Sergei Parajanov – Tini Zabutykh Predkiv AKA Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1965)

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Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors has often been described as a Carpathian Romeo and Juliet – that is, if Romeo had the tenacity to live after his beloved’s death. Sergei Paradjanov prefaces the tragic tale set in the Carpathian mountains as the land “forgotten by God and men”, and from the austerity of the environment, it is evident that survival comes at a high price. In essence, the story is incidental to the observations of daily peasant life: the Orthodox order of mass, the rites of spring, the rhythm of the sickle cutting the fields. A young man, Ivan (Ivan Nikolaichuk), falls in love with Marichka (Larisa Kadochnikova), the daughter of the man who killed his father. As his mother’s only surviving child, he leaves the village to work as a hired laborer to provide for her. However, before he can return to Marichka, she falls to her death in an attempt to rescue an errant lamb. The story then follows Ivan through his descent into despair, marriage to the sensual Palagna (Tatyana Bestayeva), and Palagna’s inevitable betrayal. Continue reading

Marlen Khutsiyev – Mne dvadtsat let AKA I Am Twenty [+Extras] (1965)

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Synopsis:
I am Twenty is notable for its often dramatic camera movements, handheld camerawork and heavy use of location shooting, often incorporating non-actors (including a group of foreign exchange students from Ghana and the poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko) and centering scenes around non-staged events (a May Day parade, a building demolition, a poetry reading). Filmmakers Andrei Tarkovsky and Andrei Konchalovsky both play small roles in the film. The dialogue often overlaps and there are stylized flourishes that echo the early French New Wave, especially François Truffaut’s black and white films. The screenplay, co-written by Gennadi Shpalikov, originally called for a film running only 90 minutes, but the full version of the film runs for three hours. Continue reading

Andrei Tarkovsky – Solyaris (1972)

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One of the most frequent charges against science-fiction is that it replaces emotion with intellect. Its characters are people who live by and for the mind, and their personal relationships are likely to be stifled and awkward, That’s probably true enough of most s-f novels (although exceptions range from Fredric Brown’s “The Lights in the Sky are Stars” to a lot of the work by Theodore Sturgeon), but it’s even more true of science-fiction movies. Continue reading

Andrei Tarkovsky – Ivanovo detstvo AKA Ivan’s Childhood (1962)

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The debut feature from the great Andrei Tarkovsky, Ivan’s Childhood is an evocative, poetic journey through the shadows and shards of one boy’s war-torn youth. Moving back and forth between the traumatic realities of WWII and the serene moments of family life before the conflict began, Tarkovsky’s film remains one of the most jarring and unforgettable depictions of the impact of violence on children in wartime. Continue reading

Vera Stroyeva – Boris Godunov (1954)

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quote from Amazon user: A complement I say, as this not being complete (well, I’d better say severely truncated) it cannot be your sole Boris in a collection; necessary I add, because it preserved a sizable portion of the title part, as portrayed by one of its foremost exponents ever, the great russian bass Alexander Pirogov. This incompleteness is only implied but not clearly stated in the disc’s box, which should advise would-be purchasers. So what you get is some kind of “extended highlights” of this, arguably the greatest of russian operas and certainly the most popular. It is a film by Vera Stroieva, made in 1954 as part of a project dear to soviet authorities of putting into film both the lives of Russia’s greatest artists and adaptations of their works, to “educate the masses” and of course not being entirely without some ideological hints (or rather more than mere hints). Continue reading

Grigori Kozintsev – Gamlet AKA Hamlet [+extras] (1964)

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Synopsis:

A screen adaptation of William Shakespeare’s tragedy.
The somber Elsinore Castle that keeps secrets of many a crime is looming over the rocky coastline. Prince Hamlet once again puts the question: “To be, or not to be?” He is the first thinker in the line of warriors, a poet and a philosopher, a character so close to future generations. In the utterly corrupted kingdom, a lone hero is bound to take up arms to avenge his father’s death. This film became a champion among Lenfilm Studio’s prize-winning motion pictures – 23 awards in four years. The musical score was written by the great Russian composer Dmitry Shostakovich. Continue reading