Apologies for the lack of posts this month. As maintaining this blog is done more out of love than necessity, it naturally takes a back seat to the real work that ultimately comes in large, heavy doses. This will probably continue through October and in to November, but to make up for it, I decided to put together all the posts I was going to do on the emerging cinema of Russia.
Like their other forms of art, Russian films come from a completely different standpoint grounded solidly on their rich, textured history and expressed with a scope of vision as large as the country during the height of its imperialism. The new generation of filmmakers are creating exciting epics as well as taught modern dramas and thrillers. Perhaps thanks to the success of Timur-Bekmambetovs' Daywatch and Nightwatch, the world is taking notice and the Russian film industry is gaining confidence.
INHABITED ISLAND 1 & 2
Fyodor Bondarchuk's adaptation of the Strugatsky Brothers' "Inhabited Island" certainly flaunts its big budget. The sci-fi epic revels in glorious production design calling upon dystopian cityscapes, authoritarian aesthetics, ecclesiastical symbolism, and a good dose of spectacular action set pieces. The story centers on astronaut Maxim Kammerer who crashes on the planet Saraksh whose inhabitants are ruled by the Unknown Fathers. Find the trailers for both parts below.
MORFIA or MORPHIA
Haunting period film with touches of the phantasmagoric. Lucid films about those who are addicted and the world in which they live can take many forms. However, the filmmakers of this film have taken those themes and infused it with disturbing sexuality that give this turn-of-the-century narrative a charismatically dark allure.
Special effects team behind the Nightwatch films lend their skills to this film about a "Special Forces agent who is trained by a time shifting angel and guided by forces of the future and is pitted against the ruthless leader of a criminal syndicate." (Screen Daily) There's a good mix of contemporary action melded with, once again, some distinctive sci-fi production design and visualization.
America is not alone in its love for video games, especially those in which combat scenarios are involved. The concerns for youth brought up on such "entertainment" are also borderless. This film is just one of a few films to have come out that deals with how contemporary youth may no longer be able to distinguish virtual and real violence. From the trailer, the filmmakers seem to have taken two parts Fight Club, one part Tron, and a dash of Hackers to sell this cautionary thriller.
The Nightwatch trilogy's Timur Bekmambetov has been developing what he calls his response to Transformers and Batman, but judging from the latest teaser, that response is less about those films' spectacle and more about their theme of average people coming into contact with or becoming extraordinary. The focus of the film is a black Volga, a Russian automobile steeped with cultural history, with some unusual capabilities. What will the protagonist do with such an amazing vehicle...
UPDATED!! (new trailer shows the "blockbuster" intentions of this quite impressive looking adventure.)
Criminal underworld story in which a young woman's happy life is shattered when her husband is murdered. She decides to avenge her husband by finding all those responsible. Her vendetta hits a snag when she discovers her father ordered her husband's hit...hence the title. Confidently shot and looks to have capable players in all the roles as well as being rather sleek and sexy. Michael Mann would be proud, I think.
The Russian remake of Johnny To's Breaking News has spared no expense. Top actors and a very capable director (Swedish in fact) confidently relocates the story of an embarrassing defeat of a police battalion by five bank robbers in a ballistic showdown which is broadcast live by a TV news unit destroying the credibility of the police force. In order to beat the media at its own game, a shrewd inspector decides to turn the stakeout of one detective, who discovers the hideout of the robbers, into a breaking news show.
Odd characters and stranger situations clash in this stylish gangster film with a slightly playful edge, ala Guy Ritchie. The story? A couple are beset by all manner of nare-do-wells while on a road trip. Regardless of the basic set up, the trailer certainly displays high production value and a solid sense of entertainment.
Third installment of the ANTIKILLER series of thrillers based on Danil Koretskii's novel, which has sold five million copies in the countries of the former Soviet Union and has acquired cult status among readers of Russian pulp fiction. The stories follow the adventures of the protagonist Agent Fox (Gosha Kutsenko), a former police officer who takes on fighting crime on his own. Director Egor Mikhalkov-Konchalovskii shows his propensity for Hollywood-styled genre cinema; the body counts are high, the explosions big, the stunts jaw dropping...all expertly photographed and coordinated.
The transliteration of the title means "Ya" or "Me" in Russian. Directed by Igor Voloshin, this visually lush film about a man who meets his apparent death and recalls his life as he journeys between life and death, realizing the scope of the generations in which he has lived. The story is intentionally broad, allowing for the character to "travel" through his life while giving the director the latitude to play with a storytelling style reminiscent of other reality bending films such as Across the Universe or The Science of Sleep.
ULENKA: Deadly Lessons
Russia's has their creepy little girls as well. The story follows a university lecturer who moves to a small, provincial town for the sake of his wife's health, and begins teaching at a school for girls. That's when his nightmare begins as the girls in his class harbor a dark secret, and play an even darker game...with human lives. There is plenty of tension in the trailer and the lead actress for the the title character Ulenka, seems just right. Looks to be more than capable of putting the audience at the edge of their seats.
These are but a sampling of the growing list of attractive Russian films. What should be noted is the variety of films, particular in the multiple genres, and the production value the industry is putting in to each. It's no wonder that Hollywood is beginning to court many of these filmmakers for their projects; though I do hope those directors who do delve into major Hollywood fair will continue to create films in their own home.