Monday, 12 December 2016

Sergey Mikaelian: Love by Request - Влюблен по собственному желанию (1982)

Lovers on their own stills

Director: Sergey Mikaelyan
Writers: Sergey Mikaelyan, Aleksandr Vasinsky
Stars: Oleg Yankovskiy, Evgeniya Glushenko, Vsevolod Shilovskiy

Awards :
Best actress Yevgeniya GLUSHENKO , Berlin International Film Festival : Berlinale, Berlin (Germany), 1983
Premier prix et prix du meilleur travail des acteurs au Festival de l'Union soviétique, 1983
Prix du meilleur travail des acteurs au Festival de Berlin, 1983

Lovers of their own accord (1982)

Two people: Igor, an ex-athlete aimlessly living and chasing rubles to get drunk and Vera, an ugly duck librarian, try to find their luck by planning to fall in love with each other based on 'psychological conditioning'.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Pavel Lungin: Queen of Spades - Дама пик (2016)

Queen of Spades

Director: Pavel Lungin
Cast:Kseniya Rappoport, Ivan Yankovskiy,Igor Mirkurbanov

Opera diva Sophia Meyer after years of exile returned to Russia. The singer intends to put the "Queen of Spades" by Tchaikovsky on the stage, where he once made its debut. The play, no doubt, will be an event of the season, and all the actors posing wake up famous. About fame and money dreams of a young singer of opera troupe Andrew, and "Queen of Spades" for him the chance to achieve the desired. He is ready to do anything to get the role of Germany, and it realizes Sophia, who left for the role of the Countess. Opera diva begins a brutal game that will play all the participants involved.

An operatic thriller about the staging of an opera in contemporary Moscow, The Queen of Spades feels at times almost like a Russian-language remake of Darren Aronofsky’s lurid ballet-themed psychodrama Black Swan. Director Pavel Lungin co-wrote the screenplay with David Seidler, who earned an Oscar for The King’s Speech. They borrow their title, key characters and selective plot elements from two related sources: Alexander Pushkin’s supernatural short story, first published in 1834, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s 1890 opera of the same name.

Peak Lady (2016)

A film festival regular and one-time best director prize-winner in Cannes, Lungin has penned librettos for operas and orchestral pieces before. His musical passion clearly shines through during the film’s operatic sequences, which are staged with great panache and energy. Premiering this week in the main competition strand at Black Nights Film Festival in Tallinn, The Queen of Spades is hardly subtle, but its juicy combination of technical polish, bloodthirsty action and lusty romantic melodrama could well lure a curious niche audience globally. Its next scheduled festival stopover is next month in Macau.

After decades in self-imposed exile, legendary soprano Sofia Meyer (Kseniya Rappoport) returns to Moscow to rebuild her reputation by directing and starring in The Queen of Spades, the Tchaikovsky opera which made her famous. To help realize her grand schemes, she recruits wealthy oligarchs, shady gangsters and her grudgingly cooperative twentysomething niece Lisa (Mariya Kurdenovich). Sofia also sees potential in Lisa’s broodingly intense boyfriend Andrey (Ivan Yankovsiy), an amateur tenor who has idolized the diva all his life.

Peak Lady (2016)

Gifted with the freakish ability to shatter glass with his powerful voice ever since he was pushed into a frozen lake as a child, the obsessive Andrey slowly insinuates his way into the playing the male lead in The Queen of Spades. A Machiavellian manipulator with a heart of ice, Sofia initiates her young disciple into a glamorous late-night shadow world of illegal high-stakes casinos, where he soon develops a gambling addiction and unwisely makes Faustian deals with brutal gangland godfathers. Sofia then seduces Andrey in full view of Lisa, creating an explosive sexual tension which reaches its murderous crescendo when all three are onstage during the climactic opera scenes.

