USSR

Pyotr Todorovsky – Interdevochka AKA Intergirl (1989)

Intergirl is a film adaptation of the eponymous book by Vladimir Kunin, set in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in the time of “perestroika” during the 1980s. Tatyana is a beautiful Russian nurse who is underpaid at her hospital job, so she turns a prostitute catering to international tourists. She becomes well paid in dollars, and helps her ailing mother to survive. Tatyana’s international clients enlighten her about the life in other countries, so she accepts a marriage in order to escape from the grim Soviet reality. But even being married to a decent man abroad, she still suffers from being labeled as an ex-Soviet prostitute, and her new life is full of new troubles. Read More »

Aleksandr Kajdanovsky – Zhena Kerosinschika AKA Kerosene Salesman’s Wife (1988)

Rich imagery and political allegory enliven an already complex story in this late Soviet-era mystery/drama. In the story, a government investigator has come to town to look into the validity of bribery charges that were brought against an official there. In the meantime, we discover that a twin and his brother have been engaged in a kind of very close warfare. One twin was a medical doctor, and was married to a beautiful woman. The second twin was interested in bedding the wife, and had no feeling for his brother. Thus, he impersonated him in the hospital, and openly engaged in medical malpractice of the grossest sort, resulting in a patient’s death. The first twin lost his career and was forced to support himself by going door to door selling kerosene. The second (and clearly sociopathic) twin, naturally, became an important figure in the activities of his local soviet. Read More »

Nutsa Gogoberidze – Ujmuri AKA Cheerless (1934)

Summary from the dafilms website:
The silent film shot in 1934 narrates in detail the severe process of eviction of the population and their fierce struggle against the swamp in Mengralian marshland of Georgia…

According to the legend the deity of the swamp Ujmuri drags down to its bosom anyone who dares come near. And the best of them are forced to marry her. Kavtar and Tsiru fell in love with each other and started their battle to dry up the swamp. Everyone who believes the legend is against it, including Tsiru’s father. Read More »

Larisa Shepitko – Voskhozhdeniye AKA The Ascent (1977)

Two Soviet partisans on a mission to gather food contend with the winter cold, the occupying Germans, and their own psyches.

Letterboxd review by Lara Pop ★★★★½:
It rarely gets bleaker than The Ascent. Larisa Shepitko’s tale of perseverance in the face of imminent death surprised me on several counts. For the first half of the movie, I couldn’t figure out the significance of the title. If anything, Shepitko presents its exact opposite. The barren, snow-covered landscape, where death lurks in every grinding step man takes, devours the movie in its all-consuming white death. The shaky camera movement enhances every sound made in the white silence as the camera zooms in on man’s face and outlines the thin crust of ice scratching his cheek with its cold tendrils, stretching, reaching, with one goal in mind: to get to the innermost layer: the spirit; and to break it. It is a tableau of a frostbitten feast, an icy infusion of a deathly descent, straight into the vein. I couldn’t figure out why I was watching a film named its exact opposite. Read More »

Artur Vojtetsky – Skuki radi (1968)

“”People living near a by-station, sincerely envied passengers of the passing trains. Arina, a homely lonely woman of about 40 was a cook at the station. Once the pointsman Gomozov dropped in to see her in the kitchen. The lonely man had recently lost his family and asked her to sew a couple of shirts for him. And then he asked her to come to his place in the evening to have some tea and talk just out of boredom. Arina left him at daybreak. But soon people at the station learnt about their relationship…”” kinoglaz.fr Read More »

Aleksandr Dovzhenko – The Cultural Heritage [Disc 6] (1940 – 1945)

Osvobozhdeniye AKA Liberation

Liberation features events of the Soviet occupation of western Ukraine, at the time a part of Poland, after the out-break of the Second World War in September 1939. Following official Soviet historiography, the film presents the annexation of Western Ukraine, the result of the Nazi-Bolshevik partition of Poland, as the historic act of “reunification of all Ukrainian lands into one Soviet-Ukrainian state.” Scenes include: a Hutsul village public meeting addressed by Dovzhenko himself; the opening of the People’s Assembly of Western Ukraine in L’viv, October 26th, 1939; the opening of the People’s Assembly in Bialystok; adoption of the act of reunification of Western Ukraine with the Ukrainian SSR by the Ukrainian Soviet Parliament in Kyiv and by the Supreme Soviet in Moscow. Read More »

Aleksandr Dovzhenko – The Cultural Heritage [Disc 7] (1948 – 1949)

Michurin aka Life in Bloom
The film is about the life and work of the prominent Russian biologist Ivan Michurin. Reports of gardener-Michurin’s extraordinary experiments with plants reach far beyond the borders of the Russian empire. Trying to persuade him to move to the United States, a group of Americans comes to the village where Michurin lives. They promise him all kinds of benefits. But Michurin, despite his lack of recognition by the government, is devoted to Russia. Overcoming obstacles created by the tsarist bureaucracy, the scientist continues with his experiments on natural selection and dreams of the time when all people will be able to take full advantage of his achievements. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 makes his dreams come true and Michurin’s orchard in Kozlov becomes a center of Soviet experimental biology.
Awards. Stalin National Prize of the Second Degree, 1949. The Labor Prize at the Gottwaldov (now Zlin) Film Festival, Czechoslovakia, 1949. Read More »