Nov 302014
 
Assassin of the Czar
I’ve gotten only part way through Assassin of the Tsar (1989) (Цареубийца, Tsareubiytsa).  The first thing that struck me was how similar the mood and setting were to that of Ward No. 6 (2009) (Палата № 6, Palata No. 6).  I first wondered if that’s because it’s the just the way things were at psychiatric hospitals in remote Russian cities. There were the patients at work tables, the peeling paint and run-down buildings, and the same background noises. The head ward attendant with rolled up sleeves on his white lab coat reminded me of Nikita in Ward No. 6, even though Nikita didn’t wear his lab coat that way. Sleeves rolled up or not, both had the aura of menace to come. But both films were directed by Karen Shakhnazarov,  so that is probably where the similarities came from. 
 
I went on a search for English subtitles, which seemed a possibility given that the film was released in the U.K. in 1991 after having been released in the Soviet Union in 1989. But the U.K. release was done by dubbing the voices into English.  That was disappointing, because I’d prefer subtitles or even voiceover.  And the voice coming out of Oleg Yankovsky’s mouth was not like his voice — not even close. But I watched some of it just the same, and noticed that the sound was remarkably in sync with his lips, and the same was true for the other actors. I was about to embark a frame-by-frame comparison of the two versions, because it was almost as if in the English version, Yankovsky had spoken his lines in English as best he could, and then a native English speaker’s voice had been dubbed in.
It turns out that’s exactly what was done, as can be learned by clicking the “More” button on the YouTube version.  I presume it was done the reverse direction for the role played by Malcolm McDowell, an English actor.  Two different versions of the scenes were shot, one in Russian and one in English.
Some links for things referred to above:
May Day parade

May Day parade

Unfortunately I couldn’t make today’s May Day parade in Moscow, but I did something even better. I re-watched the May Day parade in Mne Dvadtsat Let (1965).  I don’t usually like being part of a crowd or parade, but I can’t help but enjoy this one. It’s great fun, partly because of all the people-watching […]

Soviet law books

Soviet law books

In this scene from “Vory v Zakone” (1988), the corrupt procurator looks quickly in his law book and then tells the would-be complainant, “Sorry, but unfortunately there is no help here.”  (Or something like that.  I cannot follow the full conversation.)  He’s obviously not a lawyer getting paid by the hour if he can make […]

Chase scene in "Vory v Zakone"

Chase scene in “Vory v Zakone”

 I’m not sure what the filmmakers were thinking of when they made this car chase scene in “Vory v Zakone” (1988).  Gangster #1 (played by Valentin Gaft) has his driver take off at high speed after Gangster #2, who tries to get away. Gangster #1’s girlfriend, Rita, was in his car when he started, so […]

Палата №6 (Ward No.6)

Палата №6 (Ward No.6)

Even though he no longer speaks, we watch inmate Dr. Ragin (played by Vladimir Ilin) very carefully to get an idea of his current mental condition, wondering just how aware he is of what’s going on.  He’s an inmate in the hospital that he used to run.  Nice touch, given the clues we get from […]

The Decline and Fall of Socialist Realism

The Decline and Fall of Socialist Realism

Judging by the films Afonya (1975) and Autumn Marathon (1979), Georgi Daneliya had not yet broken free of the constraints of socialist realism in 1975.   He was still working within that box, mostly, but on the other hand the box was not boxing him in.   The values of collective society are explicitly stressed over those […]

Forgotten melody for flute

Forgotten melody for flute

It seems I liked Forgotten Melody for Flute a lot more than the Washington Post reviewer did when the film came out in 1988, during perestroika.   He wrote: The major attraction of  “A Forgotten Tune for the Flute” is its insights into everyday Soviet life. It takes us inside the apartments of privileged bureaucrats and […]