Tag Archives: Russian

Andrey Smirnov & Larisa Shepitko – Nachalo nevedomogo veka AKA Beginning of an Unknown Era (1967)

During the most liberal period of the Khrushchev regime, Grigori Chukrai, director of the classic Ballad of a Soldier, presided over an “experimental studio” dedicated to nurturing new talents. The studio was closed after it produced the three-part Beginning of an Unknown Era, conceived as a memorial for the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. The film was shelved and to this day the negative is reported lost. However, a print of Andrei Smirnov’s episode Angel and Larissa Shepitko’s Homeland of Electricity survived – both films were premiered at the 1987 Moscow Film Festival. It is understandable that the authorities might have considered Angel and Homeland of Electricity inappropriate for trumped-up celebrations of the Revolution. Read More »

Pyotr Todorovsky – Interdevochka AKA Intergirl (1989)

Intergirl is a film adaptation of the eponymous book by Vladimir Kunin, set in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in the time of “perestroika” during the 1980s. Tatyana is a beautiful Russian nurse who is underpaid at her hospital job, so she turns a prostitute catering to international tourists. She becomes well paid in dollars, and helps her ailing mother to survive. Tatyana’s international clients enlighten her about the life in other countries, so she accepts a marriage in order to escape from the grim Soviet reality. But even being married to a decent man abroad, she still suffers from being labeled as an ex-Soviet prostitute, and her new life is full of new troubles. Read More »

Aleksandr Kajdanovsky – Zhena Kerosinschika AKA Kerosene Salesman’s Wife (1988)

Rich imagery and political allegory enliven an already complex story in this late Soviet-era mystery/drama. In the story, a government investigator has come to town to look into the validity of bribery charges that were brought against an official there. In the meantime, we discover that a twin and his brother have been engaged in a kind of very close warfare. One twin was a medical doctor, and was married to a beautiful woman. The second twin was interested in bedding the wife, and had no feeling for his brother. Thus, he impersonated him in the hospital, and openly engaged in medical malpractice of the grossest sort, resulting in a patient’s death. The first twin lost his career and was forced to support himself by going door to door selling kerosene. The second (and clearly sociopathic) twin, naturally, became an important figure in the activities of his local soviet. Read More »

Harutyun Khachatryan – Poeti veradardze AKA Return of the Poet (2005)

Quote:
Armenia’s leading living filmmaker, Harutyun Khachatryan, chose his nation’s 19th century poet, Ashugh Jivani, as his new film’s central spirit. This is hardly accidental, for nothing here is prosaic. Here is a dazzling, alternative vision of a cinema that is essentially poetic, metaphorical and allusive. A work of tactile sensuality, it nominally depicts the step-by-step creation of a monumental statue of the poet that ends up traveling on the back of a truck through the Armenian countryside. From this Khachatryan conjures a transcendental cinematic experience, employing a sublime fusion of sound, image and music to evoke the soul of the director’s beloved country and its people. Read More »

Aleksei Balabanov – Gruz 200 aka Cargo 200 (2007)

Synopsis:
A young woman is taken hostage by a police officer and subsequently abused by the lawman gone mad.

Review:
The term Cargo 200 refers to the bodies of USSR soldiers brought home from Afghanistan in the 1980s, but in Aleksei Balabanov’s film of the same name every character seems destined to become Cargo 200, either actually ending up dead or at least ending up in a dead-end quagmire of pointless violence and immoral behaviour. Unflinching would be a gentle word to describe this portrayal of a doomed humanity, but the exact point of the film beyond its doomsday message is never really clear. Unlike other recent excursions into nihilism as expressed through heartless sex and pointless violence (Mortier’s Ex Drummer comes to mind as a recent example), Balabanov’s film never goes beyond stating the obvious. Read More »

Aleksei Balabanov – Kochegar aka A Stoker (2010)

The stoker is a veteran from the Afghanistan war, retired major and hero of the USSR who spends his life in a heating chamber writing a book and trowing coal on the fire. From time to time an old friend , veteran as well , pays him visits to throw in the fire something more than coal.The bales seem to be human bodies but the stoker doesn’t care because his friend tells him they were bad people.
The stoker’s beautiful daughter which lives with him only visits her father to ask him for money. The only interested in his work are two little girls that ask him the most surprising questions. Read More »

Andrey Konchalovskiy – Dorogie tovarishchi AKA Dear Comrades! (2020)

When the communist government raises food prices in 1962, the rebellious workers from the small industrial town of Novocherkassk go on strike. The massacre which then ensues is seen through the eyes of a devout party activist. Read More »