Oleg Kovalov – Sergei Eisenstein. Avtobiografiya AKA Sergei Eisenstein: Autobiography (1996)

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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

Denis Trofimov – Sacrifices of Andrei Tarkovsky (2012)

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Dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the director. The film uses unique materials related to the years Tarkovsky spent in Italy: Florence, where he lived, and where his museum now exists, at a place called Banja Vignoni, where “Nostalgia” was filmed in the house of the Italian screenwriter Tonino Guerra.

The film will include rare unique images: young Tarkovsky on the set, fragments of the documentary “Time of travel”, which was filmed in Italy by Andrei Tarkovsky with Tonino Guerra. For the first time viewers will see the location of filming of “Stalker” in Estonia… Continue reading

Vasili Sigarev – Zhit AKA Living (2012)

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It is already a challenge to make a film on death and call it Living. But Sigarev fearlessly gets to the very heart of things, where life, death, God, love and the imagination form an indestructible whole. A harsh and sometimes brutal experience, but catharsis will follow.

Vasily Sigarev’s second feature, after his acclaimed Wolfy, is an existential portrait of protagonists living in a wintry Russian province. A mother wants to reunite with her twin daughters. A young couple marry in church, but immediately after the ceremony, God – or maybe the Devil, or maybe Blind Fate – tests their love in the most brutal way. Continue reading

Larisa Sadilova – S dnyom rozhdeniya aka Happy Birthday (1998)

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OMG by by Mark Deming
Blending dramatic situations with a documentary -influenced visual style, S Dnyom rozhdenya / Happy Birthday looks in at a typical day in a Russian maternity hospital. The patients range from a middle aged woman pleased if surprised by her current pregnancy to a Muslim woman whose marriage to a Russian has blighted her relationship with her family. No matter what their situations, the women draw strength and support from each other as they share their common experience. This film was shown at the 1999 Rotterdam Film Festival. Continue reading