Posts Tagged ‘LFF’

Living/Жить Curzon Mayfair 21 October

October 21, 2012


Grisha is allowed to live because she’s young and good-looking

A severe dose of chernukha (relentless negativity and tedium) here I’m afraid, and delivered rather slowly. Of course if you put a couple of young girls in a marshrutka it will crash, driving their mother from alcoholism to insanity.   Of course if you give a hustler some money on the train home from your wedding he will lure you to an empty carriage and his mates will beat you to death.  Which is just about what you deserve for being so stupid.  Of course the girls’ mother and the never-will-be wife will be unable to show any resistance at all to what has happened to them; their only recourse will be to make believe the dead are still alive and then when that fails to kill themselves and other people as well.  Of course the girls’ mother Galya will manage to find the fatal proportions of gas and air to cause an explosion while Grisha the bride will drag herself back from the brink because she’s young (and good-looking under all the crusty clobber).  And then there’s the story of Artem whose father has run away to live in a hut without shoes and have his bicycle stolen; at least that was obscure enough not to be offensive.

Now the final scene with Grisha at the bus-stop and a woman opens up a stall setting the most godawful tat and Grisha buys herself some crisps and eats them and decides she wants to live in this world tawdry and appalling as it is–that was good, but it wasn’t worth the two preceding hours.

Short stories/Рассказы Renoir 20 October

October 21, 2012


Tense scene with wedding planner

In this film an author goes to his publishers–in the manner of French films, the publishers have incredibly plush offices and glamorous staff–with a collection of short stories, but they want a nice solid novel.  Then various of the staff start reading through the rejected manuscript and found themselves featuring in the stories.

The first of the episodes, about an engaged couple having their whole lives dictated by a wedding planner so as to be modern and leave nothing to chance was both very funny and extremely boring.  I think the reason for this–and it applied to the other episodes as well–was that the story was really a thesis or lecturette or even joke that did a particular idea to death.

The second episode displayed corruption steadily making its ways upwards (and becoming more expensive) while the fourth portrayed a relationship between a middle-aged man and an uninformed young woman, showing at some length how this was not a good idea.  But this had a line which absolutely cracked me up when she turned to face him in response to questions about what it meant to be Russian and said The Russian Federation is a democratic country with a market economy.

The third episode was some echt Russian nonsense I didn’t appreciate about Pushkin and paranormal powers.

Anyway, the film was loudly applauded by a happy audience at the end.


House with a turret/Дом с башенкой, Renoir 17 October

October 21, 2012


A woman with a microphone appeared to say on behalf of the director (who she just referred to as The Director) that she was glad to see us all there for something completely unlike the other 250 WWII films we had all seen.  This one was about life and relationships and what it was to be human.  The director had been obsessed by Fridrikh Gorenshtein for a long time; first of all he had allowed her to make a short film based on his work, and only then to move on to something more large-scale.  The director had found a producer who owned the largest TV channel in Ukraine and he had made this feature film for 2 million Euro.

Director Eva Neyman

The film dealt with a boy and his mother returning from evacuation by train during WWII.  The mother is sick with typhus, they leave the train and she is taken to hospital.  He battles to find the hospital and send a telegram, surrounded by unheeding adults.  She dies.  Maybe he is going to make friends with the little girl from the housed with the turret by the station.  He rejoins the train with an inadequate substitute family; a couple of rough types are determined he is going to reach his destination.

So the characteristic (and unfortunately autobiographical) Fridrikh Gorenshtein themes, and whether you like the film depends on whether you buy into them.  I do, of course…

Faust (LFF, West End Vue 24 October)

October 25, 2011


Faust as a character from Dostoevsky...

Before the film began, the lights came up and Ian Christie on behalf of LFF puffed the film and introduced leading actors Isolda Dychauk and Johannes Zeiler.  On working with director Alexander Sokurov, she said that he noticed every smallest movement and he said that he knew where the actor’s inner boundary was.  Ian Christie said that the film was going to last 134 minutes before a proper Q and A and I began to feel panic.

I would have left after three minutes or so if I hadn’t been in the middle of a row.  The action took place in a hilly German town apparently existing in both the 19th century and the Middle Ages where the inhabitants spent their time pushing past each other in narrow openings.  After starting off like Bazarov determined to contract typhus in a dodgy dissection, the Faust of Johannes Zeiler became a character out of Dostoevsky, the hungry and arrogant intellectual.

There were many references to high points of German and Russian culture, especially Caspar David Friedrich (but also Albrecht Durer) visually; and also quotations from Luther and others as well as Goethe.  The Mephistopheles/pawnbroker of Anton Adasinsky had a body that swelled into deformed nothingness and a face reminiscent of Vladimir Putin (that’s the kind of reference I appreciate).

At the end I found that I wouldn’t have objected to another three hours or so to see what more Sokurov could pull up from his subconscious.  But the people all around me who were laughing with relief to get out of the cinema and into the normal unpretentious London rain wouldn’t have agreed…

Elena (LFF, Vue West End 19 October)

October 20, 2011



This film by Andrei Zvyaginytsev begins with a long soulful exterior shot of dawn outside the upscale Moscow flat where Vladimir lives with his downtrodden cook-housekeeper-sex object Elena.  They also happen to be married.  And not so young any more.  Nadezhda Markina soulfully intimates unhappiness as Elena.  She also travels to some rundown outskirts to hand over money to her useless son Sergei and his family.

Elena asks Vladimir to give Sergei some money so as to bribe the right people to keep grandson Sasha out of the army.  He says he will think about it, and goes off to the gym–a deeply un-Russian thing to do and especially unwise at his age.  He has a  attack.  Elena visits him in hospital and he recalls that was how they met–she was a nurse in a hospital where he was suffering from peritonitis.  Vladimir’s spoiled daughter Katya visits him reluctantly.  They tease each other evilly.

Returned home to Elena’s care, Vladimir decides he’s going to leave everything to Katya and starts drafting a will to that effect.  Oddly enough, neither he nor the will survive this decision.  Elena takes the good news in a plain brown envelope to Sergei’s family.  Grandson Sasha goes out with his mates to administer a good beating to some guys hanging around by bonfires, but it was all rather dark so I didn’t see who they were.

At the end we get a soulful exterior shot of dusk falling over what used to be Vladimir’s flat, while Elena Sergei and family make themselves at home inside and an infant grandchild luxuriates on an ocean of bed.

This is almost a party political broadcast/lecture on behalf of Edinaya Rossiya:  Mother Russia ought to take back her inalienable resources from the Westernised scum (Vladimir) and use them for breeding multitudinous future generations.  The only slight problems with this interpretation are Katya, who is also a typically Russian character and the score by Philip Glass, which really belongs in something more dynamic.

But if Katya is just a less attractive Nastassia Filippovna, debauched by an evil exploiter…