Thursday, 10 August 2017

Controversial film about last tsar approved for release in Russia - Alexei Uchitel’s Matilda

The Russian culture ministry has cleared a film depicting a love affair between Russia’s last tsar and a ballerina for nationwide release, despite protests from conservative critics who have demanded it be banned.

Matilda, made by prominent Russian director Alexei Uchitel, tells the story of a love affair between the young Nicholas and a half-Polish ballet dancer, Matilda Kshesinskaya. Trailers show romantic scenes between the prince and the ballerina. Conservative and religious critics deny the affair ever took place and say the film is an insult to the memory of Nicholas, who was canonised by the Russian Orthodox church in 2000.

The Russian MP Natalia Poklonskaya filed a request to the general prosecutor’s office earlier this year asking to check whether the film broke a law on offending the feelings of religious believers. She admitted she had not seen the film when she made the request and said she did not plan to.

As Russia marks the centenary of the year that saw twin revolutions upend the tsarist order and sweep Vladimir Lenin’s Bolsheviks into power, the reputation of the last tsar is being rehabilitated. Monuments to Nicholas II are going up across Russia, and last month thousands of pilgrims made a 13-mile overnight walk to the spot where Nicholas and his family were executed in 1918, to mark the 99th anniversary of the deaths.




There is even a small but vocal contingent of Russians who want to see monarchy restored in the country.

Last month, hundreds of Orthodox activists staged a protest in Moscow against Uchitel’s film, and in some cases threats have even been made to cinemas, warning them they face attacks if they show the film.

A spokesman for the Russian culture ministry said on Thursday that the film complied with Russian law and had been issued a 16+ certificate. He said the certificate applied to the whole of Russia, but added that individual regions had the executive authority to ban the film if they wanted.

The hardline ruler of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has already called for the film to be banned, and authorities in neighbouring Dagestan have also said they do not want the film to be shown.

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Monday, 19 June 2017

Pavel Chukhray: Cold tango - Холодное танго (2017)

Cold tango (2017)

Directed by Pavel Chukhray
Cast: Yulia Peresild, Rinal Mukhametov, Sergey Garmash

Julia Peresild


By miracle he avoided death and returns to the house where he was born. In the house now lives the love of his life. But the hope for happiness turns sour with a terrible discovery: his beloved is the daughter of his enemy.

 

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Alena Davydova: Ivan - Иван (2016)

Director: Alena Davydova
Cast: Kirill Polukhin, Polina Gukhman, Anastasiia Mel’nikova, Liudmila Boiarinova, Sergei Iatseniuk,

Image result for Alena Davydova:  Иван

In her desire to make “an ordinary film about ordinary people” (Manzhula 2016) Alena Davydova, born in a small town in Chuvashia, brings a fresh perspective to the Moscow-centric Russian film industry. Her full-length feature debut Ivan came out at the St Petersburg Sever Film Company, the successor of the famous Studio for the First and Experimental Film (PiEF) founded in 1989 by Aleksei Iu. German and Svetlana Karmalita to nurture emerging talent. The studio selected Davydova’s project for support in 2013 when her script for Ivan received the main prize for “best contemporary story” at the eighth national competition of family-oriented scripts “Faith. Hope. Love.” The film premiered at Kinotavr, the Open Russian Film Festival, in 2016. A rather straightforward drama about a day in the life of two ordinary people in a humble provincial town, Ivan stands out among the more usual fare of flashy commercial productions or complex art house features. This emphatic simplicity has won over the hearts of many Russian bloggers, but it also runs the risk of making the story too obvious and banal for the more sophisticated viewer looking for deeper social and psychological analyses. Despite her “quiet scrutiny” of her ordinary characters that is “devoid of both special effects and speculation on viewers’ emotions,” Davydova is not a new Vasilii Shukshin, as one film critic at the Kinotavr press conference suggested (Uminova 2016). Nor is she a new Larisa Sadilova, another prominent filmmaker from Russia’s provinces whose dedication to provincial Russia is paired with rigorous social critique. That said, Davydova’s compelling casting, convincing dialogue, and semi-detective plot in Ivan will keep many viewers engaged throughout the feature.

