Review: Cold War by Pawel Pawlikowski

[From InQuire]

After 5 years of absence, Pawel Pawlikowski returns to the big screens with the beautiful ‘Cold War’. The film takes place in post-WW2 Poland under the Soviet regime and is loosely inspired by the relationship between the director’s parents. The two, according to Pawlowski, is “the most interesting dramatic characters I’ve ever come across … both strong, wonderful people, but as a couple a never-ending disaster”. An ambitious pianist and composer Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and Irena (Agata Kulesza) are putting together a big band ensemble ‘Mazurek’ out of talented young people from the rural areas. They are gathering them to perform traditional Polish folk songs and dances. One of the candidates, mysterious Zula (Joanna Kulig) catches Wiktor’s eye. Zula is ambitious, cunning, and beautiful which makes it easy for her to get what she wants from life. The central characters engage in a passionate life-long romance with various ups and downs, break-ups and come-backs, journeys and returns.

Although the plot might sound like a cliché the film is a true masterpiece. The story is told with earnest attention to details, with subtle moments and gestures, scenes full of emotions and passion. Although the film is centred around the relationship of Wiktor and Zula, the overall theme is freedom in divided Europe. After the war Poland  was devastated by the Nazi and Soviet armies which used the land as their battlefield. The authoritarian government tries to gain favour in the rural areas by investing in folk culture and lifestyle. In return, Wiktor has to promote the Soviet government although this clashes with his artistic vision. Zula has no freedom to be with whoever she wants as she has escaped prison by being a minister’s favourite. When a chance comes Wiktor plans an escape beyond the iron wall but Zula hesitates. The life of a foreigner has also its limitations. The two have to fit into the expectations of the elite and live with a feeling of being constantly at someone’s mercy. They both struggle to be happy as their expectations clash with the harsh reality.

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Get ready for a new celebration of cult Russian cinema in London

[From, The Calvert Journal]

A series of Russian and Soviet films celebrating the defiant, electric and subversive in are set to show in London as part of a special event celebrating classic cult cinema.

Generations: Russian Cinema of Change will screen five landmark movies released between 1935 and 2014 at London’s Barbican Centre.

They include the heavily-censored youth culture epic Lenin’s Guard, nihilistic 90s drama Brother, and coming-of-age film The Student by Kirill Serebrennikov — currently under house arrest amid controverial fraud accusations.

Accompanied by a programme of talks and discussions, each movie pieces together the effects of Russia’s profound 20th century upheaval on screen.

“This season explores the shifting forms of self-expression, independence and defiance through Russia’s seismic cycles of reinvention,” organisers say.

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8 Tracks that Defined the Soviet Era’s Industrial Scene

[From Electronic Beats blog]

The Moscow-based techno-punk outfit Interchain (comprised of Andrew Lee and Jenya Gorbunov, pictured above) already has an impressive discography. But their most recent release, Plenum—which just came out on the Hivern Discs sublabel HVNX this past March—is a particularly fiery addition to their original take on frenetic, punk rock-indebted electronic sounds. They sat down with us to shed some insight onto their wide range of influences from the Soviet era’s industrial music scene. Listen to their eight selections—from the ’20s to the ’90s—below.

Arseny Avraamov, “Symphony Of Factory Sirens” (Public Event, Baku 1922)

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Yuri Tynianov’s “Film — Word — Music” (1924)

[From the Los Angeles Review of Books]

ALONG WITH the somewhat better-known Viktor Shklovsky and Roman Jakobson, the writer and literary theorist Yuri Tynianov was a central figure of the revolutionary-era school of literary and cultural criticism that came to be known as Russian Formalism. The Formalists were contemporaries and advocates of Futurist poets like Vladimir Mayakovsky and Velimir Khlebnikov, as well as early Soviet film pioneers like Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov. In keeping with the mood of avant-garde experimentation that held sway in the early years of Soviet rule, Formalist ideas about literature and art were radical and stark, especially in comparison with the mystical impressionism of pre-revolutionary Russian writers and critics. Like Shklovsky, Jakobson, and their colleague Boris Eikhenbaum, Tynianov was first and foremost a scholar of literature, but the creative explosions of the new Soviet film industry demanded the Formalists’ attention. Tynianov, like Shklovsky, dove in as both a theorist and practitioner; he began penning screenplays and working directly with actors and filmmakers, most notably with the wacky and inventive “Factory of the Eccentric Actor” (FEKS) group. He also wrote a series of articles on film, like the one below, which were published in daily newspapers, and in 1927 contributed to a substantial volume of Formalist essays on cinema, edited by Eikhenbaum. Tynianov’s writings on film are valuable for their insider’s perspective and the sense of palpable, physical immediacy they convey (even as he insists on the fundamentally abstract quality of film as an art form). He applies his formidable skills as a literary theorist to this material, teasing out fascinating parallels between the way words and images can be shaped and altered by their place in a work. But Tynianov is also unique among the Formalists, in that he argues for film’s essential difference from all other art forms.

