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Russian Film Blog FAQ Bonanza

by poemless Sun May 11th, 2008 at 05:17:51 PM EST

 

The topic for next[editor's note, by Migeru] this month's ET film blog is

Contemporary Russian Film (1991-) : Everything But the Kitchen Sink.  

First, if you have not yet, please read the main introductory diary here.  Basically, you just see a movie and come back here and talk about it in a few weeks.

Now, I would like to take the time to answer some Frequently Asked Questions.
 

Promoted by Migeru


I.  Where can I find the films?

Well...  Uhm...  Where do you usually find movies?  Here's where I go:

  1.  Local library.  It's free, but the selection is limited...  University libraries tend to have a better selection than public ones, in my experience.
  2.  Local video shop.  Not free, but some specialize in arthouse or foreign films.  
  3.  Netflix.  I understand this is an American thing, but it looks like the UK, Germany, and other places have similar online DVD rentals services.  I can't recommend them enough, if there is one in your part of the world.  
  4.  Movie theatres.  Yes, they still exist.  Large cities and college towns usually have one or more that show arthouse or foreign films, as well as film festivals.  Sadly, they can't be made to coincide with my whims.  But it still might be worth opening up your local paper to see what's playing.  
  5.  For the technologically proficient, here is a discussion of where and how to download films.  Please don't break the law.

It should be noted that our member in Egypt has successfully obtained movies for the May ET Film Blog.  Egypt.

II.  Can you just tell me which movie to see?  Please?  I don't have time for this level of deliberation...

No.  I can't.  Here's why:

  1.  As soon as I pick just one, you won't be able to find that one, and then you'll not watch anything.  
  2.  We may not have the same taste in movies.  For example, I hated Juno with a passion.  Look for something that interests you.    
  3.  Just pick something.  This is a not a video store, and we are not a couple, mewing, "I don't know, what do you want to see?"  "I don't care." "How bout this?" "Uhg.  Are you serious?"  "Fine, you choose the movie."  Just pick something!

The point of having such a large array of films from which to choose is to ensure everyone who wants to can participate.  Well that's the "official" reason.  (See below.)

Take a deep breath.  You only have to see one movie.  And I'm going to make it easy for you by giving you a cheat sheet.  A Cliff's Notes, if you will.  The following links include plot summaries, reviews, bios and even trailers you can watch!  In fact, you could just read the IMDB page and not see the movie, and I'd never know the difference.  How simple is that?  

Films, by director:

Nikita Mikhalkov

Burnt By the Sun
Burnt By the Sun won an Oscar, is unbelievably adorable, and Oleg Menshikov is crazy hot in it.  If you live in an area with electricity and indoor plumbing, this movie is probably available at your local library or video place.  

12
Nikita Mikhalkov, who is also a member of the Putin fan club, recently did a remake of Twelve Angry Men.  I've not been able to get my grubby paws on it, but the CW says it's a bunch of trite sycophantic crap.  Mikhalkov was widely considered a genius until he caught Putin-fever.  Now he's considered an embarrassment.  See.  It's not just me...

Aleksandr Sokurov

Russian Ark
I absolutely love the films of Aleksandr Sokurov.  He made this one in ONE SINGLE TAKE, in the Hermitage Museum.  Crazy!

Father and Son
I recently saw Father and Son.  I don't really understand it; there seems to be a rather unorthodox relationship at play.  Some people say it promotes incest or homosexuality, but I can't say I find it offensive.  I did find Sokurov's assertion that he has "no idea where people got that idea" offensive.  (Psst.  It's the erotic scene in the opening moments, Sasha.)  But it's quite lovely to look at.  Like a dream...

Aleksandra  
He's also got a new one about Chechnya out, but I haven't had any luck seeing it yet.

I first learned of Sokurov when I saw Whispering Pages.  You're probably going to have a tough time finding that one.  

Andrei Zvyagintsev

The Return
I LOVED LOVED LOVED this movie.  See it.  Fine.  There is my recommendation.  I hope you are happy.  Sheesh...

My review of it is here.

The Banishment
His latest, The Banishment, just won prizes for best scenario and camera work at the 9th European Film Festival in Lecce, Puglia.

