RUSCICO (Russian Cinema Council)

Milestone, Flicker Alley, Oscilloscope, Cinema Guild...they're all here.
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Scharphedin2
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#1 Post by Scharphedin2 » Fri May 19, 2006 6:44 pm

I could not find a thread on Ruscico...

Recently, a Russian friend of mine gave me The Barber From Siberia as a present. It is a Pal release from Ruscico with English subtitles, and I think the quality of the disc is quite good (although, unfortunately the extras are untranslated).

On browsing Ruscico's site, I was surprised at the quite extensive list of titles they offer. Many of them, films that I have wanted to see for years. Apparently most of the titles exist in both Pal and NTSC versions, and I also understand that other labels in different regions have used Ruscico's transfers for their releases.

I am interested to hear comments from anyone who is familiar with the label's output. Which titles to steer clear of, and which titles are safe buys.

Discussions on the individual films would also be interesting.
Last edited by Scharphedin2 on Tue Aug 01, 2006 5:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Michael Kerpan
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#2 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri May 19, 2006 7:19 pm

I highly recommend the two Kozintsev releases (Hamlet and King Lear) -- not perfect -- but the best versions available to date. I have the NTSC versions -- but the PAL ones are supposedly better.

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tryavna
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#3 Post by tryavna » Fri May 19, 2006 7:35 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:but the PAL ones are supposedly better.
From what I've heard, this seems to be true of all Ruscico releases. So I'd advise you to go with the PAL versions.

I heartily recommend Bondarchuk's amazing adaptation of War and Peace. The A/V quality is nowhere near Criterion, but it's more than acceptable. And the movie, of course, is one of a kind.

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Ashirg
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#4 Post by Ashirg » Fri May 19, 2006 7:51 pm

Michael, you might be interested in this comparison between Ruscico's NTSC disc and Close-up's Russian PAL disc of King Lear. The Russian disc is not subtitled, but it's also missing all the extras from Ruscico and is only on 1 disc. As you can see from captures, the frame is also a different ratio.

unclehulot
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#5 Post by unclehulot » Fri May 19, 2006 8:00 pm

Just a general comment. Virtually all of their releases sport a very misguided attempt at sound "restoration." Apparently they take the original track, apply some fake stereo to the front channels, then gather ye old comrades with a collection of old pots and pans and some sticks to hit them with, then put this crap in the rear channels ("look Dmitri, I found the long lost 5.1 track on this 1945 film... hehehe... public love da 5.1 crap!). Apparently, if you hold a gun to their head, and gather enough irate Tarkovsky fans, you can manage to squeeze an original mono track out of them... otherwise, forget it, they're gonna play ping pong with your head between left and right rear speakers. If Criterion did this, we'd NEVER hear the end of it!

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Ashirg
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#6 Post by Ashirg » Fri May 19, 2006 8:03 pm

They started including original mono on all their recent releases, I think starting with King Lear.

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Tommaso
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#7 Post by Tommaso » Sat May 20, 2006 6:42 am

A high-point of Ruscico's releases is their DVD of Paradjanov's "Ashik-Kerib", one of the most visually intriguing films and magical films I ever came across. They again, however, made a pseudo 5.1. soundtrack, but the image quality, extras and removable subtitles are THAT much superior (even if not perfect) to the awful release on Kino that there's really no question about which one to buy. Sadly, they murdered their visually also very good release of Paradjanov's "Surami Fortress" (perhaps an even better film) by only having a forced russian voice-over as soundtrack option. What a shame, it's totally unwatchable now.

Let's hope that they bring out a new version of this, as they did with their Tarkovsky releases (restoring the original mono soundtrack, in that case). And well, why aren't there any good DVD versions of "The Colour of Pomegranates" and "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors" anywhere in the world? If Ruscico doesn't do it, where are Criterion or MoC when they are needed?

unclehulot
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#8 Post by unclehulot » Sat May 20, 2006 9:55 am

Ashirg wrote:They started including original mono on all their recent releases, I think starting with King Lear.
Ah, I didn't know that, actually that was my last Ruscico purchase, and I guess I didn't even know it had a mono track as it has been on my "to watch" queue for way to long! I kept up with the series more in the first couple of years, which have been distributed more universally here in the US.

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Scharphedin2
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#9 Post by Scharphedin2 » Tue May 23, 2006 2:53 pm

Thank you all for your input on this thread.

The Kozintsev films are on my list, so I am happy to hear that these are good. WAR AND PEACE is to me a blind buy -- always thought this sounded fantastic, but never thought I would be able to view it, let alone own it on home video. I already have Kino's THE COLOR OF POMEGRANATES, and it was one of the most difficult films that I have ever watched -- I really think this is one of the only films that was really ruined for me due to a poor presentation on DVD. So, I am thrilled that ASHIK-KERIB is one of the really good Ruscico releases -- certainly a title I will get. SHADOWS OF FORGOTTEN ANCESTORS has got to be one of the highest rated films in various film literature that still remains absolutely unavailable... how could that be?

