Monday, 15 September 2008

Russian Film Festival

Squeezing in just before the London Film Festival is the Russian Film Festival, running from 18 to 28 September at the Apollo West End.

I'll be blogging as it goes along but here are a few tasters of what I know (or think) will be worth going for). It's not an exhaustive list.

I suppose most interest will surround Mikhalkov's Oscar-nominated 12 [above], a remake of Lumet's 12 Angry Men. The trailer implies that it's been opened up quite considerably (the original 96 minutes has become 153) and, unsurprisingly, it's another of Mikhalkov's contemplations of the nature of Russian-ness.

Live to Remember (Живи и помни - literally Live and Remember) [left] opens the fest, another historical drama directed by Alexander Proshkin (best-known for The Cold Summer of '53), while Alexander Melnik's Terra Nova (Новая земля) is a sort of Lord of the Flies, but with adult convicts. Melnik is a first-time feature director, like Marina Liubakova, whose Cruelty (Жестокост) features the wonderful Renata Litvinova.

Women directors aren't as uncommon in Russia as in the West and the fest includes Svetlana Proskurina's Best of Times (Лучшее время года). Tarkovsky and Sokurov loom large in her filmography (she's made a couple of docs about the latter), so it will be interesting to see what her own fiction looks like.

The 2003 film Roads to Koktebel also had an occasional Tarkovskian feel and one of its co-directors, Alexei Popogrebsky, has now struck out on his own with the excellent Simple Things (Простые вещи): surely here's a director to watch.

20 Cigarettes (20 сигарет) [left] looks like it could be stylish fun (perhaps it's the first Russian film to feature Slade on the soundtrack?) but these things can be taken too far. The last thing I'm pointing up is Yuri's Day (Юрьев день). It's about an opera singer and is described as "a complex tapestry of mysticism, spiritualism and hyperrealism", making me fear that it's a cross between Diva and the barely watchable 4 (Четыре).

That's not all that's in the fest, but it's enough for now...

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