USSR

Boris Barnet – Staryy naezdnik AKA The Old Rider (1940)

Quote:
A well-known rider, Trofimov, goes on taking part in races in spite of the advanced age. After an humiliating race, he realizes his time has gone, decides to marry and to invite his niece from the kolkhoze and village where he once lived. Read More »

Vsevolod Pudovkin – Potomok Chingis-Khana aka Storm Over Asia (1928)

In 1918 a simple Mongol herdsman escapes to the hills after brawling with a western capitalist fur trader who cheats him. In 1920 he helps the partisans fight for the Soviets against the occupying army. However he is captured when the army tries to requisition cattle from the herdsmen at the same time as the commandant meets with the reincarnated Grand Lama. After being shot, the army discovers an amulet that suggests he was a direct descendant of Genghis Khan. They find him still alive, so the army restores his health and plans to use him as the head of a Mongolian puppet regime. Read More »

Mikhail Bogin – Dvoe AKA Two In Love (1965)

Quote:
Dvoe aka Two aka Two in Love (Mikhail Bogin, 1965)

(confusingly, the NY Times reviewer cited below refers to this as A Ballad of Love, the English title commonly given not to this but to Bogin’s second film, O lyubvi)

A young musician courts a beautiful woman who refuses to respond to a word he says despite multiple encounters. Eventually he learns that she is completely deaf. The remainder of the film consists of their beautiful — and beautifully silent — romance. Read More »

Saulius Berzinis – Veliava is plytu AKA The Brick Flag (1988)

It’s a documentary about Soviet army private Arturas Sakalauskas who, having grown tired of constant humiliation, shot his fellow soldiers in a train carriage in February 1987. Even though the film traces the tragic event, the psychological portrait of the defendant is placed at the centre. By looking intently inside the young man, the director poses a question, what had actually happened that such a fatal, life-changing decision was made. Read More »

Leonid Gaidai – Kavkazskaya plennitsa AKA Kidnapping, Caucasian Style (1966)

Leonid Gaidai’s irreverent comedy updates a Leo Tolstoy story for modern Soviet times, in the Caucasus region. Shurik, a naive Russian student mired in his own clumsy Soviet culture, sets off to the Caucasus to write down the folk culture of this region: its traditions, legends, sayings, and toasts. Read More »

Lev Kuleshov – Po zakonu AKA By the law (1926)

Barbara Wurm, Edition Filmmuseum wrote:
Po zakonu (also know as Dura Lex) was the cheapest film produced in Russia (perhaps even still today); at the same time an absolute masterpiece, the greatness of which stems from its very minimalism. The minimum effort required for the story-development (Kuleshov constantly claimed, he happened upon Jack London’s story “The Unexpected” quite by chance), the minimum number of characters (just three for most of the film), a minimum of inter-titles and lines of dialogue, a minimum of locations; a clearing not far from Moscow (posing as “Alaska”) and a cabin–the perfect setting for a stripped-to-basics chamber play. Even if the juggling of shot composition and length (Kuleshov’s notorious “Americanism”) is not as artistically ambitious as in his previous work, it is still apparent how close-ups dominate inside, whilst outside, in the snowy landscapes and riverscapes, long shots reign, seemingly to the point of halting all movement. Read More »

Marlen Khutsiev & Feliks Mironer – Vesna na Zarechnoy ulitse AKA Spring on Zarechnaya Street (1956)

A young school teacher Tanya works at a night school for working people. But it’s uneasy to get used to grown-up men, their constant attempts at flirting, their sometimes too manly jokes and comments. She is especially irritated by Don Juan-like behavior of Sasha Savchenko. She avoids his advances, and Sasha becomes so upset that he drops out of school. After a while, Tanya gets used to this new for her environment, finds in her heart an attraction to Sasha, and there comes Spring, exams time… Read More »