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WE ARE GOING TO AMERICA
STEAMROLLER AND THE VIOLIN, THE
Director Boris Frumin returned to his native Russia after 16 years in exile to make this drama set in a small Russian town in 1965--an era when hard-line communism made a profound impact on the daily lives of ordinary people, so much so that Fidel Castro was a popular icon. The story chronicles the coming of age of young Kolya, whose life is filled with romance, hardship, good times, and unexpected tragedy. The disaffected youth is in love with his singing teacher, while one of his classmates harbors a crush on him. Complications ensue when his father skips town after stealing coins from a museum, and his mother is imprisoned for the crime. With Pavel Zharkov, Julia Sobolevskaya and Sergey Dontsov. In Russian with English subtitles.
Boris Frumin---Russia---1993---82 mins.
The familiar tale of an immigrant family's journey to America is turned into a magical mystery tour as seen through the eyes of 11-year old Motl. The boy's imagination spins wildly as he and his family--loaded down with all their worldly goods and their other-worldly "baggage"--make their way from the shtetl to America. Inspired by the paintings of Marc Chagall, director Efim Gribov interprets the workings of Motl's imagination via comic and grotesque figures, ghosts from the past, and a dreamy, surreal atmosphere. The film's tragi-comic tone and theme involving the American Dream make for an inspired viewing experience. Also known as
My Yedem v Ameriku
. In Russian and Yiddish with English subtitles.
Yefim Gribov---Russia---1992---118 mins.
Rescued from Russian film archives, this was Andrei Tarkovsky's diploma film for the Soviet State Film School. Before this video release, it was largely unseen even by some of the director's most fervent admirers. The story is a warm yet ironic one about the unlikely friendship between a young boy who loves to play the violin and a steamroller driver. In this simple yet deeply affecting early film, you can already appreciate the emerging talent of an artist who would go on to create some of the most profound works of world cinema. The film was co-written by Tarkovsky's fellow student, Andrei Konchalovsky. In Russian with English subtitles.
Andrei Tarkovsky---USSR---1960---43 mins.
Vasiliy Sitnikov was officially declared insane, and he spent his life in and out of mental institutions. Yet, he is the key figure of the non-conformist art movement in the former Soviet Union. "Vasya" left behind astonishing works of art, some of which found their way into the Museum of Modern Art in New York and numerous private collections, yet he remains a compelling, controversial mystery. Who was this incredible artist? Why does his legend still confound those who knew him? In this award-winning film, Andrei Zagdansky combines documentary and dramatic footage to create a riveting portrait of a man, an artist and the society around him. In English and Russian with English subtitles.
Andrei Zagdansky---Russia---2002---60 mins.
In this extraordinary epic--a political thriller in the tradition of
, mixed with acid-sharp humor--Peter Lutsik creates an astounding chronicle of a country in violent transformation. A group of men fight injustice as they try to discover who stole their land. Their hunt for the offenders takes them from the gentle countryside to the halls of power. Hailed at film festivals worldwide as a modern classic,
vividly reveals Russia as alternately corrupt, melancholy, dogmatic, romantic, and spiritual. Winner of the FIPRESCI critics' prize at the Chicago International Film Festival. In Russian with English subtitles.
Peter Lutsik---Russia---1998---95 mins.
Every night, Soviet tractors comb the coast of Latvia looking for signs of anyone who could have infiltrated the Soviet border from the sea. One morning, three Soviet patrolmen discover a woman's shoe in the sand and footsteps leading to the quaint little village of Liepaja. Alarms sound, troops are dispatched, and an official investigation begins. Just like Cinderella, each woman in the village tries on the shoe, though the reward for a perfect fit won't be Prince Charming. Laila Pakalnina's sly fairy tale combines subtle humor and political commentary into a compelling whole, shot beautifully in black and white. In Latvian with English subtitles.
Laila Pakalnina---Latvia---1998---78 mins.
ELEGY OF THE LAND
Considered by many the finest screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s greatest work, Grigori Kozintsev’s
is a spare, haunting interpretation based on a translation by novelist Boris Pasternak. The malevolence afoot in the state of Denmark is magnificently captured by the foreboding black and white cinematography and the dark, dramatic score by composer Dmitri Shostakovich. In addition, acclaimed Russian actors Innokenti Smoktunovsky and Anastasia Vertinskaya offer stellar, award-winning performances. Kozintsev, a peer of Eisenstein’s who worked well into the 1960s, was a master of cinematic technique who finally achieved recognition at the end of his career for his stunning interpretations of Shakespeare. Leading film historian Richard Dyer wrote in the Boston Globe: “Paradoxically, the two most powerful films of Shakespeare plays [
] were made not in Great Britain but in the Soviet Union.” A Golden Globe Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. In Russian with English Subtitles.
Grigori Kozintsev---USSR---1964---140 mins.
Hailed as one of the best adaptations of this Shakespearean tragedy, Grigori Kozintsev’s
is a striking, epic interpretation based on a translation by novelist Boris Pasternak and driven by a stirring score by composer Dmitri Shostakovich. Kozintsev transposed the setting to a sparse landscape of moors and marshes, which provides an eerie backdrop to the bare castles and roaming bands of ragged, destitute wanderers. Thin, frail Yuri Yarvet’s unique interpretation of the title role, in which he focuses on the king’s suffering and pain, was internationally acclaimed. Kozintsev, a peer of Eisenstein’s who worked well into the 1960s, was a master of cinematic technique who finally achieved recognition at the end of his career for his stunning interpretations of Shakespeare. "It will stand as one of the unshakable edifices of Shakespearean imagination" (
). In Russian with English subtitles.
