Little Shop of Horrors, Russian Style
By Oleg Liakhovich The Moscow News
On the heels of the XXVI Moscow International Film Festival came an event even more pompous and widely publicized – the premiere of a movie meant to spark a revival of Russia’s popular cinema while giving Hollywood a battle royale on its own terms
Night Watch (Nochnoy Dozor in original Russian) depicts the on-going struggle between the magical forces of good and evil in present-day Moscow. The movie was eagerly awaited by fans and became an object of an intense advertising campaign in all media. Its US $3mln budget – an incredible sum for a local movie – and plentiful special effects, also a novelty for Russian cinema with its established traditions of inexpensive quality dramas and solid adaptations of literary classics, were to make Night Watch Russia’s equivalent of an American summer blockbuster. The producers actually went as far as officially calling it “the first Russian blockbuster” long before it had the chance to appear on screen. Even Russia’s own Oscar winner and self-styled national sage director Nikita Mikhalkov, while admitting that the film “wasn’t his thing”, said that it was “cool” and called it Russia’s “answer to Quentin Tarantino”. Serious praise indeed – after all, only a dirty mind would suspect Mikhalkov of still being sore at old Quentin for “stealing” his Palme d’Or in Cannes back in 1994.
Lightsaber, Anyone? Continue reading
Synopsis: One Monday morning Katya, Vika and Zhanna learn that there will be a school disco, their first disco, on the coming Saturday night. The girls feverishly start preparing for the event, which rapidly becomes the most important moment ever in their universe, and looks like the ideal way to escape their daily lives…
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?