Colourful ‘optimistic tragedy’ of a poor family in Ukraine, living in the Carpathian mountains near the Romanian border, during the Second World War. Five sons of the family make up the village band, but as the battles between the Nazi-supported Ukranian nationalists and the Soviets go on, their band loses one player after another.
Winner of the Grand prize at the 1971 Moscow Film Festival, White Bird with a Black Mark is set in western Ukraine, in an area that has passed through the control of several nations over the centuries. despairing at the poverty of is family, a boy decides the stork is the cause of all their problems, and sets out to kill it. But soon everyone’s situation will be challenged, as World War II breaks out and the region is carved into warring battle zones, with brother being forced to fight against brother. Yuri Illienko once again brings his dazzling poetic vision to this tale of loyalty to family, to nation, to state—and to oneself. The film is widely considered one of the most important works of the Ukrainian film heritage. Continue reading
Ivan Vasilyevich Changes Occupation
An unconventional comedy based on M. Bulgakov’s play, “Ivan Vassilevich,” when inventor, Timofeev builds a time machine, things go awry. Tsar Ivan the Terrible comes into the year 1973, while Ivan Bunsha, an apartment complex manager, and George Miloslavsky, a petty burglar, are transferred to 16th century Moscow accidentally. Continue reading
A gentle, bittersweet tragicomedy, Autumn Marathon is about a middle-aged translator, Andrei Buzykin (Oleg Basilashvili), whose almost pathological niceness has trapped him in a seemingly endless series of awkward situations: his inability to turn anyone down has left him juggling a wife and mistress, on top of vast amounts of additional work usually done as unpaid favours for friends and students that’s constantly interfering with his own projects to the point where his career is put at risk.
And because he can’t bear to hurt anyone, he’s always taking the easy way out – which invariably means constructing a vast edifice of lies that he can’t possibly keep track of, which has the equally inevitable side-effect of turning a fundamentally decent if weak-willed man into what looks like the epitome of a philandering boor. Half the time, his excuses are entirely genuine – he really did help his Danish friend Bill Hansen (Norbert Kuchinke) at a drying-out clinic, and stayed up all night with his less talented colleague Varvara (Galina Volchek) to help her on a difficult translation, but this counts for little when he’s so widely disbelieved. The title refers to his regular early morning jogging sessions with Bill – again, he’d much rather be doing something else, like staying in bed, but how can he possibly say no? Continue reading
A collage of documentary and chronicle footage from various German and Soviet archives, attempting to reconstruct the experience of the citizens of the Third Reich and to grasp the essence of totalitarian regime. The footage is accompanied by director’s commentary, analyzing the imagery.
Romm’s “Ordinary Fascism” pulls out all the stops in its selection of documentary material to draw the viewer not only into absolute horror about fascism and nazism in the 1920s-1940s Europe, but also to a firmest of convictions that nothing of the sort should be allowed to happen again anywhere in the world. The film was released in 1965, in the Soviet Union’s heyday at the height of the great societal and intellectual “thaw” that followed the Stalin’s death and the denunciation of Stalin’s totalitarianism by Nikita Khruschev. Never explicitly mentioning any of them explicitly, the film targets tyranny and despotism no matter what form they may take. Continue reading
Prostitution, Statistics And Harangues, 13 November 2009
“Prostitutka” (1927) is a Bolshevist silent rarity, unusual because of its subject matter, that being prostitution in the U.S.S.R. The world’s oldest profession requires a treatment both delicate and balanced, not an easy topic for a first time director like Herr Oleg Frelikh. Actually, this little known work was Frelikh’s only film as a director (prior to this, he had been an actor) and it’s a flawed but interesting effort. Continue reading
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… Continue reading
The 1975 film by Georgi Daneliya “Afonya” was an unexpected commercial hit in USSR. The main character Borshev A.N. is a locksmith who spends his free time, as well as working hours, drinking with his buddies whom he even doesn’t recognize the next day after another heavy drink. His wife leaves him, his boss places him on probation, his whole life is falling a part but he doesn’t realize it. There is only one person who can save him – nurse Katya whom he met on dances and didn’t pay much attention to… Daneliya manages to balance in the film satire and drama, quotes from the film gained a cult status in Russia and other former countries of USSR. Written by Pavel P. Continue reading