The film tells a story of the middle-aged ambulance driver, Ivan, who lives alone in his run-down apartment. One day, when taking out the trash, Ivan bumps into a nine-year-old girl, Tonia, who says she came from a nearby town to visit her grandmother. Tonia unceremoniously asks Ivan for food and shelter because her grandmother is gone and she cannot get in touch with her. Ivan unwillingly assumes responsibility for the opinionated girl and her lapdog, and the unlikely trio embarks on an eventful day filled with hopes, disappointments, and revelations. The viewer gradually assembles Ivan’s traumatic life story by observing his interactions with Tonia and other acquaintances as he scrambles to put together a decent outfit to wear to his daughter’s sixteenth birthday. Ivan’s life “has turned upside down” when, after a bad helicopter accident that involved “falling and burning,” the formerly intrepid pilot with a zest for life has acquired a fear of heights and failed to adjust to his new, earth-bound existence. Ivan’s current life drags on as a pale shadow of his past adventures, and both his family and friends have written him off and moved on. Only a few keep urging him to turn his life around by taking up flying again, thereby aggravating his guilt over his seeming inability to overcome his acrophobia. Others, who still care, offer doubtful half-solutions like moving to a better place or simply moving to avoid the depressing status quo. Predictably for a film with a broken adult and a precocious but compassionate child, Tonia is the only person who eventually manages to turn Ivan “right side up.” Parallel to Ivan’s narrative, the viewer puts together pieces of Tonia’s puzzle: a much more intriguing but poorly developed story of a child traveling alone, wandering the streets away from her hometown in search of a lost parent, a “brave and strong pilot.” At some point in the film, Ivan must live up to this idealized vision if he wants to preserve his growing bond with Tonia, his second chance at getting fatherhood, family, and life right.

Kirill Polukhin, one of the leading actors of the Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theater in St Petersburg, plays the title character with a believable balance of natural charisma and low self-esteem: reminded at each step that he is an “eagle” turned “penguin,” Ivan nevertheless projects an innate openness and charm that explain the genuine attachment to him of both Tonia and Irina, a woman who loves him despite (or perhaps because) of his current “unmanly” weakness and lack of ambition. Polukhin’s wider popularity based on television series in which he is routinely typecast as a “charismatic scoundrel” (Bobrova 2016) curiously augments his role in Ivan. The palpable chemistry between the seasoned actor and his nine-year-old acting partner, Polina Gukhman, results in compelling acting and dialogue that, in the words of kinoteatr.ru reviewers, make for an “organic” and “soulful” viewing experience that is accomplished “in one breath” (“Ivan” 2016).

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Alexei Mizgirev: The Duelist - Дуэлянт (2016)

Director: Aleksei Mizgirev
Stars: Martin Wuttke, Yuri Kolokolnikov, Vladimir Mashkov

Пётр Фёдоров

An adventure film, with dramatic and thriller elements set against the backdrop of palaces and the noble view of the Russian capital, The Duelist centers on Yakovlev, a retired officer, who returns to St. Petersburg from a long exile. While in the city, he fights as a duelist's representative. (Nineteenth-century Russian duel law allowed for a duelist to be replaced by any one person.) Though Yakovlev fights for money, he also seeks honor and revenge against those who disgraced him, therein, challenging the Russian Providence. Yakovlev fearlessly plays with destiny as an example of traditional romantic characters from the Russian Classics.



Aleksei Mizgirev’s fourth feature-length film, The Duelist, differs significantly from what the director’s rather cineaste audience has seen before. Set in St Petersburg in 1860, the film is a contemporary version of a historical drama and costume film, with an action-driven plot and abundant cinematic effects. Although the IMAX spectacle is intended as up-to-date genre cinema made in Russia, it nevertheless adumbrates the auteur style of directing that Mizgirev pursued in his previous films, Hard-Hearted (Kremen’, 2007), Buben, Baraban (2009) and The Convoy (Konvoi, 2012). First, The Duelist echoes the gloomy urban landscapes characteristic for Mizgirev’s films about contemporary Russia; and second, the nineteenth-century characters are plunged into questions and problems which seem to matter still today. Whether auteur style or genre cinema—Mizgirev’s films reflect the director’s general interest in human behavior, in questions concerning personality and social environment, in honor and dignity as central moments of individual identity.

The story revolves around the professional duelist Iakovlev, who is hired by a mercenary German baron in order to stand in for others in duels. The practice of dueling, in nineteenth-century Russia an illegal but prevalent way to settle disputes and slights against honor between noblemen, was regulated by strict rules. One of them, as we are told right at the beginning of the film, stipulated the possibility of a substitute. In this role the protagonist, a handsome but glowering young man, wins duel after duel. This draws the nobility’s attention to the mysterious duelist, who has recently returned to St Petersburg and whose identity is revealed bit by bit as the story unfolds. Soon Iakovlev finds out that all duels, for which he was hired, were arranged by the cold-hearted, nefarious Count Beklemishev in order to get rid of his creditors. At the same time Iakovlev himself becomes entangled in an intrigue initiated by Beklemishev, involving the idealistic young Prince Tuchkov and his beautiful sister, Princess Marfa. When Iakovlev takes sides with the Tuchkovs, it becomes clear that—apart from feeling attracted by the blonde Princess Marfa himself—Iakovlev has an agenda of his own.

