Sunday, March 23, 2008

ACMI Focus on a Century of Russian Cinema

A look at ACMI's website reveals the next focus, on A Century of Russian Cinema. Dates are 17-27 April, unfortunately exactly corresponding with the Festival of German Films. While German films are often hit-and-miss, there are gems to be found (as with last year's Offset) so it's going to be a juggling act to try and get the best of the German Film Festival and not miss the rare opportunity to see some Soviet-era classics like Tarkovsky's Stalker on the big screen.

I love the Eastern European aesthetics in cinema, so I'll try to squeeze in as many of the Russian films as possible. Any tips as to what to seek out are appreciated. The dates have been entered into my Google Calendar of Film Events. Below is the info gleaned from ACMI:

Walking the Streets of Moscow (Ya shagayu po Moskve)
Unclassified 18+, Georgi Daneliya, 78 mins, USSR, 1963, 35mm

Scripted by 1960s icon Gennadi Shpalikov, this light-hearted film follows a day in the life of Kolya (Nikita Mikhalkov), a construction worker not yet out of his teens, and his friends Volodya (Aleksei Loktev), an aspiring writer visiting from Siberia, and Sasha (Yevgeni Steblov), an army inductee.

Added to the mix is Alena (Golina Polskikh), a pretty shopgirl to whom Kolya takes an obvious shine, even though Alena seems to only have eyes for his visiting friend.

Thu 17 Apr 2008, 7pm
Fri 25 Apr 2008, 6pm

Battleship Potemkin (Bronenosets Potyomkin)

Unclassified 18+, Sergei M. Eisenstein, 80 mins, USSR, 1925, 35mm

Based on the famous revolt by the crew of a Russian warship, Eisenstein's indictment on the raw brutality of the Tsarist regime has become one of the most influential films of all time.

At the film's centre is the extraordinary Odessa Steps sequence, a scene that inspired other filmmakers to pay homage to Eisenstein's vision, most notably Francis Ford Coppola in The Godfather and Brian de Palma in The Untouchables.

An immortal classic, The Battleship Potemkin gave the young Eisenstein the perfect vehicle to experiment with his theories about montage and with new ideas and filmic realities through the creative juxtaposition of images.

Thu 17 Apr 2008, 9pm
Sun 27 Apr 2008, 6pm

Jolly Fellows (Vesyolye rebyata)

Unclassified 18+, Grigori Aleksandrov, 96 mins, USSR, 1934, 35mm

Yelena (Mariya Strelkova) is an ambitious but untalented singer who mistakes a simple shepherd, Kostya (Leonid Utyosov), for a famous jazz band leader.

When she invites him to accompany her at an upcoming get-together, Kostya readily agrees, but instead of a saxophone he brings along his pan-pipes - as well as most of the animals from his nearby farm.

All is not lost, however, as Yelena's long-suffering servant, Anyuta (Lyubov Orlova) reveals her singing talents.

An enormous success in the Soviet Union, Jolly Fellows made its leading actors the first Soviet movie stars.

Fri 18 Apr 2008, 7pm
Sat 26 Apr 2008, 6.30pm

Alexander Nevsky
Unclassified 18+, Sergei M. Eisenstein & Dmitri Vasilyev, 107 mins, USSR, 1938, 35mm

Superbly photographed by Eduard Tisse with a score by Sergei Prokofiev, Alexander Nevsky is an intense and almost surreal historical epic depicting the battle between good and evil.

Produced as a warning to pre-World War II Germany about the folly of an Eastern invasion, Eisenstein's classic portrayed the inner strength of the Russian people and is regarded as one of Soviet Cinema's great masterpieces.

Fri 18 Apr 2008, 9.15pm
Thu 24 Apr 2008, 7pm

Unclassified 18+, Aleksandr Ptushko, 90 mins, USSR, 1952, 35mm

After filming Russia's first animated feature The New Gulliver, Aleksandr Ptushko was already internationally famous when he made this colourful fantasy that transforms the Arab seafarer Sinbad into Sadko, a medieval Russian adventurer.

Sadko (Sergei Stolyarov) embarks on a voyage in search of true happiness, something he's sure must exist in a far-off land. His travels take him to every exotic corner of the globe, as well as to a sprawling undersea kingdom that's a tour-de-force Ptushko creation.

Sat 19 Apr 2008, 3.30pm
Mon 21 Apr 2008, 7pm

The Cranes are Flying (Letyat zhuravli)
Unclassified 18+, Mikhail Kalatozov, 98 mins, USSR, 1957, 35mm

Veronika (Tatyana Samojlova) and Boris (Aleksky Batalov) are lovers looking forward to a life together. At the outbreak of World War II, however, Boris is drafted to the army and sent to the front without being given the chance to say goodbye.

In his absence, Veronika succumbs to Boris' cousin Mark and the pair marry, but Boris is never out of Veronika's mind.

