Valeriy Todorovskiy – Podmoskovnye Vechera AKA Katya Ismailova (1994)

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A wife finds her life transformed after a torrid affair in this story of murder. Katia is a rather dull young woman who types manuscripts for Irina, her husband’s mother and successful writer of romance novels. Katia’s husband is a real momma’s boy. They go to Irina’s summer house to work. There Katia encounters the intense and sexy Serguei who creates passionate longings with in her. Overcome she and Serguei engage in vigorous love-making upon a windowsill where Irina sees them. Irina has a weak heart. Quiet Katia, having rediscovered the joys of sex, changes and becomes more assertive and flighty. Serguei quickly loses interest in her. Strange and deadly things begin happening at the summer house which calls the attention of a judge who is extremely familiar with Irina’s writing. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi Continue reading

Kirill Serebrennikov – Uchenik AKA Student (2016)

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Contemporary Russia. A high school student becomes convinced that the world has been lost to evil, and begins to challenge the morals and beliefs of the adults around him.

The original Russian title “(M)uchenik”, with the ‘m’ in parentheses, is a play on words, a pun, combining the Russian word “muchenik”, which means “martyr”, with the Russian word “uchenik”, which means “student”. Because the Russian pun would not be understood, and there is no way to translate it, the simplified title “Uchenik”, or “The Student”, was used at the Cannes Film Festival 2016.

The first Russian production of a play by German playwright Marius von Mayenburg. The main character, schoolboy Veniamin, thinks he knows everything about moral standards — how to follow it, how to protect it, what’s good and what’s bad. His behavior is becoming a serious challenge for everyone. Where’s the border between morality and intolerance, freedom and permissiveness, religion and manipulation, sermon and terrorism? Continue reading

Aleksey Fedorchenko – Angely revolyutsii AKA Angels of Revolution (2014)

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Five friends – a poet, an actor, a painter, an architect and a primitivist film director – are five red avant-garde artists who try to find the embodiment of their hopes and dreams in the young Soviet state. The Revolution is boiling up like a bottle with apple cider: winged service dogs and heart-shaped potatoes, dead Semashko, the People’s Commissar for Health, and cheerful angels, love for the Tsar and love for the young secretary Annushka, executions and pregnancies – everything is interlaced and inseparable! Continue reading

Vitaliy Manskiy – V paprscích slunce AKA Under the Sun (2015)

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Deckert Distribution:

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This is a film about the ideal life in an ideal country – North Korea. We see a girl in an ideal school, the daughter of ideal parents, working at ideal factories, living in an ideal apartment in the center of the capital. We can see how much effort the North Korean people have to undertake to make this ideal world work. The girl is being prepared to enter the children’s union to be a part of the ideal society, living in the eternal rays of the sun, the symbol of the great leader of the people, Kim Il-sung. Continue reading

Artour Aristakisian – Mesto na zemle AKA A Place on Earth (2001)

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“This is a very powerful film. Admittedly parts of it are hard to watch, but it is an outstanding piece. In a nutshell, it is about a hippie commune that has been set up by someone who believes that the best way to help the homeless and often deranged cripples in Moscow is by offering them sexual love. I did not realise (because of the black and white, and the fact I watched this film before looking up to see when it was made) that this film was shot recently in Moscow, using real homeless people in their real situations. I assumed, because of the black and white, and the whole hippie commune idea, that this was the 70s. Shockingly, this includes his real-life footage of the current situation of the marginalised in Moscow, and that upset me to the core. Obviously some of the characters are actors (or, rather, are acting), but many are simply being shot in their everyday surroundings. Let’s hope that some good comes out of films such as these, in the same way that Cathy Come Home helped change the situation for many in the UK all those years ago…. Is Aristakisyan Russia’s new and very own Ken Loach? We shall have to wait and see.” Continue reading

Vitali Kanevsky – Samostoyatelnaya zhizn aka An Independent Life (1992)

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on the road again…

This is the second instalment of a three-part series of autobiographical films about the director’s life.

The first, which won various awards for its maker, was entitled Zamri Oumi Voskresni and was later retitled Zari, Umri, Vokresni (“Freeze-Die-Come to Life).

At the end of that film, set at the conclusion of World War II, the young Valerka was striving hard to overcome the inertia of just getting by, along with his sometime friend Galiya. In this one, he is adjusting to Galiya’s death and is back in school and is living with his mother, a prostitute. After a girl at the school is found to have been gang-raped, the headmaster chooses Valerka to be one of the scapegoats, though he had nothing to do with the deed. Continue reading

Sergey Loznitsa – Peyzazh (2003)

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It begins with slow, 360 grade pans of a camera showing snowy countryside somewhere in Russia. The soundtrack has some natural voices.

The camera then is set at a bus stop in a Russian village. It continues to pan into the same direction, showing people waiting, talking to each other, drinking beer, staring, giving an occasional glance at the camera. The soundtrack is clearly from a different source than the pictures, but similar to the world of images. It has elderly people talking about their hard everyday life: sicknesses, alcoholism, dire poverty, violent drunken husbands, poor hospitals etc. etc. The voices curse, argue…

The people start gradually crowd into a full bus, they get in, and the buses leave. Continue reading