Having gone through Ruscico's web site, I have come up with a (rather lengthy) list of other films that I think would be really interesting to see. If anyone has seen the films or even own the DVDs, please post a few comments.

LADY WITH A DOG (dir. Iosif Heifits)

SIBERIADE and A NEST OF GENTRY (Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky)

THE COMMISAR (Askolov)

QUIET FLOWS THE DON (Gerasimov)

THEY FOUGHT FOR THEIR MOTHERLAND and DESTINY OF A MAN (Bondarchuk)

THE CLEAR SKY (Grigori Chukrai)

REPENTANCE (Abuladzhe)

MOSCOW DOES NOT BELIEVE IN TEARS (Vladimir Menshov)

AGONY and COME AND SEE (Klimov)

The films of Nikita Mikhalkov -- URGA, UNFINISHED PIECE FOR PLAYER PIANO, SEVEN DAYS FROM THE LIFE OF OBLOMOV, SLAVE OF LOVE, AT HOME AMONG STRANGERS

RUSLAN AND LUDMILA and ILYA MUROMETS (Ptushkov)

DERSU UZALA (Kurosawa)

ANNA KARENINA (Zarkini)

I have not included the TARKOVSKY and EISENSTEIN films, as they are dealt with separately in the forum. There are also a number of upcoming titles listed that I have not included on this list. Comments on any of these are of course welcome as well.

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zedz
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#10 Post by zedz » Tue May 23, 2006 11:49 pm

LADY WITH A DOG (dir. Iosif Heifits)

I've never seen this, but it's long had a reputation as one of the best Chekhov adaptations, and as one of the best films in a generally fallow period in Soviet film history.

THE COMMISAR (Askolov)

Excellent film. One of a batch of fine films made by young directors in the late sixties and promptly banned or otherwise suppressed (see also Brief Encounters, Colour of Pomegranates, Andrey Rublyov). It's more social realist in style than any of those, however, in line with some of the more mainstream Czech New Wave films.

REPENTANCE (Abuladzhe)

Phantasmogorical and unforgettable. A dark political fable that veers between Fellinian, Pasolinian and Paradjanovian extremes. Visually and conceptually, it's even more of a mouthful than that last sentence. When we were doing our 'best films of the 80s' lists (q.v.) this is one that haunted me but didn't make my final list because my feelings about it are still unresolved. A must-see, I guess.

AGONY and COME AND SEE (Klimov)

There are already threads dealing with Klimov, especially Come and See. I much prefer the work of his wife, Larissa Shepitko. If Ruscico have got The Ascent, buy it blind.

The films of Nikita Mikhalkov -- URGA, UNFINISHED PIECE FOR PLAYER PIANO, SEVEN DAYS FROM THE LIFE OF OBLOMOV, SLAVE OF LOVE, AT HOME AMONG STRANGERS

I'm not great fan of Mikhalkov, but Unfinished Piece and Oblomov are good literary adaptations. Urga has magnificent Mongolian landscapes, but the story is hackneyed and deterministic (Noble Savages Defiled by Civilisation).

DERSU UZALA (Kurosawa)

Not great Kurosawa, but fascinating: essential for Kurosawa fans

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Gregory
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#11 Post by Gregory » Wed May 24, 2006 12:32 am

I second the recommendation for Repentance. It's a clever dark comedy that has stayed with me since I first saw it. I think the writer and director intended the character of Varlam, the mayor of a small town in Georgia, to be a fairly straightforward stand-in for Stalin (who originally hailed from Georgia). The Soviet Union was intact and censorship was still a major concern when the film was made. I find the image of a woman (trying not to get into specifics/spoilers) continually exhuming Varlam's body night after night delicious and unforgetable as a plot element and an image. Metaphors aside, the film works quite well on a literal level, too. I recently bought the New Yorker port of the Ruscico disc. I haven't had the chance to watch it yet but some comments on the quality of it can be found in this thread.

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Kirkinson
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#12 Post by Kirkinson » Wed May 24, 2006 3:53 am

Stalin was probably Abuladze's main concern. Stalin's heritage used to be such a source of pride for much of the Georgian population that when Khrushchev denounced him in 1956 it caused heated demonstrations in Tbilisi that ended in a massacre. Repentance was in some senses Abuladze's own way of digging up Stalin's corpse again as a kind of national atonement (hence the title). But Varlam is also largely based on another Georgian, Lavrenty Beria, Stalin's associate who was directly responsible for many of the atrocities committed during the "Great Purge" and later continued to hold a very firm grip on Georgia. Most of the non-fantastical events that happen in the film are based on actual crimes committed by Stalin and Beria. In fact I think Abuladze claimed that everything depicted in the film was based on fact. Articles like this one (spoilers therein) would certainly seem to support that.

