The new film “Detochki” (Kids) opens at the gate of the Dandelion Children’s Home in an unknown provincial town. Inside, the town’s rich and powerful are bedding (or getting ready to bed) the home’s very young charges when a knife flies into one of their throats. Soon, seven pedophiles have been stabbed to death by a group of kids from a local children’s home.
With that shocking start, “Detochki” grabs the viewer and doesn’t let go, as the murderous children, dressed in black hoodies with knives hidden up their sleeves, face up against the city’s corrupt and heinous citizens and, the viewer knows, Russia’s too.
The film, directed by Dmitry Astrakhan, has sparked huge controversy since it opened Apr. 3, even though it’s only showing at a few cinemas in Moscow. Some critics say it’s dangerous and advocates vigilante justice. Continue reading
The film was shot in Mari language and tells 23 different tales influenced by the Mari folklore. Each of these stories represents the specific approach to sexuality of “the last authentic pagans in Europe”. In view of this, the film could be considered a Mari “Decameron”.
Comprised of 23 vignettes illuminating the pagan-influenced mores of western Russia’s Meadow Mari, the latest film from director Alexey Fedorchenko (Silent Souls) is a beguiling, painterly portrait of a culture driven by a ritualistic appreciation of female beauty and feminine sexuality.
Pagan folklore is alive amongst the Meadow Mari, a Finno-Ugric ethnic group in western Russia. Alexey Fedorchenko’s latest film comprises twenty-three vignettes that centre on the sexual lives of a collection of Mari women, recreating an idiosyncratic world of magical realism in which female fertility, beauty, and, ultimately, happiness is the driving force.
Laurence Kardish, Sundance Film Festival wrote: “Edge and emotionally complex, Black & White is a very unusual film… [It] is a nocturnal love story suffused with the melancholy and anxiety of not belonging, and full of the sad understanding of what it means to be a stranger.” Continue reading
How could I have imagined as I was making Nostalghia that the stifling sense of longing that fills the screen space of that film was to become my lot for the rest of my life; that from now until the end of my days I would bear the painful malady within myself?
- Andrei Tarkovsky: Sculpting in Time
Director Andrei Tarkovsky recasts his lifelong cinematic motif of humanity’s quest for faith in the waterlogged and mist-ensconced countryside of Italy for his philosophical masterpiece Nostalghia. Andrei Gorchakov (Oleg Yankovsky) is a misanthropic Russian scholar researching the life of an exiled Russian composer who committed suicide. With the help of his beautiful guide, Eugenia (Domiziana Giordano), Andrei visits mystical and religious sites on the trail of the late composer’s legacy.
A solitary figure trudges through the inclement weather of a vast, remote Siberian wilderness. An unyielding gust of wind brings the young man (Pyotr Aleksandrov) to his knees as he attempts to avert the caustic, sustained force of the snowstorm, momentarily obscuring him from view, erased from the harsh and desolate landscape. The stark, monochromatic image of the film then cuts to an ironically appropriate impersonal and nondescript official title sequence, as the premature sound of a knock on a door seemingly intrudes on the necessity to present information on the film’s certification. It is a subtle reminder of life’s evolving process: the intrusive nature and unexpected inevitability of death. The film reopens to a jarring, oddly lit image of the gaunt young man standing by the foot of his father’s bed in a cramped and squalid apartment. The dispatched medical technicians dispassionately confirm his father’s death from natural causes, but explain that they cannot issue a death certificate, pragmatically remarking “You should have placed him in a hospital. Everything would have been easier then.” Left alone in theapartment, the son compassionately observes his father’s inanimate countenance before preparing his father’s body for burial: selecting his best suit, bathing him in the snow in the absence of running water in the apartment, transporting his father’s body to the outpatient clinic for a death certificate examination. Without knowing the actual cause of death, the doctor suggests a beaurocratically expedient determination of cancer, rationalizing that “now everything is considered cancer.” Having been issued a death certificate, the son then meets with the undertaker (Nadezhda Rodnova), an abrasive and insensitive businesswoman who is quick to assess the family’s limited means and treats the overwhelmed young man with disrespect and open hostility, especially as the financially strapped son begins to question some ancillary costs included in the itemized funeral bill. As the dutiful son continues to encounter emotional isolation, antipathy, and an impersonal commodification of the burial process, can he restore the sanctity of the ritual and retain the dignity of his beloved father’s memory?
Sergei Loznitsa has once again scoured the Russian film archives for REVUE, selecting excerpts from newsreels, propaganda films, TV shows and feature films that present an evocative portrait of Soviet life during the 1950s and 1960s. With scenes taken from the length and breadth of the Soviet Motherland, REVUE illustrates industry and agriculture (dam construction, steel plants, Stakhanovite labor competitions, farmland seeded by hand and plowed with horse), political life (local elections, abundant Lenin iconography, speeches by Khrushchev, the threat of capitalist spies), popular culture (a village choir, a dance troupe, a travelling cinema, poetry readings for workers, a propagandistic stage play), and technology (space exploration, astronaut Yuri Gargarin, new industrial development). The film’s fascinating flow of disparate scenes representing typical Soviet life of the period is, seen from today’s perspective, alternately poignant, funny, and tragic. The cumulative impact reveals a life of hardship, deprivation and seemingly absurd social rituals, but one always inspired by the vision, or illusion, of a communist future. Seen from these dual historical and contemporary perspectives, REVUE is both a nostalgic and instructive look back at a communist past that represents social engineering on a grand, and frightening, scale. (icarus-films) Continue reading
“Intimate Parts” is an ironic melodrama about middle-class Muscovites. Each of them has a personal secret, hidden from others – the “intimate part”. The main character, a scandalous photographer Ivan, juxtaposes himself to others. He is convinced that people are born to be happy; and happiness is freedom to stay true to one’s self. The real question is: how safe is it to let your inner self out? Continue reading