Nikolai Gubenko – Podranki aka The Orphans (1977)


The original Russian title Podranki can be translated as War Orphans. The protagonist is an adult writer who undergoes a flashback at the drop of a hat. He recalls how he was orphaned when his father was killed in World War II and his mother committed suicide. He remembers the appalling treatment afforded him by a sadistic orphanage official. And he muses over his losing contact with his brothers and sisters. This is why the grown-up writer is currently involved in lobbying for better treatment of Russian orphans. Orphans caused a minor stir in 1977 when it became the first Russian film in nearly two decades to be chosen for the Cannes Film Festival by the festival judges, rather than being submitted by the Soviets. The film did not see the light of a carbon arc in America until 1980. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi Read More »

Larisa Shepitko – Krylya (Крылья) AKA Wings (1966)


Plot Synopsis by Clarke Fountain

The director of this film, Larisa Shepitko, was the wife of the distinguished director Elem Klimov and a very promising director herself. Based on a true story, Krylya tells of the efforts of a famous female fighter pilot from the World War II era to make a life for herself in the postwar era. At 42, the present pales before her memories of the past, and of her true love, now long dead. She is unable to come to terms with her past nor with the present, in which she is the director of a high school and the mother of an adoptive daughter. Her attempts to compensate for her distraction all lie in the direction of appearing authoritative, but the students and her daughter, with the unerring instincts of the young, distrust and despise her. In her distress, she is forced even more deeply into reliving her memories of the only time in which she was truly alive, seeking some kind of answer or resolution. Read More »

Dinara Asanova – Ne bolit golova u dyatla AKA Woodpeckers Don’t Get Headaches (1975)


Two 14-year-olds experience the first pangs of romantic love in the midst of their last moments of childhood. Sensitively told, this film conveys a sense of life as it is lived among that age-group, and is unusual because it does not bear a heavy party stamp. This is the first feature film for director {$Dinara Asanova}, who was much-respected in the Soviet Union for making realistic films about young people. ~ Clarke Fountain, All Movie Guide Read More »

Ivan Pyryev – Belye nochi AKA White Nights (1960)


Story “White Nights” by Fyodor Dostoevsky shot by Ivan Pyryev. Petersburg 1840s. A Dreamer, living in a big city for a few years and all the time he is alone. But one summer in St. Petersburg’s White Nights on the Neva, he meets Nastya. Five nights walking around the city, young people talk about themselves. With all the passion and tenderness of its nature the dreamer falls in love with Nastya. The girl, has feelings of despair of former lover, Dreamer promises to marry her. Unfortunately, the happiness is short-lived … Nastya is regaining his old love, and Dreamer is alone again.

1960 – Certificate IV IFF Film Festival in London-60
1960 – Best Film of 1960 (with the films “The Ballad of a Soldier” and “Revenge”) by a decision of the British Film Institute Read More »

Semyon Aranovich & Aleksandr Sokurov – Altovaya sonata. Dmitriy Shostakovich aka Sonata for viola (1981)

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A deeply moving and reverent biopic of Soviet composer and pianist Dmitri Shostakovich. It’s co-directed by Aleksandr Sokurov (“The Russian Ark”) and veteran filmmaker Semyon Aranovich. Shostakovich was born in St. Petersburg in 1906 and died in Moscow in 1975. The understated black-and-white biopic follows Shostakovich as a frail young man as seen through photographs and traces his life through personal documents, recorded appearances, and concert performances of his work set against archival footage of daily life in the Soviet Union. It shows him during his glory days of early critical acclaim until his disfavor under Stalin because of his political views and struggle for creative freedom. He was honored in 1958, five years after Stalin’s death, by his country, as he was awarded the second Order of Lenin after graciously not accepting it a year earlier in order for the first Order of Lenin to be posthumously awarded to Sergei Prokofiev. He was recognized for his genius in composing the 7th Symphony during the Second World War, which was an uplifting reminder of the war. It opens with the scene set in a besieged Leningrad. Shostakovich’s dream was to bring his music to the masses and give his people an appreciation for their rich culture. The title comes about because Shostakovich’s “Sonata for Violin” was the only work he composed that he never heard performed. The film, made in 1981, was discovered after it was buried to hide it from the KGB, who at an earlier date banned it.
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Ivan Pyryev – Traktoristy AKA Tractor Drivers [1939 original version] (1939)


From Mosfilm:
A musical comedy.
The mid 30s. Klim Yarko, a demobilized tank driver from the Far East returns to the Ukraine collective farm where Maryana Bazhan, his long-standing love, lives. But Maryana is a famous tractor-driver of the vicinity and her admirers are legion. In attempt to get rid of them she invents a story of her love to Nazar, a butch and bummer. Klim, a simple soul, finds himself in a complicated situation but finally due to his sincerity and industry he wins sympathies of the whole farm and the famous Maryana’s love. Read More »

Ivan Pyryev – Partiinyi bilet AKA The Party Card (1936)


Everything seems swell when a young Siberian moves to Moscow, finds work in a factory, joins the Communist Party, and marries a beautiful young Bolshevik girl. But when the girl loses her all-important party card (i.e. identification papers), the Siberian’s dark past comes to light…Commissioned in the wake of Kirov’s assassination (in which an assassin got access to Kirov’s office with a stolen party card), this is both a fantastic melodrama and a chilling work of propaganda. Read More »