Iakovlev’s identity is revealed in several flashbacks. Running ashore on the Aleutian Islands as an ordinary soldier of the Tsarist army, he was rescued and cured by an Aleutian shaman who foretold him immortality. An offspring of the old noble Kolychev family, he fell victim to one of Beklemishev’s intrigues five years ago. As a young lieutenant he was provoked and offended by Beklemishev in front of St Petersburg’s nobility. The young man’s sense of honor suffered severe consequences. Beklemishev initiated Kolychev’s suspension from the Tsarist army as well as his deprivation of peerage, which drove Kolychev’s mother to commit suicide. After being flogged, he was sent to the Aleutian Islands as an ordinary soldier. There he took the identity of the late nobleman Iakovlev in order to be allowed to duel the man responsible for his misfortune, which would, besides taking revenge, enable him to restore his honor.

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Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Alexey Zvyagintsev: Loveless - Нелюбовь (2017)

Image result for andrey zvyagintsev loveless

Director: Andrey Zvyagnitsev
Cast: Maryana Spivak, Alexey Rozin, Matvey Novikov, Marina Vasilyeva, Andris Keishs, Alexey Fateev.

 “Loveless,” the title of the compelling and forbidding new movie by the Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev (“Leviathan,” “Elena”), seems, for a while, to refer to the state of the relationship between the film’s two main characters, a Moscow couple who are on the verge of divorcing. Boris (Alexey Rozin), bearded and officious, a kind of mildly saddened Teddy bear, and Zhenya (Maryana Spivak), beautiful and knife-edged, with a buried despair of her own, still live together in the same apartment. But they’re trying to sell it off as quickly as possible, because they can barely come up with three words of civility between them.

Image result for andrey zvyagintsev loveless

Their marriage, or what’s left of it, has reached the toxic point of no return. No one understands this better than Alyosha (Matvey Novikov), their pale and passive 12-year-old son, who doesn’t do much besides stare at his computer between crying fits. When Alyosha disappears without a trace, his emotionally estranged parents have to come together to search for him. But no, “Loveless” isn’t a story about how the search for Alyosha brings Boris and Zhenya closer together, or makes them take stock and stop hating each other. What the movie is about, in a way that’s both potent and oblique, is something larger than the charred ashes of one dead marriage.

There have always been oppressive societies that clamp down on filmmaking, but allow just enough wiggle room of expression for a shrewd — and poetic — artist to say what’s on his mind. That was true in the Communist Czechoslovakia of the 1970s, or in the Iran of the last 30 years. It’s true, as well, of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. As a filmmaker, Andrey Zvyagintsev can’t come right out and declare, in bright sharp colors, the full corruption of his society, but he can make a movie like “Leviathan,” which took the spiritual temperature of a middle-class Russia lost in booze and betrayal, and he can make one like “Loveless,” which takes an ominous, reverberating look not at the politics of Russia but at the crisis of empathy at the culture’s core.

Boris and Zhenya have both moved on to other relationships, which are far more affectionate than the one they’re in, so that seems to be a sign of hope; after divorce comes a new beginning. Boris is with the perky, very pregnant Masha (played by Marina Vasilyeva, who suggests an Eastern European Michelle Williams), and Zhenya, between visits to the salon and a consuming relationship with her smartphone, has found the man who answers her dreams, or at least her needs: the wealthy, handsome, doting, middle-aged Anton (Andris Keishs). Love, it seems, is possible. But what kind of love?

Zvyagintsev colors in a whole society’s romantic neurosis, and he does it with the details along the sidelines. Boris has to keep his divorce hidden at his corporate sales office, because the boss is a fundamentalist Christian. (If Boris isn’t married with children, he’ll be out of a job.) Zhenya’s lover, on the other hand, has given her entré to the one-percent echelon of the new gilded Russia. The film introduces us to it in a telling moment at an outrageously ritzy restaurant where the camera lingers on a woman flirtatiously giving out her phone number…before sitting back down to dinner across from the man she’s come with. That moment speaks volumes — about a clawing-to-the-top ethos of desperate avarice that scarcely leaves room for “romance.”

