Russian Films & Filmmakers

Discuss films and filmmakers of the 20th century (and even a little of the 19th century). Threads may contain spoilers.
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miless
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#26 Post by miless » Tue Dec 12, 2006 2:58 am

I have heard about this film several times over the past couple of years, and it intrigues me (especially as an end-of-it-all-nuclear-holocaust film with slightly religious undertones, by one of Tarkovsky's students who was also a PA on Stalker)...
the thing is, I cannot find it anywhere... from any region... or format (I cannot even find a VHS copy)

has anyone here seen it that can comment on it, or how to find it?
can anyone comment upon Luposhansky as a director? apparently he's still making films.

Bajaja
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#27 Post by Bajaja » Tue Dec 12, 2006 10:00 am

superhappyfun.com has it. If and when you get it, please, let us know your opinion.

yoshimori
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#28 Post by yoshimori » Tue Dec 12, 2006 12:07 pm

Bajaja wrote:superhappyfun.com has it.
Yah. But theirs is in Italian with no subtitles.

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Barmy
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#29 Post by Barmy » Tue Dec 12, 2006 12:37 pm

Saw it a few years ago, attracted by the Tarkovsky connection. I wasn't that impressed--very low budget with muddy visuals--nothing like Tarkovsky. It would be tough to make this look good on DVD. I don't really remember much more than that, but Tarkovsky fans should not agonize over its unavailability. It would be nice to have, but not a must-see.

Now what I want to see is "Gost" ("The Guest"), directed by the Stalker dude, Alexander Kaidanovsky.

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Felix
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#30 Post by Felix » Tue Dec 12, 2006 2:06 pm

Barmy wrote:Saw it a few years ago, attracted by the Tarkovsky connection. I wasn't that impressed--very low budget with muddy visuals--nothing like Tarkovsky. It would be tough to make this look good on DVD. I don't really remember much more than that, but Tarkovsky fans should not agonize over its unavailability. It would be nice to have, but not a must-see..
Strongly disagree here Barmy, I thought it was wonderful, as my recommendation of it to Second Run, below, notes. You pays your money and you takes your choice of course. I agree that there is not a strong Tarkovsky connection but some might see it there.

I agree with the previous poster who warned against the SHF version, it just does not make the grade. Were it only the lack of subtitles I would recommend it but the lack of tinting and the Italian dub rule it out. Unfortunately unless some kind soul picks it up that is about it... Little chance of this one being revived I fear.

I was not aware that Lopushansky was still on the go, that is interesting, do you know any more, Miless?
I guess you guys, or maybe MoC are the only chance we ever have of getting (Russian) Lopushansky's sublime Letters From A Dead Man on DVD. Please please please...

There is a rather duff Italian version available from SHF but it is dubbed in Italian, no English subtitles, and is in monochrome whereas the version screened in the UK on C4 in 1988 was tinted and did have English subtitles. My old VHS copy leaves much to be desired in terms of picture quality, but it is still one of my most treasured films in any format

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miless
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#31 Post by miless » Tue Dec 12, 2006 2:41 pm

Lopushansky has not made many films, but he made one this year entitled Gadkie lebedi (Ugly Swans) and it is based (like Stalker, sort of, and Letters From a Dead Man) on a Strugatsky brothers novel...
previous films he's done include:
Gadkie lebedi/Ugly Swans (2006)
Konets veka/Turn of the Century (2001)
Russkaya simfoniya/Russian Symphony (1994)
Posetitel muzeya/Visitor of a Museum (1989)
Expulsion From Hell (1988) (which may, or may not be, a short film)
Pisma myortvogo cheloveka/Letters From a Dead Man (1986)

and two short films: Solo (1980) and Slyozy v vetrenuyu pogodu/Tears During a Winter Day (1978)

unfortunately, it seems that none of these are available in this country (or any others)

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solaris72
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#32 Post by solaris72 » Tue Dec 12, 2006 3:34 pm

miless wrote:Lopushansky has not made many films, but he made one this year entitled Gadkie lebedi (Ugly Swans) and it is based (like Stalker, sort of, and Letters From a Dead Man) on a Strugatsky brothers novel...
Letters from a Dead Man isn't based on a Strugatsky novel so far as I know, it's an original script that was co-written by Boris Strugatsky.

