideburns - Бакенбарды (1990)

Director: Yuri Mamin
Cast: Viktor Sukhorukov, Aleksandr Medvedev, Artur Vakha, Aleksandr Lykov

In the backwater fictional Soviet town of Zaborsk, a group of young ruffians and partiers by the name of “Capella” have all but taken over. The freedoms of perestroika and glasnost have opened the floodgates for their antics. The members of “Capella” violate Soviet societal norms not only in their refusal to work and their penchant for partying, but also in their public performances, which are aimed at shocking and upsetting the rest of the town. They stage a fake domestic fight and throw a manikin out of a high-rise building. They march through the streets until an unknown man ambushes and shoots them all down. After a few moments of shocking silence, they get up and resume the march, revealing that the gunman himself is a member of “Capella” and the massacre was a performance. They hold “jumping frog”-like races with balloons in the shape of phalluses and testicles. They even go so far as to expose themselves and flaunt fake sexual organs (in the form of cucumbers, tomatoes, and other foodstuffs). “Capella” epitomizes the youth of perestroika, who do everything in their power to degrade the morals and sensibilities of previous generations. More aptly put, though, they are an over-the-top representation of this perestroika generation. The footage of them is a product of the news crew who has come to document their behavior. It is for this news camera—and the rest of the Soviet Union—that they perform. Their transgressive behavior relies on exaggerated performance, and thus despite the heteronormativity of their lewd acts, they embody camp, albeit a Soviet version. The members of “Capella,” however, are not the campiest in town. This prime position gets edged out when Viktor (Viktor Sukhorukov) and Aleksandr (Aleksandr Medvedev) arrive. They come dressed in the characteristic suit, necktie, flowing cape, hat, and cane of Aleksandr Pushkin, Russia’s greatest and most revered poet. It is a form of drag complete with sideburns. Instead of performing gender, though, they perform Pushkin: They speak, act, and train to be like Pushkin. The result is not a sensitive or creative individual, but an automaton more akin to a fascist than a poet.

Photo by V. Galkin and Nikolai Gnisyuka

This camp has power, both social and political. With quick fencing moves from his cane, the diminutive Viktor gives all of the “Bashers,” the bully members of the local bodybuilding gang, a sound thrashing. He wins their respect, and the “Bashers” adopt Viktor and Aleksandr’s Pushkinian dress and sensibilities. These empowered individuals clean the town of the “Capella” group by terrorizing and even assimilating many of the members into their ranks. The Pushkin club is praised for its contribution to society and gets officially established through the proper bureaucratic channels. Every club needs a place to meet, and the Pushkinists choose a dilapidated and abandoned building in the center of town. The former headquarters for “Capella,” it has been slated for demolition by the local bureaucrats. The Pushkinists claim that it is actually the house of Pushkin’s brother-in-law and, therefore, a building of historic significance. On the day the building is to be torn down a united front of Pushkinists stands in front of the encroaching bulldozer until top party officials come to assess the situation. Viktor’s smooth-talking wins them over, and the officials hand the building over to the club.

Фото В. Галкина  и Н. Гнисюка

Positive political action and favor with the local state bureaucrats (whose capacious gilded offices are just as campy as anything the Pushkinists can produce) do not last long. The Puskinists go too far. Their subversion starts when Aleksandr’s uncle, a sculptor, quickly transforms the Lenin bust on which he is working into Pushkin’s likeness. This act shows the ease with which the cult of personality can change from that of Lenin to that of Pushkin (and, implicity, to that of anyone, Stalin included). The physical change from Lenin to Pushkin reflects an ideological shift as well. Rather than advocating a Soviet identity, the Pushkinists endorse a nationalism based on ethnic Russian identity (when even the Jewish Feinstein can become an ethnic Russian). They replace Soviet banners and slogans with quotations from Pushkin, once again implicitly criticizing Soviet ideology and iconography by casting it as empty rhetoric that can be easily manipulated and reshaped. This critique gets even more biting as the Pushkinists become increasingly violent, power-hungry, and aggressive towards those who do not espouse their beliefs. The news reporter who first came to film the “Capella” group turns his attention on the Pushkinists and gives them an unfavorable review in the newspaper. They ambush him and brand his face with Pushkin’s image. Eventually they are caught and, in infinite disgrace, shaved of their sideburns.

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Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Viktor Titov: Hello, I’m Your Aunt! - Здравствуйте, я ваша тетя! (1975)

Director: Viktor Titov
Cast: Aleksandr Kaliagin, Armen Dzhigarkhanian, Mikhail Kozakov, Tamara Nosova

Somewhere in 1920s England a homeless Babbs Babberley (Aleksandr Kaliagin) with a penchant for acting is mistakenly pursued by policemen. They suspect that he has stolen a suitcase of a famous, very wealthy Brazilian widow, Donna Rosa D’Alvatorez (Tamara Nosova), who recently returned to her homeland. Discovering that the suitcase is full of women's clothes, Babbs quickly dons them, trying to put the policemen off his trace. They are still in pursuit, however, so he runs into a house where, accidentally, this very woman, Donna Rosa, is expected by her young nephew, his best friend, and an assortment of other characters. The young men need the influence of the wealthy widow to persuade the guardian of the two women they love to let them get married. The guardian (Armen Dzhigarkhanian) seems not to be averse to marrying into money himself. There is also the old brave Colonel (Mikhail Kozakov), desperately in need of money, and therefore, of a wealthy wife. The pretend aunt is caught in between all these conflicting interests while secretly longing for his/her own true love―a beautiful young girl (Tat'iana Vedeneeva) he/she happened to glimpse on the street and in company with the real aunt from Brazil. The real aunt, of course, appears in the house as well... This trifling farce makes for one of the funniest and most popular Soviet comedies of the Stagnation era.