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Soviet film posters of the 50s and 60s – in pictures

[From The Guardian]

After the break-up of the USSR in 1991, many artefacts associated with Soviet life – from posters to gadgets – were discarded, destined to be forgotten. Founded in 2012, the Moscow Design Museum collects objects from the era, which form the basis of a new book, Designed in the USSR: 1950-1989 (Phaidon, £24.95). These film posters, made between 1957 and 1966, roughly coincide with the “Khrushchev thaw”, a period of increased liberalism that followed Stalin’s death. “They reflect their time well,” says the museum’s director, Alexandra Sankova. “At that time, design had an artistic expressiveness that reflected the thaw and dreams of a new, more open world.” Romance films and murder mysteries were popular, but “Soviet people loved comedies the most – they became classics of the genre. People still know them by heart.”

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Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev (special feature)

[From CineVue]

andrei-rublev-img“About suffering they were never wrong, the old masters,” W.H. Auden wrote in his poem on Brueghel. The words could easily have applied to both the subject and the creator of Andrei Rublev, Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1966 masterpiece. A film about suffering and art, the spiritual journey towards transendence, and the muddy, sodden reality of day-to-day life. It is one of the most profound and moving experiences that cinema has ever conveyed. It begins with a prologue as a man, some Leonardo or Galileo of the Steppes perhaps, takes a giddy flight with a cobbled together hot air balloon.

This medieval Icarus rises from the bell tower and soars over the wetlands. Horses run in the distance and men shout up at him from boats. The bladders will leak; his hopes will be crushed, but was that glimpse, that aerial view of life, however brief, worth it? The film proper is structured around a series of titled episodes in the life of the Fifteenth Century monk and icon painter, Andrei Rublev, played by Anatoly Solonitsyn who would go on to feature in all of Tarkovksy’s work until Stalker in 1979 would effectively kill him.

Each episode stands as vignette, a panel representing an artist’s Stations of the Cross. Rublev himself is an enigmatic, quiet (ultimately silent) character; a watchful man who absorbs what is happening around him, as much a symbol of the audience as he is of the artist and perhaps film director. And what is happening around him, in the words of Thomas Hobbes, is life: ‘nasty, brutish and short’. A jester, or buffoon as the title card reads (Rolan Bykov), entertains a barn-full of drunken peasants with a ribald song as Rublev and his fellow monks take shelter from the rain. After mocking priests as well, the jester is arrested by a group of soldiers, who were perhaps called by one of Rublev’s confraternity, and led off to torture and perhaps death as the sun comes out once more.

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Ivan’s Childhood: A film master’s first steps; reappraising Tarkovsky

[from The Arts Desk website]

IC-horse_0The 30th anniversary of the death of Andrei Tarkovsky – the great Russian director died just before the end of 1986, on December 29, in Paris – will surely guarantee that his remarkable body of work receives new attention, and this month distributor Artificial Eye launches a programme, Sculpting Time, which will see new digitally restored versions of his seven films being re-released around the country. Tarkovsky is certainly not a figure whose reputation has ever fallen away, but it’s as appropriate a moment as any to reconsider his extraordinary talent, not least with the images of his work brought back to their true visual magic.

Its initial offering is, appropriately, Tarkovsky’s first full-length film, Ivan’s Childhoodfrom 1962, the work in which the remarkable nature of his talent first shone through. Part of its fascination lies in appreciating the context from which the director emerged, the elements of surrounding convention against which he would strain throughout his short life (he was only 54 when he died). The Great Patriotic War film was – and remains to this day – an almost inexhaustible genre for Russian-Soviet cinema, and the climate of the Khrushchev thaw that had begun in the mid-1950s was allowing for much more personal interpretations of its subject matter, bringing in a new level of humanisation.

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7 Andrei Tarkovsky films to be shown in the UK

[From the website Russia beyond the Headlines]

“To me he is God,” says Lars von Trier about the Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky. In an interview with the magazine Time Out London, von Trier says he has seen Tarkovsky’s 1975 film The Mirror 20 times.

Beginning on May 20 Brits will have a chance to watch The Mirror, as well as another six Tarkovsky masterpieces in cinemas across the UK.

The film program is called, Andrei Tarkovsky: Sculpting Time, and it will show digital restorations of the legendary Russian auteur’s films. The screenings, as well as new posters and trailers for the movies, were prepared by Curzon Artificial Eye, a British cinema company that is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary.

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Ivan’s Childhood, film review: ‘The most lyrical war movie ever made pristinely restored’

[From The Independent]

ivan-childhoodTarkovsky’s debut feature (re-released in a pristine newly restored version) is surely the most lyrical war movie ever made. It is set at a brutal and bloody moment in the Second World War.

Its main characters have all suffered devastating personal losses as the Soviet army tries to repel the Nazi invasion – and yet the film is a coming of age story which deals with young love and in which characters still have time to discuss art and books and to listen to music.

The film opens in magical fashion with a sun-drenched dream sequence in which the 12 year old Ivan is shown as a golden haired boy in a sunny, pastoral setting, delighting in the natural world and with his mother doting on him.

The reality, when he awakens, is that he’s a desperate kid, crawling through barbed wire-strewn swamps and trying to stay alive in a war zone.

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