Saw this in 35mm at the MFA in Boston a couple years back. Liked it a lot; it doesn't hold a candle to Stalker, but if nothing else it's one of the most atmospheric post-apocalyptic movies ever made. Visually it kind of reminded me of The Element of Crime.

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Barmy
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#33 Post by Barmy » Tue Dec 12, 2006 3:41 pm

Yes, it had that "Element" murk. I'm not saying it's a bad film, I'm just saying it's not something I would clamor for.

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#34 Post by alfons416 » Fri Dec 15, 2006 8:02 am

i saw Letters from a Dead Man early this year on Gothenburg Film Festival, and i loved it. really hope it will get released on dvd. the toned-down post-apocalyptic atmosphere is just brilliant. se it if you can!

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MichaelB
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#35 Post by MichaelB » Thu Dec 21, 2006 12:55 pm

Other Russian directors not yet mentioned:

Grigori Kozintsev - I've only seen Hamlet (1964) and King Lear (1971), but both are extraordinary, not least for a rapport with his composer (Dmitri Shostakovich, no less) that's right up there with Eisenstein/Prokofiev, Hitchcock/Herrmann and Leone/Morricone. Both are released by Ruscico in anamorphic transfers that come in either PAL or converted NTSC flavours.

Alexei Balabanov - I'd be a lot more enthusiastic about his work if someone had brought it up circa 2000, when I'd only seen the extraordinary Of Freaks and Men (1998) and the flawed but promising Happy Days (1992). Since then, though, it's become clear that he's happiest making fast-paced, admittedly hugely entertaining but utterly cynical trash like the two Brother films (1997/2000) and War (2002), just about the most misanthropic film I've seen in ages.

Andrei Zvyagintsev - for my money, his debut The Return was the closest thing to a flat-out masterpiece that I saw in 2003. For a debut, it's unnervingly confident.
solaris72 wrote:Quality (as with most obscure foreign animation DVDs) isn't great, but it's definitely no worse than the Masters of Russian Animation discs.
I actually thought the Masters of Russian Animation discs were pretty good, with the major and serious exception of the subtitles - which were not only compulsory but also painfully badly positioned in The Vixen and the Hare, most of whose action takes place in the bottom quarter of the frame!

So if anyone knows of a Norstein disc with optional subs, I'd buy it like a shot.

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#36 Post by terabin » Thu Jan 18, 2007 4:06 am

I second Zviyagintsev's The Return. A powerful film on father-son relationships.

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#37 Post by Handsome Dan » Mon Jan 29, 2007 2:37 am

Let's not forget Vasily Shukshin. I've only seen There Lived Such a Lad, but I remember it as a fairly charming shaggy-dog story, one which struck me as curiously American in tone, although I don't remember exactly why. Shukshin came across as a vary charming actor and not-bad-at-all director.

My favorite Soviet post-thaw movie (that is, the one that feels "thawiest") is Carnival Night, in which a bunch of wild teenagers conspire to actually have a good time on New Year's Eve despite the stern disapproval of the local party tyrant. This movie must have played like Porky's back in the old days, what with such a pro-mischief message and all (once again, in 1956! Three years after Stalin's demise!). Does a good job as well at showcasing some of the phenomenal singers and dancers stuck behind the Iron Curtain.

