Andrei Tarkovsky – Stalker [The Criterion Collection] (1979)

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Andrei Tarkovsky’s final Soviet feature is a metaphys­ical journey through an enigmatic postapocalyptic landscape, and a rarefied cinematic experience like no other. A hired guide—the Stalker—leads a writer and a professor into the heart of the Zone, the restricted site of a long-ago disaster, where the three men eventually zero in on the Room, a place rumored to fulfill one’s most deeply held desires. Adapting a science-fiction novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Tarkovsky created an immersive world with a wealth of material detail and a sense of organic atmosphere. A religious allegory, a reflection of contemporaneous political anxieties, a meditation on film itself—Stalker envelops the viewer by opening up a multitude of possible meanings. Continue reading

Grigori Kozintsev & Leonid Trauberg – Novyy Vavilon AKA The New Babylon (1929)

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The Paris Commune was an epic phenomenon in the early history of the socialist movement. The Commune was located in the workers quarters within the centre of Paris. An important location was the emporium LA NOUVELLE BABYLONE, still existing at Metro Babylone. The main character in the film is Louise, a salesgirl in the shop. She is a communard. Her counterpart is a soldier that helps to wipe out the Commune. Thus, the enormous social and dialectic complications and contrasts between the workers on one side, and bourgeoisie and army on the other side, are projected on two characters. And of course they fall in love. Louise is a fierce heroine. Jean a naïve soldier, a farmer who is ordered and abused. In the end they meet not in bed but on the barricades. Jean is a conscript in the army that defeats the Commune fighters in the bloody week in June 1871. Thousands of the Communards were killed in action or shot at Père Lachaise cemetery. Continue reading

Yermek Shinarbayev – Mest AKA Revenge (1989)

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A child is raised in Korea to avenge the death of his father’s first child in this decades-spanning tale of obsession and violence, the third collaboration between director Ermek Shinarbaev and writer Anatoli Kim. A study of everyday evil infused with philosophy and poetry, this haunting allegory was the first Soviet film to look at the Korean diaspora in central Asia, and a founding work of the Kazakh New Wave. Rigorous and complex, Revenge weaves luminous imagery with inventive narrative elements in an unforgettable meditation on the way trauma is passed down through generations. Continue reading

Aleksandr Mitta & Kenji Yoshida – Moskva, lyubov moya AKA Moscow, My Love (1974)

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A Japanese girl came to Moscow to learn the art of dance. The love of a Moscow sculptor, the victory in the final-year students competition brought a lot of happiness to Yuriko. However a sudden disease of blood, result of an atomic bombardment of her town, bursts into her life. Continue reading

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