Paradise (Russia, 2016)

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Andrei Konchalovsky’s Paradise is finally showing on our Montreal’s screens. The Winner of the director Award at the 2016 Venice Film Festival stars Yuliya Vysotskaya (House of Fools, The Lion in winter).

During World War 2, Olga, a Russian aristocrat living in Paris, is arrested for giving shelter to Jewish children and put into a concentration camp. A high-ranking SS officer, Helmut, who was in love with her in peaceful times, makes plan to save her casting doubts in her mind as she is confronted to the necessity of survival and choices.

Beautifully shot in black and white by Cinematographer Aleksandr Simonov Paradise story is told from three different view points: Olga, Helmut and a French collaborator. Scenes are cut with interviews of the three speaking in turns Continue reading

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Konchalovsky Retrospective: 3 – A Nest of gentry ( Dvoryanskoe gnezdo, 1969)

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In 19th century Russia, an aristocrat, Lavretsky, returns to his estate after staying in Paris over a long period. Upon meeting Lisa, during a visit to his neighbors, he become infatuated by the young woman and would like to erase his past.

Freely adapted from Ivan Turgenev’s book, A Nest of gentry marks a departure for Andrei Konchalovsky’s from his first two features. The material of origin (a book) makes it more classic in its form and it is also his first color film, a costume drama praised for its visual beauty but attacked by soviet critics as mannered. However, the film displays, even in introducing a completely different social class than the one portrayed in his own Story of Asya Klyachina… (1966), the same love for the Continue reading

Konchalovsky Retrospective: 2 – The Story of Asya Klyachina Who Loved, But Did Not Marry (1966)

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Asya, is pregnant from the man she loves, but he won’t marry her. Potential suitors are wandering around like vultures but she resists all attempts…
Andrei Konchalovsky’s second feature, The Story of Asya Klyachina Who Loved But Did Not Marry (1966) is an amazing cinematic piece, a confirmation of his talent… but it was banned for two decades by the Soviet authorities. When it was shown at Berlin Film Fest in 1988, the director had made a few more films, won a Cannes jury prize in 1979 for Siberiada, and made a successful landing in Hollywood.

More than the romantic drama its title suggests, the film is a passionate elegy about the love of Russians for the (mother) land. Back behind the camera is gifted cinematographer Georgy Rerberg (stalker, The mirror) and the choreographed movements are more elaborate than in The first Teacher (Pervyy Uchitel, 1965), the previous effort by the duet. There is a great attention to details. The camera travels from landscapes, props, objects hanging on the wall, telling a story in itself. Then it moves to people and Continue reading

Konchalovsky Retrospective: 1 – The First Teacher (1965)

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There is much to love about Andrei Konchalovsky’s 1965 film, The First Teacher (Pervyy Uchitel), his first feature after collaborating with Andrei Tarkovsky on the screenplays for The Steamroller and the violin, Ivan’s Childhood and Andrei Rublev.

During the 1920’s an ex-soldier released from the Red army is sent by the Communist Party to a remote village of Kyrgyztan in order to teach the masses. But his idealism soon leads to confrontation against centuries of local traditions. Things might not go totally as planned in the post revolution world, so far away from the Central party, and anything can turn counter revolutionary.

The First Teacher is filled with countless seductive qualities, all beautifully balanced. There is even a hint of some things to come (25 years later) in Konchalovsky’s younger brother Nikita Mikhalkov’s URGA (1991). The shock of ideas and culture are central to the characters conflicting souls and ultimate development. The gorgeous scenery is fully embraced (in glorious Black and white) by the camera of Continue reading

About Love. Adults Only (2017, Chupov, Gigineishvili et al.)

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Marriage kills love.

Public opinion says love these days cannot be preserved. Why do so many couples drift apart? Join John Malkovich in an otherwise Russian cast in About Love. Adults Only to discover the answers. The plot is based around an international conference honoring the question, How do we sustain love in the modern world?

The premise might at first sound dry, but within the first few minutes of Alexsey Chupov, Rezo Gigineishvili, Anna Melikyan, Natalya Merkulova, Pavel Ruminov, Nigina Sayfullnaeva and Evgeniy Shelyakin’s film, we are treated to some hilarious footage of sex-deprived people flipping out on innocent bystanders. The content of the story is far from dry. Though it is not a slapstick comedy, the humor is Continue reading