USSR

Shaken Ajmanov – Konets Atamana AKA Az atamán halála (1971)

featuring Andrey Konchalovskiy on the script
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[…]Andrei Konchalovsky had, together with Eduard Tropinin, written the script for The End of the Ataman, directed by the renowned Kazakh film-maker Shaken Ajmanov. The film dealt with the special task of the Red officer Chadiarov (played by Asanali Ashimov), who in 1921 has to kill the ataman Dutov,a collaborator with the Whites.Chadiarov discloses during this operation the spy in the Red headquarters in his Kazakh home town. In order to fulfill this task, Chadiarov, who is a Chinese prince, has to get himself arrested as a spy by the Soviet commander; then he escapes, crosses the border and sides with the ataman, who resides in China. Chadiarov fulfills the secret mission successfully, while its full scale and significance transpire only at the end of the film. In its use of cavalry chases, escapes and hide-outs in the steppe, this film is fully within the genre of the ‘Eastern’. Read More »

Nadezhda Kosheverova & Mikhail Shapiro – Zolushka AKA Cinderella (1947)

It is one of those happy memories of our childhood, which sometimes is better to leave untouched in order to preserve the first naive impressions. The fabulous atmosphere and unusual interpretation of the story, together with the vivid images of the characters and magnificent game of actors create the truly magnetic effect. Even though the film is shot during the times of post-war hardships, it is filled with such a kindness and sincerity that you want to watch it again and again. At this difficult time Yevgeny Shwarts, Nadezhda Kosheverova and Mikhail Shapiro managed to create a beautiful fairytale, which fills the hearts of viewers with the unforgettable sense of miracle. Read More »

Mark Donskoy – Raduga AKA The Rainbow (1944)

Mark Donskoy, the Russian filmmaker whose fame rests upon his brilliant “Gorky Trilogy” of the late 1930s, came up with another artistic triumph in 1944’s Rainbow (originally Raduga). With understandable creative rage, Donskoy depicts life in a Nazi-occupied village at the beginning of World War 2. The German conquerors are above nothing, not even the slaughter of small children, to break the spirit of their Soviet captives. Suffering more than most is Olga (Nataliya Uzhviy), a Russian partisan who returns to the village to bear her child, only to endure the cruellest of arbitrary tortures at the hands of the Nazis. Eventually, the villagers rise up against their oppressors-but unexpectedly do not wipe them out, electing instead to force the surviving Nazis to stand trial for their atrocities in a post-war “people’s court.” (It is also implied that those who collaborated with the Germans will be dealt with in the same even-handed fashion). Brilliantly acted by virtually everyone in the cast, Rainbow is a remarkable achievement, one that deserves to be better known outside of Russia. Read More »

Mark Donskoy – V lyudyakh AKA My Apprenticeship (1939)

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My Apprenticeship (V lyudyakh) was the second entry in Russian director Mark Donskoy’s “Maxim Gorky” trilogy. Picking up where 1938’s My Childhood left off, the story covers the years in Gorky’s life when the future writer (Alexei Lyarsky) was on his own, looking for a purpose and place in life. Before he can make up his own mind, Gorky is trapped into serfdom by a wealthy family. As he grows from his teen years to full manhood, Gorky fights his way towards freedom of thought and body. Based on Gorky’s autobiography, the film was followed in 1940 by My Universities. My Apprenticeship has also been released as On His Own and Among People. (Hollywood.com) Read More »

Mark Donskoy – Moi universitety AKA My Universities (1940)

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My Universities (Moi universiteti) is the last installment of Russian director Mark Donskoy’s “Maxim Gorky” trilogy. Having endured a painful youth in My Childhood (1938) and a torturous sojourn as a serf in My Apprenticeship (1939), future writer Gorky (Alexei Lyarsky) reaches maturity with an insatiable desire for personal and artistic freedom. The “university” of the title is actual the school of Hard Knocks, as Gorky goes to work in the shipyards and commisserates with the hard-drinking, philosophical dockworkers. Donskoy’s depiction of street life under the Czarist regime of the late 19th century as unrelentingly depressing, filled with disenfranchised derelicts. This, of course, was meant to be a contrast to the “perfection” of the Stalin years. We can forgive this propagandizing in the light of Donskoy’s indisputable cinematic brilliance. In 1941, a considerably edited version of My Universities was released in the US as University of Life. (Hal Erickson, Rovi) Read More »

Vladimir Bortko – Sobache serdtse AKA Heart of a Dog (1988)

Professor Preobrazhensky and his colleague place some human parts into a dog named Sharik. Soon the dog transforms into a human.

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This movie (and yes, it’s a movie – it was shot as a two-parter, but the two parts together come down to slightly more than 2 hours) is one of the unsung masterpieces of world cinema. A very well-mannered, and yet at the same time absolutely savage denunciation of the Soviet regime and the type of person who flourished under it, the film is a faithful adaptation of the long-banned eponymous book by Mikhail Bulgakov. Read More »

Kote Mardjanishvili – Komunaris chibukhi aka Trubka komunara aka Pipe of Communard (1929)

After the defaet in the Prussian war, famine and riots exploded in Paris. The wife of Lui Ru, a carpenter, could no longer stand proverty, left her son with his father and eloped to Versailles with a butcher. Lui died on the barricades. His comrades got executed. Lui’s son was among those executed. For the sake of his own entertainment the officer aimed at the pipe that Lui’s son was holding in his mouth and shot him to death. Read More »