So what does all this have to do with a missing child? Everything, it turns out. “Loveless” has been made in a forceful and deliberate socialist-realist Hitchcockian style that recalls the most celebrated films of the Romanian new wave (“4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days”; “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu”). The disappearance of Alyosha hangs over the movie and haunts it, and on some level it’s a missing-child procedural. Yet what’s meaningful is the way that he disappeared: He was left unsupervised, and his mother, coming home at night, assumed that he was in his room and didn’t bother to check in on him. A minor mistake…and an epic instance of neglect.

The Moscow police, who lean toward thinking that he has run away (because if so, the statistics suggest he’ll likely return, and they won’t have to add to their caseload), can’t do a lot, and a local citizens’ group is more proactive. They scour the area in their orange jackets and fatigues, leaving no stone unturned. As all of this goes on, the title of “Loveless” begins to expand. A society rooted in corruption becomes a petri dish for a loveless marriage that spawns a family in which a child isn’t loved — that is, looked after — in the right way. And the result, seemingly out of nowhere (but not really), is tragic.

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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Konchalovsky's 'Paradise' gets Best Film at Russia's Nika movie award

Image result for konchalovsky paradise

'Paradise’ by Russian film director Andrei Konchalovsky won Best Picture and Best Director at Russia’s main annual national film award Nika, the country's equivalent of the Oscars.

The 30th award ceremony was held late on March 28 at the Mossovet State Academic Theater, one of Moscow’s oldest theaters.

The film about the WWII and the Holocaust was first screened at the Venice Film Festival, winning the Silver Lion Award for Best Director. The movie has been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Award.

"The disasters of the 20th century, and particularly the Holocaust, must never be forgotten," Konchalovsky said while receiving the prize.

The Best Actress award went to the film's star Yulia Vysotskaya. The Best Actor went to Timofey Tribuntsev for his role in Nikolai Dostal's 'Monk and Devil'.

Source: TASS

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Why are European countries lining up for the new Zvyagintsev film?

Andrey Zvyagintsev, creator of the critically acclaimed Leviathan, said his new film, Loveless, set a sales record at the Berlin film market, and was bought for release by all major European countries. 

"In Berlin, deals were signed with companies from the U.K., Spain, Denmark and Finland. Rights for all European territories have been sold. What remains is to close several deals with companies from Asia and Latin America," said producer Alexander Rodnyansky at the end of the film market.

Distributors, however, have not seen a single frame of this new film by the Russian winner of the Cannes and Venice film festivals. This is because Loveless is not ready yet, and it's not clear whether Zvyagintsev will complete it by the second half of May - its world premiere is expected to be in the main competition at the Cannes Film Festival.

To clarify the situation, RBTH caught up with Zvyagintsev, who told us how the idea for his new film came about and why he's anxious about the result.

After the success of Leviathan you were going to make a big film about World War II. But you're now making a completely different movie, aren’t you?

A minor correction: I was planning a film about the War even before Leviathan. It's a long-standing idea, with a written script, and I'm ready to start filming it at any time. Unfortunately, not everything depends on my desire because the project is expensive – we're talking about $15-$18 million. It will be extremely difficult for the producer to recoup that sort of money. So, I don't yet know if this film will happen in the near future.

So what is your new film about?

It's the story of a family living through serious moments in their life, as the husband and wife split. I'd like this film to be compared to Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage. Practically throughout the whole six episodes, 45 minutes each, all you see on screen are just the two actors - Josephson and Ullmann. And you can’t tear yourself away from the screen.

His characters are people who think and talk. She, as was fashionable in the 1960s, keeps a diary and reads out excerpts from it. Those scenes show that intelligence, the ability to analyze, civility and refinement cannot prevent a terrible catastrophe.

The idea for Loveless grew from this, and I will be honest with you - I have long been partial to that film by Bergman. Oleg Negin, who writes the scripts for all my films, discussed with me the idea of examining a marriage crisis when people who have been married for 10-12 years cannot go on living together. In the script there's an event that dispels the tangle of contradictions between the characters - their child goes missing.

At what production stage is Loveless currently?

Filming was supposed to be completed by spring 2017. Alas, Moscow weather interfered. The film takes place in Moscow, when it's warm, and so we need grass and leaves on the trees. We started filming in August and were hoping to finish by November, but it started snowing in the middle of October and the snow has remained since. So, we had to halt shooting, and we're now waiting for April in order to finish filming everything that needs to be completed.