Pavel Lungin

The Island  
Lungin's The Island reminds me A LOT of Zvyagintsev's work, stylistically.  In fact, this film has been widely acclaimed, but I haven't seen anyone say, "omg, that looks just like Zvyagintsev's film!"  Which is weird, because some of the frames make me wonder what the filmic equivalent of plagiarism is.  Nevertheless, it's hauntingly beautiful.  I'm interested to know how the story plays to those who are less religious.  It's hardly The Mission, but OTOH I did not find the explicitly religious message unpalatable.  It's a classy pro-Jesus flick.  

Ilya Khrzhanovsky

4
If Jesus and human dignity are not your thing, you might dig Khrzhanovsky, who has single-handedly resurrected "a slap in the face to the public taste."  This film managed to offend enough people it was almost banned.  Probably the same people who are going ape over The Island, I'd bet...

My review of it here.
Interview with man who wrote 4.

Timur Bekmambetov

Nightwatch
Daytwatch
In the same way Zvyagintsev and Lungin have a very similar cinematic style, so do Khrzhanovsky and Bekmambetov.  He directed Nightwatch and Daywatch, based on the vampire books by Lukyanenko.  I tried to get into Nightwatch, both the novel and the film, both with little success.  Which is odd, since I'm normally very into vampires.  

Irony of Fate: the sequel
He also just directed the sequel to the late Soviet classic, Irony of Fate.  Has anyone seen it?  I think it would be interesting to contrast and compare the two, along with Moscow Doesn't Believe in Tears, which is said to have a sequel in the making as well.  

I was actually in a Bekmambetov movie, "Wanted."  Like, literally, I exited a building downtown and was in the middle of the filming of a car chase.  Sadly, I'm pretty sure you won't see me in the final cut.  

Aleksei Balabanov

Brother
Famous for the cult hit gangster movie said to be a "realistic portrayal" of the kriminalnaya zhizn' of 1990's Russia, which I haven't seen, and the sequel...

Brother 2
Also shot in Chicago?  Hahaha.  Anyway, I need to see them both now, I guess.

Random other movies:

The Italian
I just saw this.  A sweet story.  The kid is freaking adorable.  "Hollywood ending", plot-driven traditional film, with nothing spectacular in the way of cinematography.  But a timely topic, and quite charming.

You I love
"On their first anniversary, Vera comes home to discover her boyfriend Tim in bed with another man."  I'm supposed to be receiving this in the mail tomorrow.  Cannot wait!    

The Mermaid
Haven't seen it yet, but it's being called "Moscow's answer to Amelie."  And I loved Amelie...

Piter FM
Romantic comedy.  Again, I haven't seen it.

Movies recommended by DoDo:

Kukushka (Rogozhkin)
Prisoner of the Caucasus (Bodrov)
The Rifleman of the Voroshilov Regiment (Govorukhin)

III.  I cannot possibly watch all those!!!!

You don't have to.  Just. See. One.

(or)

IV.  The movie I've chosen is not on your list.

That's perfectly ok.  Those are just suggestions, for people who are not as cool as you are.

V.  Why are you doing this?  To torture me?

My ulterior motive is to get a snapshot of the current state of Russian film, post-Soviet-wise.  Stylistic elements, themes, etc.  And then I will take those few observations distilled from 17 years of cinema and use them to make a vast and unholy generalization about Russia's current political climate.  This is my sick idea of a good time.  

VI.  I'm really worried I'm not going to be able to find something to watch.

In the time you've spent reading this diary, you could have found something.  You could have gone to Moscow and seen a movie and come back, even.  Maybe.  If you are close, like in Finland. or something.

VII.  Personally, I don't find this idea of yours challenging enough.  Can you make it more demanding?

Yes, I can.

Selected and suggested reading.  (For my own reference - but feel free to join in.)

Articles:

The State of Contemporary Russian Cinema
Gloom in the east: Jonathan Romney on Russian cinema
The New Russian Cinema
Prophets and Gain: New Russian Cinema
Orphans of the Storm: Economic Destitution, Physical Lack, and Social Alienation in the Contemporary Russian Melodrama
Russian rebellion: The exciting young film-makers emerging from Moscow's movie industry
Its Freedoms No Longer New, Russian Cinema Matures

Websites:
Russian Film Blog
Kino Kultura
KinoEye Archives

Tarkovsky:
Andrei Tarkovsky


VIII. Er, when is it?

How does the 3rd week of May sound? Yeah? Ish?