Which reminds me: there are scores of apparently jaw-dropping Soviet musicals from the 1930s just waiting to be rediscovered. I haven't seen any myself, but there's a great documentary on this subject called East Side Story, which features plenty of tantalizing footage. I'm not sure how much I want to see any of these, as I might experience too much cognitive dissonance knowing that all of these good-time, energetic song and dance spectaculars occured while the great terror, Ukrainian famine and various other historical crimes went on right next door. But I fully allow that I may be over-sensitive to these kinds of things - I even get kind of queasy when Fred Astaire lines up his background dancers and "shoots" them with his cane in Top Hat, since lining people up and (actually) shooting them was something of a national pastime in an awful lot of nations in 1936. ANYWAY. No doubt there are many moments of soul-cleansing brilliance in these films, so go check 'em out.

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What A Disgrace
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#38 Post by What A Disgrace » Sat Mar 31, 2007 10:07 pm

The Power of the Dark Crystal

I should be skeptical, but I grew up with the original movie, and I'm completely helpless and dumbfounded at the discovery of this movie's creation.

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Awesome Welles
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#39 Post by Awesome Welles » Fri Jun 29, 2007 4:33 pm

Neotpravlennoye pismo [The Unmailed Letter] (Mikheil Kalatozishvili, 1959)

In 1995 Francis Ford Coppola funded a restoration and the film was exhibited in the United States.

In 2007 the film has once again been restored and has played at the Tribeca Film Festival.

I think it's a good bet that we will hopefully see a DVD soon but through who? Any ideas?

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Person
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#40 Post by Person » Fri Jun 29, 2007 8:40 pm

I'd love to finally see this film. Has there been a Russian release? No listing at www.Ruscico.com .

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Awesome Welles
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#41 Post by Awesome Welles » Tue Jul 24, 2007 8:50 am

Still nothing at Ruscico. But I did find this page which has a still of the film if anyone is interested. The film showed at the TriBeCa film festival in April, hopefully it is in the works somewhere.

EDIT: Just received an email from Seagull Films, who own the print of the film. They have confirmed that the print will be circulating retrospective cinemas from January 2008 as part of the 'Envisioning Russia' series.

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#42 Post by Person » Tue Jul 24, 2007 4:09 pm

I badly want to see this film. The Russians did some audacious stuff with the camera in the late 50 and 60s (War and Peace is mind-boggling). It also sounds Herzogian, which is also something I look for, so this one sounds right up my street.

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Awesome Welles
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#43 Post by Awesome Welles » Wed Jul 25, 2007 7:39 am

Just had confirmation from the BFI Southbank in London, they will not involved with the Envisioning Russia programme. :(

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#44 Post by SoyCuba » Wed Jul 25, 2007 9:58 am

I hope this will get a decent DVD release soon as I was completely blown away by the visual beauty of both The Cranes Are Flying and Soy Cuba. This is the only only movie by the team of director Kalatozov and cinematographer Urusevsky besides those two as far as I know, and I can't help but to have ridiculously high expectations for this one too.

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Awesome Welles
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#45 Post by Awesome Welles » Wed Jul 25, 2007 10:08 am

Everyone always mentions that they made three collaborations together but on IMDB confirmation they list four when you look up joint ventures:

From the IMDB page (which cannot be linked):

1. Letyat zhuravli (1957) 8.2/10 (1753 votes)
...aka Cranes Are Flying, The (1960) (USA)
2. Neotpravlennoye pismo (1959)
...aka Letter That Was Never Sent, The (1959)
3. Pervyy eshelon (1955)
...aka First Echelon, The (1955)
4. Soy Cuba (1964) 8.4/10 (1191 votes)

I guess maybe because Urusevsky was co-DP on The First Echelon (with Yuri Yekelchik), or something happened on set like he had to leave or something, they always reference three?

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SoyCuba
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#46 Post by SoyCuba » Wed Jul 25, 2007 10:27 am

So it seems. In my case I hadn't noticed that because I usually use the 'show filmographies by votes' function on IMDb and thus I couldn't see a movie in the list that has less than five votes.

All the better then: now I suddenly have one more movie I have huge interest in. Although I suspect that The First Echelon may not be as visually innovative as their other movies.