The Queen of Spades has a kind of fruity, oversaturated, borderline-camp mania that feels all too Russian at first. The opening act will test viewer endurance with its soapy emotional dynamics and broad-bush archetypes, especially Sofia, a cackling femme fatale who appears to be channeling Cruella de Vil. But Lungin is no amateur, and the torrid tone starts making more sense as the story evolves beyond realism into something more artfully stylized. Recurring flashbacks to Andrey’s nightmarish plunge into the icy lake and a scene involving the jealous Lisa smashing up a gallery of mannequins are strong visual set-pieces.

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Saturday, 10 December 2016

Alexey Krasovsky: Collector - Коллектор (2016)

Collector stills

Director: Alexey Krasovsky
Cast:Konstantin Khabenskiy, Polina Agureeva (voice), Valentina Lukashchuk (voice), Kseniya Buravskaya

Awards : 
Best actor Konstantin KHABENSKY , Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Sochi (Russia), 2016 
Best Cinematography Denis FIRSTOV , Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Sochi (Russia), 2016 
Prix du Conseil Régional de Normandie, meilleur premier film Honfleur Russian Film Festival, Honfleur (France), 2016 
Prix François Chalais du meilleur scénario Honfleur Russian Film Festival, Honfleur (France), 2016 

A lithe and lean one-man show, “Collector” is a crackling little high-wire act only sent tumbling to earth by its very final one-twist-too-many. Up to that point, it’s a kicky pleasure, a triumph of sharp scripting, shooting, editing, and acting over the obvious limits of time and resources. A canny first film from Russian director Alexei Krasovskiy, it was shot in one single week, almost entirely in one single location, with just one single actor, so it’s a pretty singular achievement all round. And to deliver a credible genre-inflected thriller in that mold takes not just a gapless, unflagging screenplay, but inventive camerawork and a massive central performance, to keep us all from fidgeting in our seats. But that’s exactly what Krasovskiy brings with “Collector,” a movie that makes no claims to being high art, but should be admired for its artfulness nonetheless.

'Collector' Review

And speaking of artful, our main character here is quite the dodger, a fast-talking, quick thinking, utterly amoral Muscovite debt collector, and the largely autonomous star operator in his company (“I make more money in a day than your whole department does in a month,” he snarls to his boss at one point). Artur (Konstantin Khabenskiy) is a master manipulator, a flawless liar, and apparently a heartless bastard, impervious to threats or entreaties, certain there is no sob story he hasn’t heard a million times before, and none that he has ever fully believed. Artur is not just good at his evil job, he enjoys it, relishing the inevitable capitulation of his victims as a lion does its kill.

Yet this is a subtler, more psychological method of debt collection than the old kicking doors and cracking skulls model that more readily springs to mind as the cinematic archetype. From atop a modern high-rise, in a sleekly furnished office with a plate glass window overlooking a terrace and the lights of the metropolis beyond, Artur gets even the most incorrigible creditors to cough up using no implement more threatening than a telephone receiver.

We always hear both sides of the conversation, and that, along with the conceit of assistant Liza (Polina Agureeva) and security guard Evgeny (Kirill Pletnyov) talking to him from adjacent rooms, we get the impression of a film a great deal more populous that it really is — similar to the trick that the nearest touchpoint, Steven Knight’s “Locke,” managed to pull off. And the dialogue is so crisply written and gamely performed that we get a sense of them all as people anyway. 

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‘Luna Park’s’ Pavel Lungin Plans ‘Esau’ Adaptation, Gulag Epic

Image result for pavel lungin

Pavel Lungin (“Taxi Blues,” “Luna Park”), one of the key filmmakers of the new Russian cinema that emerged in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is currently developing two new projects: an English-language project based on Israeli writer Meir Shalev’s 1991 novel “Esau,” and a film about a Soviet gulag labor camp.

 “Esau’s” story is about two brothers. One left Israel and lives in the U.S. and then tries to rediscover his brother.

“Since I am Jewish, this story touches me a great deal,” Lungin explained at this week’s Marrakech Film Festival, which he attended for a country tribute to Russia.