Poll
I will participate in this even though
. DVDs are hard to come by in my country. 0%
. Movies are banned in my country. 0%
. ET is banned in my country. 16%
. Russia is banned in my country. 0%
. I think watching a Russian film will turn me into a Communist. 16%
. I think watching a Russian film will turn me into a Stalo-Putinist. 0%
. I think watching a Russian film will turn me into a film snob. 16%
. I'm getting some brain surgery done that week. 0%
. I'm French and will be on holiday again that week. 16%
. It's hard. Waaaahhhh! 33%
. I'm better than this. 0%

Votes: 6
Results | Other Polls
Display:
sigh.

and I'm going to make it easy for you by giving you a cheat sheet. . . . The following links include plot summaries, reviews, bios and even trailers you can watch!

It's your profession, isn't it?  That's why you think the rest of us love research.

by Maryb2004 on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 10:12:46 PM EST
There is my recommendation.  I hope you are happy.  Sheesh...

I don't know about anybody else, but I am.  :)

by Maryb2004 on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 10:36:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
:)  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 03:14:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Doesn't everyone?  huh.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 03:13:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For the technologically proficient, here is a discussion of where and how to download films.

For a real technical discussion for BitTorrent peer-to-peer downloading, read suggestions by ThatBritGuy, Turambar or DeAnander, A swedish kind of death, or for Mac users not choosing Azureus, Colman and Magnifico. If you need step-by-step instructions, read A swedish kind of death again over at MoA.

Please don't break the law.

Is that possible? ;-) Which laws? :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 05:50:27 AM EST
Any laws that could get me in trouble.  The rest of you are free to live on the edge. ;)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 03:15:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm one of those people who loved "The Island", but I'm probably too old to enjoy "4" - for goodness sake, I didn't even drag myself to Manderley!

I don't know about the screenshots, but the "pedagogy" line is very different - yes, you are being taught about life, but by a saint, not a very likely demon...

by Sargon on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 01:15:27 PM EST
I don't think anyone can "enjoy" 4.  It's very not enjoyable.  But interesting...  

What is Manderley?  

Are you Orthodox?  Happy Easter, if so.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Apr 29th, 2008 at 03:18:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Second instalment of Lars fon Trier, after Dogville? - my memory is really cracking lately, I might have misremembered the name.

I don't consider myself Orthodox, but for family reasons had to find a church where I am now... met a bunch of very interesting people, strangers in a strange land...

by Sargon on Wed May 7th, 2008 at 08:28:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm browsing play.com since there is a sale on and trying to pick a couple out. Since price will dictate it looks likely to be cuckoo, although I like the look of Burnt by the Sun, too. Oooh dilemma.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sat May 3rd, 2008 at 12:45:09 PM EST
Shameless off-topic question.

I long wanted to identify two Russian animated short films I saw in the eighties. Maybe someone saw them & recognises from the description...

  1. A communist fable about a little narrow-gauge steam engine. It wants to enjoy life and run around exploring the world instead of working. But doing so, it is irresponsible, ignores all warnings from older locos, and manages to end up in a steam engine graveyard. Somehow, it is saved, and then works together happily ever after with the big boys on broad gauge.

  2. Football. An (amateur?) football team forms and defeats all odds. The scene I remember vividly is playing in rain, with the football field transforming into a lake, with players playing swimming or from under the water. I remember it to have been very funny.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 05:52:01 PM EST
two Russian animated short films

Er, Soviet.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 05:53:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The second one should be either "Kak kazaki v futbol igrali" (How cossaks played football, part of a series about cossaks. If the heroes were a thin, a fat and huge, and a very small one, it's the one), or "Gol!" (the same heroes as in "Shaibu! Shaibu"; if the heroes are a bunch of street kids, this should be the one). I don't think I ever saw the first one.

Can't do refs now - no Cyrillic keyboard, and no possibility of looking at entertainment sites.

by Sargon on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 08:12:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It was Как казаки в футбол играли, many thanks! It's up on YouTube, I am also downloading a torrent (will be a present).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 01:25:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess we could start Ukrainian film blog with it :)
by Sargon on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 04:29:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, everyone in the West knows it's only a matter of time before Russia invades and totally takes over Ukraine anyways...

</snark>

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 02:06:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's nothing so permanent as temporary, you see :)
by Sargon on Thu May 15th, 2008 at 07:43:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As a note to US readers, filmconnection.org is a free public lending library for documentary, foreign and art film DVD's. They have a dozen or so films under the Russia tab:

http://filmconnection.org/countries/russia

I don't know how they do it, but I'm glad they do.

by dmun on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 08:43:02 PM EST


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