Grigori Kozintsev---USSR---1971---140 mins.
Two early short films by Russian auteur Alexander Sokurov (
) are collected in
Elegy of the Land
. Both of these moody, melancholy works emphasize the significance of the Russian land to its people on an almost spiritual level.
, made in memory of Russian peasant Maria Semionovna Voinova, serves as a requiem for a hard-working woman as well as a lament over the loss of her way of life--after she died, her secrets and work methods died with her.
The Last Day of a Rainy Summer
, shot in 1978 on a collective farm, captures the daily routines of a community whose lifestyle was fading even as it was being chronicled. In Russian with optional English, French, Spanish, or Italian subtitles.
Alexander Sokurov---USSR---1977-1988---66 mins.
ANNA AKHMATOVA FILE
I WAS STALIN'S BODYGUARD
I WORKED FOR STALIN
A moving portrait of the extraordinary Soviet poet, Anna Akhmatova. Although her work was banned and went unpublished for 17 years, her poem "Requiem" became the underground anthem for the millions who suffered under Stalin. This unique film, which uses Akhmatova's diaries for text, also includes portraits of Akhmatova's friends and contemporaries--Boris Pasternak, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Mikhail Sostchenko. An Official Selection at Sundance and the Seattle International Film Festival. In Russian with English subtitles.
Semyon Aranovich---USSR---1989---65 mins.
This controversial documentary created a storm in Russia by taking the cloak off a violent, repressive period of Soviet history. Filmmaker Semyon Aranovich found the last surviving personal bodyguard of Josef Stalin, who began working for the dictator in the 1930s.
I Was Stalin's Bodyguard
weaves together unprecedented, first-hand testimony with rare footage, including Stalin's home movies. What emerges is a singular portrait of a violent and complex era during which Stalin consolidated his power through brutal repressions, yet led the Soviet Union to victory in World War II. "Aranovich has a nice sense of irony" (David Robinson,
). In Russian with English Subtitles.
Semyon Aranovich---USSR---1989---73 mins.
Semyon Aranovich's documentary is a brilliant assembly of eyewitness testimony and rare archival photographs and materials. The film records the Machiavellian power plays between Zhdanov, Andreyev, Khrushchev, Malenkov, Suslov and Molotov as they maneuvered for power and prestige to gain the inside track to becoming Stalin's successor. The film is a chilling record of the inner workings of an authoritarian state. In Russian with English Subtitles.
Semyon Aranovich---USSR---1990---67 mins.
LADY WITH THE DOG, THE
PEOPLE'S GALA CONCERT
GORILLA BATHES AT NOON
Based on the Chekhov short story of the same name,
The Lady with the Dog
Dama s sobachkoy
) is a forgotten masterpiece from a tense period during the Khrushchev thaw. Told with little dialogue and minimal action, this romantic drama is a bittersweet portrait of a doomed love affair between Dmitri, a bank official, and Anna, a well-to-do young woman. The two fall in love while on vacation in Yalta around the turn of the century, but because each is already married, they can only see one another once a year. Director Iosif Heifitz not only adapts the events of the Chekhov story but captures the legendary writer's restrained tone and atmosphere of desperation. Nominated for the Golden Palm at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival. In Russian with English subtitles.
Josef Heifitz---USSR---1960---89 mins.
KOZINTSEV COLLECTION: HAMLET & KING LEAR
STALIN BY THOSE WHO KNEW HIM
"Paradoxically, the two most powerful films of Shakespeare plays were made not in Great Britain but in the Soviet Union" (Richard Dyer,
). Three of Russia's legendary artists bring Shakespeare's greatest works to the screen. As directed by Grigori Kozintsev, scripted by Boris Pasternak (
), and scored by Dmitri Shostakovich,
(1964, 140 mins.) and
(1971, 140 mins.) are nothing short of triumphant masterpieces. Kozintsev's spare, haunting style is a perfect visual interpretation of Pasternak's stripped-down translations and Shostakovich's dark, dramatic scores. In Russian with English subtitles.
Grigori Kozintsev---USSR---1964/1971---280 mins.
Overshadowed by the immensity of films like
, here are two lesser known works from Andrei Tarkovsky. Rescued from Russian film archives,
The Steamroller and the Violin
(USSR, 1960, 43 mins.) was Tarkovsky's diploma film for the Soviet State Film School. The story is a warm yet ironic one about the unlikely friendship between a young boy who loves the violin and a steamroller driver. At once diary and documentary, travelogue, and art film,
Voyage in Time
(Italy, 1983, 63 mins.) chronicles Tarkovsky as he scouts locations and explores ideas for his next feature. Accompanied by Italian screenwriter Tonino Guerra (
), Tarkovsky explores the countryside and medieval villages of Italy, searching for an internal landscape as much as a literal one. In Russian and Andrei Tarkovsky/Tonino Guerra---USSR/Italy---1960/1983---106 mins.
The bold documentaries of Semyon Aranovich created a storm of controversy in Russia by revealing the truth behind a violent, repressive era of Soviet history. This trio of documentaries pulls back the Iron Curtain to expose "the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma" known as Russia. Includes
The Anna Akhmatova File
(1989, 65 mins.), "a compelling portrait of a beloved Soviet poet" (
I Was Stalin's Bodyguard
(1989, 73 mins.), a film that's "as engrossing as its subject" (
I Worked for Stalin
(1990, 67 mins.), a brilliant assembly of eyewitness testimony and rare archival materials. In Russian with English subtitles.
Semyon Aranovich---USSR---1989/1990---205 mins.