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#47 Post by tavernier » Thu Jan 17, 2008 11:09 pm

Envisioning Rissia: This series at the Walter Reade Theater in Manhattan (January 25-February 14) includes a mix of old and new, familiar and obscure titles, including the U.S. premiere of Sokurov's Elegy of Life:

Alexandra / Aleksandra Aleksandr Sokurov, Russia, 2007
The Ascent / Voskhozhdeniye Larisa Shepitko, USSR, 1976
At Home Among Strangers, Stranger at Home / Svoy sredi chuzhikh, chuzhoy sredi svoikh Nikita Mikhalkov, USSR, 1974
Battleship Potemkin / Bronenosets Potyomkin Sergei M. Eisenstein, USSR, 1925
Bed and Sofa / Tretya Meshchanskaya Abram Room, USSR, 1927
Cargo 200 / Gruz 200 NY Premiere Aleksei Balabanov, Russia, 2007
Carnival Night / Karnavalnaya noch Eldar Ryazanov, USSR, 1956
Courier / Kurer Karen Shakhnazarov, USSR, 1986
The Cranes Are Flying / Letyat zhuravli Mikhail Kalatozov, USSR, 1957
Dersu Uzala Akira Kurosawa, USSR/Japan, 1975
Elegy of Life: Rostropovich, Vishnevskaya / Elegiya zhizni. Rostropovich. Vishnevskaya US Premiere Aleksandr Sokurov, Russia, 2006
The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks /Neobychainye priklyucheniya mistera Vesta v strane bolshevikov
Lev Kuleshov, USSR, 1924
Happiness / Schastye Aleksandr Medvedkin, USSR, 1934
Jazzman / My iz dzhaza Karen Shakhnazarov, USSR, 1983
Jewish Luck / Jidische Glickn Aleksandr Granovsky, USSR, 1925
Jolly Fellows or Moscow Laughs / Vesyolye rebyata NY Premiere Grigori Aleksandrov, USSR, 1934
July Rain / Iyulskiy dozhd Marlen Khutsiyev, USSR, 1966
The Letter Never Sent / Neotpravlennoye pismo Mikhail Kalatozov, USSR, 1959
The Mirror / Zerkalo Andrei Tarkovsky, USSR, 1974
Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears / Moskva slezam ne verit Vladimir Menshov, USSR, 1980
The New Moscow / Novaya Moskva Aleksandr Medvedkin, USSR, 1938
The Russian Question / Russkiy vopros Mikhail Romm, USSR, 1947
Sadko Aleksandr Ptushko, USSR, 1952
The Thirteen / Trinadtsat NY Premiere Mikhail Romm, USSR, 1936

beckmann_max
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#48 Post by beckmann_max » Thu Jul 03, 2008 7:40 pm

I found "The Ugly Swans" by Lopushansky at ruscico.com. Does anyone know more about this?

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What A Disgrace
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#49 Post by What A Disgrace » Mon Aug 18, 2008 2:13 pm

So, a friend of mine (the friend who is single-handedly responsible for turning me on to film in the first place) has a blog going, currently, and his third entry is in response to Bondarchuk's War and Peace. He promised to get around to watching Killer of Sheep if I would plug his blog.

Apologies if this is the kind of thing done elsewhere.

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Lemmy Caution
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#50 Post by Lemmy Caution » Wed Aug 20, 2008 2:26 pm

Has anyone seen Izgnanie (2007) aka The Banishment?
Gets good reviews on IMDb. Andrei Zvyagintsev first film The Return is said to be in a style reminiscent of Tarkovsky. The Banishment is his second film and based upon a Saroyan novella.

Sounds worthwhile, but any thoughts on either film or the director would be appreciated. I'm pretty far behind in my Russian film viewing, and have a pretty substantial kevyip in that regard.
Last edited by Lemmy Caution on Thu Aug 21, 2008 1:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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