Aleksandr Dovzhenko – Arsenal (1928)

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Set in the bleak aftermath and devastation of the World War I, a recently demobbed soldier, Timosh, returns to his hometown Kiev, after having survived a train wreck. His arrival coincides with a national celebration of Ukrainian freedom, but the festivities are not to last as a disenchanted.

In Arsenal, Alexander Dovzhenko, perhaps the most radical of the Soviet directors of the silent period, altered the already extended conventions of cinematic structure to a degree greater than had even the innovative Sergei Eisenstein in his bold October. The effect of this tinkering with the more or less accepted proprieties of motion picture construction produced a work that is actually less a film than it is a highly symbolic visual poem. For example, in a more linearly structured piece like October, the metaphors, allusions, and analogies that arise through the construction of the various montages replace rather than comment on essential actions within the film. In Arsenal, however, the symbolism is so purposely esoteric, with seemingly deliberate barriers established to block the viewer’s perception, that the relationship of individual symbols or sequences to the various actions of the film is not immediately clear. Continue reading

Aleksandr Dovzhenko & Yuliya Solntseva – Pobeda na Pravoberezhnoi Ukraine i izgnaniye nemetsikh zakhvatchikov za predeli Ukrainskikh sovietskikh zemel AKA Victory in Soviet Ukraine (1945)

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Describes the Russian attack against the Germans, which drove them away from the Dneiper river, and finally out of Ukraine. Continue reading

Gennadiy Klimov & Igor Shavlak – Semya vurdalakov AKA The Vampire Family (1990)

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Only vaguely based on Alexei Tolstoy’s novel ‘Oupyr’ (1841), ‘The Vampire Family’ (Semya vurdalakov) is a mixture of striking dreams, fading reality, and most ingenious psychedelic background music, Artemeyv-style (scores by Vladimir Davydenko). Continue reading

Mikhail Slutsky – Imeni Lenina aka In the Name of Lenin (1932)

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In the Name of Lenin is a 14 minute single subject ‘short’ (rather than a newsreel) produced by Soyuzkinozhurnal in 1932. It was directed by Mikhail Slutskii, a member of the new ‘Stalinist’ generation of film-makers, who had only recently graduated from film school in Moscow. Continue reading

Sergei M. Eisenstein – Bronenosets Potyomkin aka The battleship Potemkin (1925)

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Marie Seton wrote:
When he made Potemkin in 1925, Sergei Eisenstein was not only a man with his total personality dedicated to creative work — albeit a creative work aimed at destroying all orthodox concepts of ‘art’ — but he was also a revolutionary fighter, a propagandist for the Russian Revolution. Thus, his work had a utilitarian purpose as well as an artistic one. He was educator and artist. At its most obvious level, Potemkin was regarded as propaganda for the Revolution; at a deeper level it was a highly complex work of art which Eisenstein thought would affect every man who beheld it, from the humblest to the most learned. Continue reading

Konstantin Lopushansky – Pisma myortvogo cheloveka AKA Letters from a Dead Man (1986)

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Quote:
Letters from a Dead Man is another film that deals with the theme of the nuclear nightmare. It falls into a mini-genre of nuclear holocaust film along with others such as On the Beach (1959), Dr Strangelove or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Fail-Safe (1964), The War Game (1965) et al. But what makes Letters from a Dead Man unique in this case is that the treatment is one that comes from the opposite side of the Iron Curtain. Every single other treatment of the nuclear holocaust theme was made in the West and comes based on the speculation (or at least implication) of what would happen if the bombs falling were coming from the Soviet side; this is one which shows everything from the other perspective. In both cases though, the films are almost identical in their treatment of the subject matter and are certainly agreed upon what an horrific experience the nuclear holocaust would be. Letters perhaps comes without the sentimentalized approach of other contemporary views of the holocaust, as shown in The Day After (1983) and Testament (1983), which related the horrors to the effect on Middle America and the destruction of the family unit. Rather Letters comes closer to the celebrated pseudo-documentary The War Game in its almost unimaginably bleak depiction of the grim reality of a nuclear blast. Even more so it is most surprising to see a pre– i>glasnost film that comes from the heavily state-censored Soviet Union and yet manages to be so outspoken against the arms race and moreover rule by military. Continue reading

Leonid Gayday – 12 Stulyev AKA Twelve Chairs (1971)

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Synopsis From Taste of Cinema
This film serves as an adaptation of the classic novel. Unlike so many films listed, it didn’t have a revolutionary effect in the film industry, nor did it criticize the Soviet Union. It has no special effect or imagery, but it is one of those films we love so much. The reason why this adaptation is so peculiar and differs from others is the main actor – Archil Gomiashvili, the man with amazing charisma and sense of humor.

One can even say that Gomiashvili wasn’t even acting as Ostap Bender, he was Ostap Bender. When we say Ostap Bender in post-soviet countries, the face of Gomiashvili istantly pops up. If you want to see a funny comedy which will leave you smiling even two hours after watching the film, then Twelve Chairs is the one.
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