Aleksandr Vartanov – Sobiratel pul (2012)

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An intense drama of an adolescent adrift in an uncaring world, Bullet Collector is the powerful debut of Russian director Alexander Vartanov. A unique and visually striking work, the film examines the traumas of a wide-eyed 14-year-old boy, struggling to cope with a terrible home life dominated by an angry mother and a stepfather who can’t stand the sight of him. His school routine is plagued by brutal attacks from bullies, and his life becomes even more nightmarish after he is sent to a hellish reform school. Losing himself in an elaborate fantasy world where he is loved by a beautiful girlfriend and able to defeat his oppressors, the boy finds the reality of his situation continually shocking him back to a very different life. But is he actually just a timid teen destined for abuse, or will he gain the strength to fight off his attackers? Continue reading

Kirill Serebrennikov – Izmena AKA Betrayal (2012)

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A man and a woman, two casual acquaintances, learn that their respective spouses are having an affair with each other. This discovery drives them to do things they didn’t dare to do before. What will prevail—the feeling of jealousy or passion? What to choose—revenge or forgiveness? The protagonists are looking for something to build a new life upon, but it is not easy: their every action is influenced by the fact of infidelity, and this infidelity has its own logic. Continue reading

Renata Litvinova – Poslednyaya skazka Rity AKA Rita’s Last Fairy Tale (2011)

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The film speaks about universal themes of love, hate and search for love. The portrait of three women represents these three states. Tanya Neubivko has never been in love but optimistically is searing for it. Her unfortunate and even dangerous encounters with strangers on dates almost got her killed. Rita is happily engaged and planning a wedding after a routine medical check-up. Nadya is a very unhappy doctor who hates her husband and finds relief in alcohol. The story takes place in a surreal hospital with the leaking roof and hollow walls and constantly smoking doctors, where Rita is destined to die. Continue reading

Konstantin Lopushansky – Gadkie lebedi aka The Ugly Swans (2006)

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Based on the novel of the same title by the Strugatsky brothers

“Konstantin Lopushansky was a student of classic Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky, and master’s influence is highly visible in “The Ugly Swans” — not just as a ghost in the background, but as full-fledged foreground presence. Which is not to deny Lopushansky his originality. More than anything, it’s a sign of a certain artistic style being handed down over the generations… The film is …aesthetically outstanding and emotionally moody in a way that’s very hard to gauge… Tarkovsky would have been proud.” (Tom Birchenough, “The Moscow Times”)
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Oleg Kovalov – Sergei Eisenstein. Avtobiografiya AKA Sergei Eisenstein: Autobiography (1996)

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Quote:
The great Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein, whose Potemkin, Alexander Nevsky, and Ivan the Terrible stand as masterpieces of world cinema, is the subject of this eccentric and puzzling production. Though based on memoirs Eisenstein wrote before his death in 1948, most of this film is barely a documentary at all, but rather a composite of images, many of which are fascinating and arresting. Eisenstein himself was known for startling and memorable images (perhaps the most famous of which is the shot of the baby carriage rolling down the steps in Potemkin), so memorializing him with clips from his own films interspersed with readings from his memoirs seems somewhat appropriate. But the voice-over in Russian (with English subtitles) is quite sparse, and at times the images onscreen, which include clips from Buster Keaton films and Hollywood musicals from the 1930s, are utterly mystifying.. –Robert J. McNamara Continue reading

Aleksandr Sokurov – Russkiy kovcheg aka Russian Ark [+Extras] (2002)

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Roger Ebert wrote:
Every review of “Russian Ark” begins by discussing its method. The movie consists of one unbroken shot lasting the entire length of the film, as a camera glides through the Hermitage, the repository of Russian art and history in St. Petersburg. The cinematographer Tillman Buttner, using a Steadicam and high-def digital technology, joined with some 2,000 actors in an tight-wire act in which every mark and cue had to be hit without fail; there were two broken takes before the third time was the charm.

The subject of the film, which is written, directed and (in a sense) hosted by Alexander Sokurov, is no less than three centuries of Russian history. The camera doesn’t merely take us on a guided tour of the art on the walls and in the corridors, but witnesses many visitors who came to the Hermitage over the years. Apart from anything else, this is one of the best-sustained ideas I have ever seen on the screen. Sokurov reportedly rehearsed his all-important camera move again and again with the cinematographer, the actors and the invisible sound and lighting technicians, knowing that the Hermitage would be given to him for only one precious day. Continue reading