Unfortunately, all this creates certain difficulties, and that's why I started editing even though I had never done so before the completion of filming. I always edit my films sequentially - from the first scene to the last. Since editing determines the rhythm of a film, and rhythm is the musical form of a film, I think it's a mistake to suddenly launch into the 40th minute of a film and start editing it from there. But the circumstances are such that we're forced to make this mistake. It worries me, but I think we'll cope.

After your films, the Russian actors in them become famous internationally: Nadezhda Markina was nominated for a European Film Award for her role in Elena, while Elena Lyadova, the star of Leviathan, also became a well-known face. At the same time, you rarely cast actors who have worked with you before. Is this one of your principles as a director?

I never know who will star in my films. There has been just one exception: Oleg Negin and I knew that the role of the town mayor in Leviathan would be played by Roman Madyanov.

Sometimes, I deliberately do not want to work with an actor who has been in my film before, but then life suddenly interferes. Such was the case, for example, with Konstantin Lavronenko. He acted in my first film, The Return, which unexpectedly became an international festival hit, winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

That success, of course, put a lot of pressure on me, and I wanted to make sure that with my second film I'd not be accused of repeating myself. So for the main role in my next film, Banishment, I looked for a young actor since the character is supposed to be in his early 30s. But the longer I searched, the clearer it became to me that my prejudice against Lavronenko was groundless, and when I finally invited him for an audition, it all came together - it was his part. Yet, it so happens that apart from Kostya there is just one more person whom I have cast in a big role more than once. 

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Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Russian Filmmakers Advocate "Matilda" by Uchitel

Image result for "Matilda" by Uchitel

Rumors and scandals are brewing around Alexei Uchitel's new feature film "Matilda". Orthodox Christian activists and some deputies of the State Duma clamour against the film director's interpretation of historical events.

The filmmakers have been accused of denigrating the image of Nicholas II and insulting the feelings of believers. Representatives of the Russian cinema have stood up for the colleagues and written an open letter that speaks out against the return of censorship in culture. Filmmakers have declared that they want to live in a secular state, and demanded authorities at all levels to comply with the constitution.

The historical film by Alexei Uchitel tells about the famous ballerina of the Mariinsky Theatre - Matilda Kshesinskaia - and her complicated and ambiguous relationship with Nicholas II. The film director points out in an interview that the Orthodox community is eager to impose its own ideas on the society.

RiC

Saturday, 21 January 2017

The 5 most anticipated Russian movies in 2017

1. Paradise

This is the story of Helmut, a senior SS officer, who arrives at a concentration camp to investigate corruption allegations. There he runs into the love of his youth, an aristocratic Russian émigré named Olga who has been incarcerated for joining the French Resistance and harboring Jewish children in her house during the Nazi occupation of France.

2. Anna Karenina: The Vronsky Story

As the title suggests, Shakhnazarov’s adaptation provides a male perspective on this classic story, with Count Vronsky at the center of the movie. Here Vronsky is not depicted in his traditional role of the shrewd seducer, but rather is portrayed as a complex and multifaceted character. Anna Karenina: The Vronsky Story. Source: Kinopoisk.ru


This big screen adaptation of the classic Russian novel by Leo Tolstoy comes from prominent Russian filmmaker Karen Shakhnazarov, who is best known internationally for The Assassin of the Tsar starring Malcolm McDowell.

3. Journey to China: The Mystery of Iron Mask

Directed by Oleg Stepchenko, this sequel to the 2014 film Viy (which was based on the novel by Nikolai Gogol) was initially set to hit the screens in 2016. However, the deadline was pushed back when the project’s Chinese partners, who apparently had unconditional faith in the film’s potential for success, insisted that the script be revised and the budget increased.

4. Guardians

The authors describe this film as the Russian answer to Marvel Animation's Avengers trilogy. The script for this comic movie about Soviet people with superpowers was written on the fly as it was already being shot. A team of Soviet superheroes (including a bear-man named Ursus) rescue the country and the world as a whole from the threat of apocalypse.

5. Arrhythmia Boris Khlebnikov is regarded as one of the most significant Russian directors of the 2000s. He gained worldwide recognition for his movies Koktebel and A Long and Happy Life, which won acclaim at a variety of international film festivals. In 2013, Khlebnikov suddenly switched his focus to working on television. This is his first major movie in recent years, meaning that 2017 will mark Khlebnikov's return to the big screen. Read more >>>