He went on: “I think that Shalev is a wonderful writer. It doesn’t make sense to set this story in Russia. The question posed by the story is can you be Jewish when you’re living outside Israel and at the same time if you go to Israel, do you become Israeli rather than Jewish.”

The second film is a high-budget project about a gulag forced labor camp during the Stalin dictatorship.

“Stalinism had certain parallels with Ivan the Terrible. I want to make a film about how people lived in the gulag, how it was possible that innocent Russians could incarcerate each other. The guards and prisoners were innocent and had to survive in terrible conditions.”

Lunging said that he doesn’t want to base the story on better known accounts such as that by Solzhenitsyn, and is currently researching real-life stories and personal memoirs.

The key issue that interests him is the force of will of the survivors: “How can you survive, how can you find a reason to live in the midst of such suffering? he asked.

He went on: “The secret of survival. The power of love. The importance of human relations. I think that despite the awful suffering of the gulag, the ability to survive also revealed something profoundly optimistic in human nature. We are not beasts.”

Lungin’s most recent movie, “Queen of Spades,” a contemporary operatic thriller based on a short story written by Alexander Pushkin, was initially developed with David Seidler, screenwriter of “The King’s Speech,” and then by Steven Walsh, since Lunging initially planned to make the film in English. The movie had its world premiere at November’s Tallinn’s Black Nights Film Festival where it won the Audience Prize.

The story turns on a famous soprano singer who returns to Moscow after decades in self-imposed exile, and attempts to recapture her past glory by directing and starring in the Tchaikovsky opera of the same name that once made her famous.

The depiction of a casino-style world set against a high culture setting has been interpreted by some as a metaphor for modern Russia. Lungin explained that what attracted him to the original nineteenth century short story was that it’s about someone who doesn’t believe in justice and therefore either steals or plays cards to achieve success.

This outlook was very dear to Pushkin and is now returning to Russia after a more optimistic period in the late 20th century after the fall of Communism.

“My country has changed a lot in recent years,” said Lungin. “We don’t yet understand where it’s heading. People are now much more pessimistic. The great Russian empire, before the 1917 revolution, was like our grandmother, the Soviet Union was like our mother and the new Russia is a bit like a daughter. But she’s still in her adolescence and is working out who she is. Everyone is a bit confused.”

Lungin initially made his name with “Taxi Blues” and “Luna Park,” More recently, he has directed pictures with a strong religious and metaphysical dimension, including “The Island” and “Tsar.” He also shot several episodes of TV series “Rodina,” a Russian political thriller based on Israel’s “Hatufim” – the basis for the American TV series “Homeland.”

Like any period of adolescence, Russia is caught in a highly emotional state of mind. Lungin’s early films were made in a period of great change, where there was tremendous optimism throughout the whole world, the director said, adding that he was interested to show the new movements and new types of characters that were emerging.

Now “Russia isn’t dead, there continues to be debate, but the questions are now perhaps more metaphysical, as people try to work out Russia’s identity.”

Lungin said that this led him to films that worked at a more deeper personal level, exploring more spiritual aspects, such as “The Island” and “Tsar.”

“Tsar,” about Ivan the Terrible, was a metaphor for Joseph Stalin, although some think it depicts Putin, Lungin stated.

“I was interested in exploring the mania of the strong man, the moment when someone in power sees himself as God. Some powerful figures stop at a certain point. But other powerful people have no limit,” he commented.

Lungin believes that there is a long historic tendency in Russia for rulers to become an almost godlike figure. In modern Russia, there are some groups and advisers that are trying to push Putin in this direction and make him a kind of dictator figure, Lungin contended. But he said that he believes that Putin doesn’t want that.

His recent TV series “Rotina,” like the US series “Homeland,” also deals with issues of political skullduggery, but is set in 1999, which some critics said demonstrated cowardice to address problems in Russia under Putin.

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