I suppose it's obvious now that I'm also recommending it. I think it's pretty extraordinary and I placed it pretty high when we did our 80's lists a while back. As Zedz and Gregory have indicated, it's likely at the very least to leave a very strong impression on you, even if it confounds you or just plain irritates you. It certainly wasn't universally acclaimed, even if it seemed so when it came out. Paradjanov (a victim of far greater oppression than even most his censored colleagues) openly hated it and felt that in his obsession with a dead tyrant Abuladze ignored the fact that there were tyrants still at large in the world. Personally I disagree: I think Abuladze's hope was to prevent the celebrity of tyranny by reminding people about the crimes committed by people like Stalin and Beria. How well Abuladze went about this is of course a matter of debate -- Paradjanov also felt that by adopting a sense of black humor Abuladze was also making light of Stalin's atrocities, but the recorded reactions of audiences at the time (as in the article I linked to above) suggest that this was not the case for most people. And after watching a fair share of Georgian films it seems to me that this slightly absurd and somewhat cynical sense of humor is also partly a cultural thing (cf. Iosseliani).

Here's another nice article from the time of its release, this one from the New York Times about Abuladze visiting the US for the film's premiere at Telluride.

Though you can read my comments on this matter in the other thread Gregory linked to, I'll reiterate here that if you end up liking Repentance a lot you might want to consider looking into the other two Abuladze films Ruscico has released, The Plea and The Wishing Tree. The three films are generally considered to be something of an informal trilogy, though they fit together more thematically than stylistically. Ruscico has a fourth Abuladze DVD in the works, Magdana's Donkey, which he co-directed with Rezo Chkheidze, but god knows when it'll be released. There are DVD listings on Ruscico's web site that have been "Coming Soon" for two years.

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Michael Kerpan
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#13 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed May 24, 2006 4:51 pm

> There are DVD listings on Ruscico's web site that have been
> "Coming Soon" for two years.

There are films that have been "coming soon" from them for considerably more than two years.

E.g. -- I think "Don Quixote" was scheduled for 2002, and then 2003m abnd then 2004, and then 2005 -- and now 2006.

;~{

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Scharphedin2
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#14 Post by Scharphedin2 » Wed May 24, 2006 6:44 pm

Thank you for all of this information. I am still surprised at how comparatively little information is out there, and how few people seem to have actually purchased DVDs from Ruscico, considering the gold mine that the label appears to be.

I will go ahead and order a number of these releases, and, although it will be difficult for me to commit to watch all of them in their entirety right away, I will post some comments here for anyone interested in these films and Ruscico in the future.

My final question is more practical, and simply is for a recommended vendor on the internet. I would like to go with the PAL versions if possible. I found one specialist Russian DVDs and music e-tailer in the US, but I am fairly certain that they carry the NTSC versions. The Ruscico site has a store, but although I would love to support the label directly, I am a little apprehensive about having DVDs shipped from Russia. Do any of you have any experiences with ordering directly from them?

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#15 Post by toiletduck! » Wed May 24, 2006 6:55 pm

I ordered King Lear from them online back in March and they quoted a delivery time (to Chicago) of 4-6 weeks. Practically five weeks to the day later, it arrived in the quaintest little plain brown paper and twine packaging, in pristine condition.

I fully endorse ordering from Ruscico online.

-Toilet Dcuk

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Michael Kerpan
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#16 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed May 24, 2006 7:19 pm

If you want the PAL vesions, you probably need to order from Ruscico itself.

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Ovader
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#17 Post by Ovader » Wed May 24, 2006 7:38 pm

I had no problems ordering direct from them as well. Positive experience. :D

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ogtec
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#18 Post by ogtec » Thu May 25, 2006 3:34 am

Scharphedin2 wrote:Thank you for all of this information. I am still surprised at how comparatively little information is out there, and how few people seem to have actually purchased DVDs from Ruscico, considering the gold mine that the label appears to be.
When he was still reviewing for DVDtimes.co.uk, Michael Brooke covered about a dozen or so of their discs. This is up to a couple of years ago, so the more recent releases won't be touched upon.

Michael Brooke reviews at DVDtimes.co.uk.

You'll have to go down the list and find the Ruscico ones as he didn't limit himself just to these releases. IIRC he actually had a subscription with them for all of their (then extant) discs......

He also writes a blog, but I can't find any mention of these DVDs therein.