Buoyed by cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky's extraordinarily vibrant camerawork, The Cranes Are Flying achieves an almost mythic dimension, as the story of these star-crossed lovers becomes the story of a nation.

Sat 19 Apr 2008, 5.30pm
Fri 25 Apr 2008, 1.30pm
Sat 26 Apr 2008, 8.30pm

Unclassified 18+, Andrei Tarkovsky, USSR, 163 mins, 1979, 35mm

Arguably the most accessible of Tarkovsky's films, this philosophical fable employs the roughest outlines of a novel called The Roadside Picnic by Soviet sci-fi writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.

A mysterious Zone is said to contain a room that grants wishes; the Stalker will take you there for a fee, past military checkpoints and more obscure dangers.

A clear imprint of this terse, laconic film is still felt in such apocalyptic hits as Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later.

Sat 19 Apr 2008, 7.45pm
Sun 27 Apr 2008, 5.15pm

Uncle Vanya (Dyadya Vanya)

Unclassified 18+, Andrei Konchalovsky, 104 mins, USSR, 1970, 35mm

Anton Chekhov's masterpiece about the breakdown of a family held together by a tissue of lies and self-deceptions is brought to stunning life in this adaptation.

Imbued with powerful symbolism, Konchalovsky's film features an all-star cast including Innokenti Smoktunovsky as Uncle Vanya, Irina Miroshnichenko as Yelena and Sergei Bondarchuk as Dr Astrov.

"The best Uncle Vanya I've ever seen" Woody Allen

Sun 20 Apr 2008, 3pm
Fri 25 Apr 2008, 8pm

The Ascent (Voskhozhdeniye)
Unclassified 18+, Larisa Shepitko, 110 mins, USSR, 1976, 35mm

During the Second World War, two soldiers are separated from their platoon, captured by the Germans and sent to a prison camp. Thus begins two parallel yet connected journeys, as each man struggles with the meaning and value of his own individual life against ideas of patriotism and a commitment to others.

Awarded the Golden Bear at the 1977 Berlin Film Festival, The Ascent promoted Larisa Shepitko to the front ranks of international cinema.

Sun 20 Apr 2008, 5.30pm
Sat 26 Apr 2008, 4pm

The Letter Never Sent (Neotpravlennoye pismo)
Unclassified 18+, Mikhail Kalatozov, 97 mins, USSR, 1959, 35mm

Kalatozov's rarely-seen follow-up to The Cranes Are Flying follows a guide and three geologists as they search for diamonds through the virgin forests of Central Siberia.

After a long and tiresome journey the team finally discovers a diamond mine. Success comes at a price, however, as they become trapped by a vast forest fire before they can return home.

Again working with cinematographer Sergei Urushevsky, Kalatozov's film is a visual wonder, with the scenes of the forest fire simply unforgettable.

Sun 20 Apr 2008, 7.45pm
Fri 25 Apr 2008, 3.45pm


filmnut said...

If you haven't seen Battleship Potemkin then it's a must-see. You will realise the staircase scene at the train station at the end of The Untouchabkes is a virtual rip-off of the staircase scene in Potemkin. The one thing that struck me about the film when I first saw it was its editing of which Eisenstein was a pioneer. Alexander Nevsky would also be good to see.

The pick of the bunch for me is definitely Stalker. All Tarkovsky films must be seen on the big screen. They should have screened another couple Tarkovsky films. Not too familiar with the other films apart from Uncle Vanya. I saw the Louis Malle film, Vanya on 42nd Street, starring Julianne Moore which I quite liked but this Russian version is meant to be the best.

I have heard great things about The Cranes Are Flying and Walking the Streets of Moscow so I would recommend these as well.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Battleship would be great to catch on the big screen for sure. And I've wanted to see The Cranes are Flying for a while now.

John B said...

Hi Paul thanks for the heads up, link and dates for the German FF. In recent years it's been my favourite of the French, Greek & Italian festivals.

Otherwise for me a Morgan Freeman Easter Film Festival. The Bucket List Good Friday afternoon @ Balwyn. Particulary enjoyed the last 10 mins. And Easter Monday afternoon over to the Sun Yarraville for "Feast of Love" which I loved. Yarraville seems to be the end of the Melbourne There's something enjoyable about catching a movie before it disappears and goes to DVD. Also saw "Little Children" in it's last few days at Yarraville some time ago. Feast of Love had a similar feeling.

All the best!

John B said...

Paul I'm onto my normal pre FF research trip. This case for the German FF. Normally just a case of getting the german name for the film off the FF site adding trailer and seeing what comes up.

There's one I'm having no luck with at all (Duel in the Night) which shows as being made for TV. Even the ZDF company who made it don't have trailers. But most of the others can be found on a combination of youtube and other more specialized sites.

Not sure how you would go with some of the Russian ACMI FF ones. But nothing ventured, nothing gain. I personally find the trailers a very good guide. If it saves a couple of duds will be very happy.

Anonymous said...

These two are must sees on the big screen. Both highly recommended.


The Letter That Was Never Sent