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

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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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Leonid Ejdlin & Sergei Yutkevich – Lenin v Parizhe AKA Lenin in Paris (1981)

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Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin spent four years in Paris (1909–1912), and this historical docudrama explores those years with a certain amount of humor. Lenin is shown visiting with friends, the meetings with his later mistress Inessa Armand (in the movie she is in love with a young communist, Trofimoff), while several of his philosophical views and economic and political theories are mouthed by a former colleague who narrates the film and brings the material into the present. Continue reading

Irina Poplavskaya & Sergei Yutkevich – Dzhamilya AKA Jamilya (1969)

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The film is based on the story of the same name by Soviet writer Chinghiz Aitmatov. It is set in a remote Kirghiz village during the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945). A young wife of a soldier, Djamilya, fell in love with Daniar, a wounded war veteran living in her village. Daniar reciprocates her feelings. But suddenly Djamilya receives a letter from her husband with the news of his forthcoming return from the hospital. This forces the lovers to make a final decision. Years later, their young friend, Seid, who was a witness to their beautiful, albeit uneasy, love, reminisces about this wonderful couple… Continue reading

Semyon Aranovich & Aleksandr Sokurov – Altovaya Sonata. Dmitriy Shostakovich AKA Viola Sonata. Dmitriy Shostakovich (1981)

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The life and work of the great Russian composer Dmitriy Shostakovich is presented in this documentary through rare images and audios from many archives, at one time censored by the Soviet government. A brief take on his life, from his transition as an early prodigy to a first rate artist, his celebrated compositions and the final years with a declining health. Continue reading

Dziga Vertov – Chelovek s kino-apparatom aka Man with a movie camera (1929)

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This playful film is at once a documentary of a day in the life of the Soviet Union, a documentary of the filming of said documentary, and a depiction of an audience watching the film. Even the editing of the film is documented. We often see the cameraman who is purportedly making the film, but we rarely, if ever, see any of the footage he seems to be in the act of shooting! Continue reading