George

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Kinsayder
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#19 Post by Kinsayder » Sat May 27, 2006 10:37 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:E.g. -- I think "Don Quixote" was scheduled for 2002, and then 2003m abnd then 2004, and then 2005 -- and now 2006.
I'm eager to see this too, having been bowled over by Kozintsev's "Hamlet" and "Lear" (both of which I ordered direct from Ruscico). There's a new Japanese edition of his "Don Quixote" but I think I may need English subtitles for this one.

Has anyone sampled the Ruscico "Oblomov" discs? I'd be interested to know how they compare to the Kino "digitally remastered" edition.

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Kirkinson
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#20 Post by Kirkinson » Sun May 28, 2006 4:10 pm

It looks like these will be Ruscico's next releases, judging by the amount of information included for each entry on their Coming Soon page. These all have covers up:

Armed and Very Dangerous (Vladimir Vainshtok, 1977)
Bread, Gold, Gun (Samvel Gasparov, 1980)
Celebration (Igor Sukachyov, 2001)
Nine Days of One Year (Mikhail Romm, 1961)
17 Moments of Spring (Tatiana Lioznova, 1973)
Urga: Territory of Love a.k.a. Close to Eden (Nikita Mikhalkov, 1991)

These two have information up on audio tracks and/or features but do not have covers yet, so I'm assuming they're a little further off:

The Assassin of the Tsar (Karen Shakhnazarov, 1991)
Djamilya (Irina Poplavskaya, 1968)

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Ashirg
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#21 Post by Ashirg » Tue Jun 06, 2006 10:49 am

Here's an intersting comparison of 2 Russian DVDs on Kozintsev's Don Quixote.

The reviewer notes that he could not match screen shot from 2 discs, which means there were 2 versions shot at the same time - full screen and scope. This was the first scope and stereo picture on Lenfilm studio, so full frame version probably was for TV and as safe alternative. And based on production artwork, the scope version was in mind in pre-production.

Anonymous

#22 Post by Anonymous » Wed Jun 07, 2006 5:08 pm

My pervert pick from Rusisco was Cruel Romance ; not half as thrilling, artistically, as your Kozintsevs and Parajdanov, but delivering exactly what the title promises in great style. I'd buy the Kozinstevs any day, were I rich ; now what I'm really looking for are some films by Muratova and Guerman. Khrustalyov, my car and Twenty days without war by Guerman are fascinating films, and so is Muratova's The Sentimental Policeman, at least in my memory.

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zedz
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#23 Post by zedz » Wed Jun 07, 2006 10:35 pm

kumo2006 wrote:now what I'm really looking for are some films by Muratova and Guerman.
The Ruscico DVD of Muratova's Chekhovian Motifs, with English subs and a short doc on Kira (also subbed), is good. The film is concentrated Muratova, so may do your head in if unprepared. If you enjoyed The Sentimental Cop, though, this shouldn't be a problem: of the films I've seen, these two are probably the closest to one another (and most idiosyncratically inimitable).

Passions is also available, but I haven't seen it. It's said to be her most commercial and least individual film, but just trying to imagine what that means makes me want to see it.

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Scharphedin2
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#24 Post by Scharphedin2 » Thu Jun 08, 2006 4:04 am

toiletduck! wrote:I fully endorse ordering from Ruscico online.
I can now add myself to having successfully ordered from RUSCICO... I thought the above was an embellished description, but in fact they quoted me four weeks, and I think that was exactly four weeks ago today, and now my secretary just came into my office with "the quaintest little plain brown paper and twine packaging (the corners of a few DVD boxes sticking out of the paper at one end)."

The titles I went with this time were: REPENTANCE, WAR AND PEACE, THE COMMISAR, THE 41ST, DESTINY OF A MAN, MOSCOW DOES NOT BELIEVE IN TEARS and RUSLAN AND LUDMILA. I will not be able to watch them all in a short space of time, but I will report back with comments on the quality of the discs in the coming days and weeks.

Anonymous

#25 Post by Anonymous » Thu Jun 08, 2006 4:20 pm

zedz wrote:The Ruscico DVD of Muratova's Chekhovian Motifs, with English subs and a short doc on Kira (also subbed), is good. The film is concentrated Muratova, so may do your head in if unprepared. If you enjoyed The Sentimental Cop, though, this shouldn't be a problem: of the films I've seen, these two are probably the closest to one another (and most idiosyncratically inimitable).

Passions is also available, but I haven't seen it. It's said to be her most commercial and least individual film, but just trying to imagine what that means makes me want to see it.
Thanks for the info. I was too darn lazy about Rusisco's list and did not spot Chekhovian Motifs, which I've never seen and am curious about. We used to have a cinema hall in Paris which was specialized in Russian films (The Arlequin on rue de Rennes) — the place is still fine but it lost its specificity ; you could see great stuff there

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