RUSSIAN FILM FEST 2009 - EPICS BOOKEND
Two historical epics bookend this year’s Russian Resurrection Film Festival across Australia (Aug 19 – Sept 20); opening the fest is Vladimir Brotko’s Taras Bulba
set in the 16th century, while closing film is Andrei Kravchuk’s Admiral, set at the start of the Russian Revolution.
Andrew L. Urban reports.
Both films focus on a central character who puts his beloved Russia first, against overwhelming odds. Taras Bulba, made half a century after J. Lee Thompson’s Yul Brynner & Tony Curtis version (1962), is the first Russian language version of the Nikolai Gogol story, a brawling, grunting spectacle with atmosphere to spare, a patriotic onslaught in which national pride is sacrosanct. The Cossacks of the Ukraine battle the invading Polish army. The family of old warrior Taras Bulba (spectacular, moustachioed performance by Bogdan Stupka) finds itself at the centre of political intrigue, after his eldest son Andrey (Igor Petrenko) returns from a Polish academy – sent to learn the ways of the enemy – having fallen in love with a Polish noblewoman, the gorgeous Elzhbeta (Magdalena Mielcarz). His other son, Ostap (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) is captured by the Poles and publicly executed in a pretty gruesome fashion. The enraged Taras Bulba raises an army to take on the Poles – notwithstanding Andrey’s love for Elzhbeta.
Admiral, is the politically controversial story of Russian Rear Admiral Aleksandr Vasilevich Kolchak (Konstantin Khabensky in his Eagle Award winning role), a hero of World War I. The story is as much about his love for beautiful Anna Timireva (Elizaveta Boyarskaya), the wife of his friend and junior officer, and the tortuous path that the affair takes as the Revolution of 1917 sweeps away Tsar Nicholas II and the rest of the nobility in a brutal and bloody revolution which leaves Kolchak exiled as Supreme Commander of the Russian forces in Siberia. The civil war rages around the lovers, while Kolchak personifies the so called white Russians who resisted the revolution – and paid dearly for it. Not surprisingly from Kravchuk (who directed the splendid The Italian) the film works on the intimate level just as well as on the bigger scale, from war action at sea and on land to the tender scenes between the lovers. Performances are all excellent and the cinematography takes us to the amazing landscape.
Other highlights include Morphine, from director Aleksei Balabanov – also set in 1917, a story of a young doctor who arrives at a small village and slowly slides into morphione addiction as the country around him slides into civil war. The film, with its moody ambiance and careful detail, is based on the semi-autobiographical short stories by Mikhail Bulgakov.
By contrast, Hipsters is a musical comedy, which won several NIKA Awards, including Best Film and Best Costumes, set in the Russia of the 50s, when wearing coloured socks was considered counter revolutionary.
The Resurrection festival opens on Friday August 21 (Chauvel Cinema, Paddington) with Taras Bulba, to be followed by a party at The Coachmen Russian restaurant, where vodka will be accompanied by food … Admiral will close the Sydney section on Sunday August 30, and the screening will be followed by a Q&A with director Andrei Kravchuk and a reception.
Published August 13, 2009
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The Resurrection Film Festival:
Opens: Friday August 21 (Chauvel Cinema, Paddington) with Taras Bulba
Closes (Sydney section): Sunday August 30 with Admiral