After his fearsome 1948 condemnation at the hands of the Union of Composers and Stalin’s ‘cultural’ henchman Andrey Zhdanov, Shostakovich was understandably careful about what he composed next and what he revealed in public. His position was undoubtedly dangerous. In the autumn of the same year he compiled a strikingly unusual song-cycle for three singers and piano: the texts were taken from a collection of Russian translations of Jewish lyrics, mostly originally in Yiddish but one or two Hebrew or Russian; the melodies he created were original but closely related to the style of ‘klezmer’ music which Shostakovich knew and loved. The ensemble of three singers gives almost the feeling of a chamber opera.
Continue reading “Shostakovich – From Jewish Folk Poetry”
Screening and talk with the director
We welcome you to a second movie of our guest Alexander Mindadze. This, like the previous one, is based on a true story. As visceral and fragmented as life itself, the story is a dance on the volcano – relentless in style, events and characters.
Set over some 36 hours, the film begins at night, with Valery, an engineer and party official, running desperately to get to Chernobyl, rushing up roads and through undergrowth. The first we hear of events, it seems there have been some containable explosions, but when the camera wanders into a meeting of despairing bigwigs, it emerges that the main reactor has blown – as signaled by an ominous glow in the night sky. Continue reading “Innocent Saturday – 2011, Mindadze”
Screening and talk with the director
German with English subtitles. Q&A in Russian, English translation.
It is the spring of 1941. German engineer Hans and his colleagues arrive at a USSR glass manufacturing factory. The Soviet Union is to deliver raw materials to Germany – in exchange for the latest industrial machinery and technologies. It quickly becomes apparent this is not the whole story and both sides have the foreboding of things to come. Yet they meet as people and become friends.
Continue reading “MY GOOD HANS – 2015, Mindadze”
Russia, France – Sokurov, 2009
A Russian grandmother (Galina Vishnevskaya, a famous Russian opera singer) visiting her grandson Denis (Vasily Shevtsov), a sergeant in the Russian army. He’s stationed at a remote Chechen outpost, and from the moment Alexandra arrives, she is out of place. The army base is barren and secluded, a closed system with its own code and structure. This visitor creates an immediate juxtaposition between the outside and the inside, and Sokurov patiently tracks the old woman as she explores the camp, talking to soldiers, and even going beyond its perimeter to the local market, where she befriends some of the occupied people.
(A longer review – rogerebert.com/reviews/alexandra-2008)
Continue reading “Alexandra – Александра”
Mother – a silent movie by Vsevolod Pudovkin, 1926
Structures shaping into motion, motions reshaping into structure, against each other, so that the whole thing is like a snowstorm rolling down a hill; gathering itself to itself. Which is to say the people to the people, in an effort at once to reshape and portray the reshaped world.
Continue reading “Мать – Mother”
Ten Days That Shook the World
October was one of two films commissioned by the Soviet government to honour the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution (the other was Vsevolod Pudovkin’s The End of St. Petersburg). Eisenstein was chosen to head the project due to the international success he had achieved with The Battleship Potemkin in 1925. Nikolai Podvoisky, one of the troika who led the storming of the Winter Palace, was responsible for the commission.
Continue reading “October – Октябрь”
King’s MLC presents
a talk by the author
“The revolution and accompanying Civil War was the main event, or the main catastrophe, of the 20th century for Russia. It was a momentous and tragic period.”
In this talk,
Alexei Makushinsky addresses the subjects of the Russian Revolution and Civil War, particularly the psychology of revolution; the mental and ideological premises of the revolutionary action.
Continue reading “Writing about Revolution”
English event at King’s College, Strand, on the day after. Follow this link!
“Мне кажется, что искусство — это, прежде всего, приближение к какой-то реальности, или какой-то правде, или, наоборот, к какому-то идеальному тексту, какой-то в условиях земного бытия невоплотимой красоте… Во всяком случае, к чему-то, чего мы никогда не достигаем и что, парадоксальным образом, всегда уже нам «дано», всегда уже есть, в нас и вокруг нас.”
Алексей Макушинский, Интервью в журнале Eclectic.
Continue reading “Чтение и разговор с писателем Алексеем Макушинским”
Vladimir Menshov (1979)
Moscow of the late ’50s is the initial setting for this movie of three young girls out for love – the upwardly mobile Lyuda (Irina Muravyova), the secure Tonya (Raisa Ryazanova) and the head-over-heels Katya (Vera Alentova). The film re-engages the trio 20 years later, focusing on their varied life changes.
John Bush for allmovie.com
Москва пятидесятых годов. Три молодые провинциалки приезжают в Москву в поисках того, что ищут люди во всех столицах мира — любви, счастья и достатка. Их судьбы складываются именно так, как предполагает характер каждой из девушек.
Continue reading “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears”
6:30pm – 9:30pm
The tale of an ageing monarch descending into madness, filtered through a Communist perspective by Russian director Grigori Kozintsev in the latter’s final film.
This monochrome King Lear has an epic sweep, which emphasizes the catastrophic impact of feudal misrule upon the country’s starving masses. A commanding title performance by Estonian actor Yuri Yarvet, some striking landscape imagery, and Dmitri Shostakovich’s anguished score help make for a spirited adaptation.