Татьяна Веденеева

The original play, Charley’s Aunt by Brandon Thomas, premiered in London in 1892 and has a long performance history around the world, including Russia, where it was first staged in 1894. Its popularity among pre-Revolutionary audiences is hardly surprising considering the Silver Age’s reputation for sexual transgression (and, sometimes, bawdy humor). What is more surprising is its lasting popularity with theater and TV-audiences of the Soviet Union (the first Soviet translation of the play came out in 1937).

Soviet TV-productions were easier to get off the ground than “legitimate” films. The effort, the skill, and the passion that went into these productions, however, were sometimes even greater. By 1975 Viktor Titov was already a relatively well-known director and scriptwriter, who mostly worked on TV, and was considered as nothing more than a dependable professional. His cinematographer on this project, however, was Georgii Rerberg, who had just finished working with Andrei Tarkovskii on Mirror (1974). His cast included highly respected theater actors―Kaliagin, Dzhigarkhanian, and Kozakov (who appears in another film of this year's retrospective, Amphibian Man).

Михаил Козаков

Kaliagin’s performance has become the most famous of the precious few images of drag queens on the Soviet screen (his only rival is, probably, Oleg Tabakov in the role of Miss Andrew, the governess from hell in the 1985 TV-adaptation of Mary Poppins). Of course, Babbs’ reluctance at playing the role of Donna Rosa, as well as his heterosexual object of desire, are constantly emphasized by the filmmakers. The film, nevertheless, has enough moments of transgression and ambivalence to make for a compelling case of camp sensibilities in the Soviet era.

Titov emphasizes the artificiality of the film’s world. It is as much a celebration of silent cinema as of sexual transgression. Hello starts with its main character, Babbs, watching famous early comedies and movie stars, such as Buster Keaton and Max Linder. He is then shown entering Forrest Gump-style the filmic space they occupy (predating Tom Hanks’ character by two decades!).

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Yuri Vasiliev: Hero - Герой (2016)

Герой (2016)

 Director: Yuri Vasiliev

Starring: Dima Bilan, Svetlana Ivanova, Aleksandr Baluev, Tatiana lutaeva, Yulia Peresild, Alexander Golovin, Marat Basharov, Alexander Adabashian, Lilita Ozolina, Alexander Vasiliev

Светлана Иванова

The Beginning of the 20th century, the Russian of Empire. A young noblewoman Vera Chernysheva acquainted with the charming Lieutenant Dolmatova, immediately won the respect of the young beauty. Their touching romance gradually approached the official marriage and happy family life, but the beginning of the First world war broke the plans of the lovers.

Alexander Kott: Insight - Инсайт (2015)

Insight (2015)

Director: Alexander Kott
Cast: Andrey Bilzho, Dmitriy Kulichkov, Elena Makhova, Agrippina Steklova, Aleksandr Yatsenko

The film's hero, Pavel Zuyev, loses his eyesight and has to start his life all over. All the links to his former life are broken, but in his new life he meets a remarkable woman, who is able to see more than other people. Her name is, quite symbolically, Nadezhda, in the Russian language it is not only a woman's name, it is also the word "Hope".

Инсайт (2015)

This film director proves that he can work in almost any genre, he easily passes from melodrama ("Two Drivers", 2001) to the military blockbuster ("Fortress of War", 2010), on New Year's comedy (short story in "Christmas Tree 2", 2011), he calmly makes a step towards visual poem without a single word ("The Test", 2014).

In his new film Alexandr Kott delicately balances on the verge between drama and melodrama, and the actors Agrippina Steklova and Alexandr Yatsenko with their deep psychologically accurate work allow us to believe in the most extraordinary situations in which heroes find themselves.

Awards :
Best Screenplay Honfleur Russian Film Festival, Honfleur (France), 2015
Best Screenplay International Human Rights Film Festival, Moscow (Russia), 2015

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Story of last tsar’s love affair to be screened at MIPTV in Cannes - Mathilde

The four-part television version of Mathilde, a period drama by Russian film director Alexei Uchitel, has been selected as one of the 12 programs to compete at the international TV series competition MIPDrama Screenings.

Louise Wolfram

The competition will be held for the first time at MIPTV, the world's largest TV market, in Cannes in April. The television version of the film will be exclusively screened in Cannes on April 3.

The script is based on the story of the tragic love of Nicholas Romanov, the son and heir to Russian tsar Alexander III, and the ballet dancer Mathilde Kschessinska.

The role of Nicholas II is played by German actor Lars Eidinger. The film also features leading Russian actors Danila Kozlovsky, Yevgeny Mironov and Grigory Dobrygin, as well as Lithuanian actress Ingeborga Dapkunaite.

Lars Aydinger

"I do not remember [any] TV series from Russia participating in such international competition in the last 10 years," said Uchitel.

"This is a unique chance for the film about the life of the last Russian emperor to hit television screens around the world. And if the committee that selected the projects for the final pitching chose us, it means that our story has a certain dramaturgical line that makes the picture interesting not only for viewers in Russia. Plus, there are unique facts there, which have never been previously covered anywhere."

Matilda (2016)

The full-length film version of Mathilde is scheduled to come out in fall 2016.

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