May 302008

We’re well over halfway through watching An Usual Wonder on YouTube.

It’s hard to know what to make of it. Just when we think we’re getting the idea of what it is, it does something unexpected. There is music that might be from an old James Bond movie, but what is that with a magician and scenes from the wild west (or east, in the case of a Russian movie)? The magician and his wife are definitely not a Usual Magician and spouse. And it’s not a Usual Bear-turned-into-a-man. The role of king seems made for Evgeni Leonov, but it’s not a Usual King. If you like swordfight scenes, there is one with a charming end to it. It’s a love story, maybe three or more love stories, but it’s hard to say whether they’re silly or profound. And it’s hard to say how all the parts are going to come together in the end.

Most of it seems made more for the stage than the screen. The movie is from 1978, from the Soviet days.

Wikipedia tells us that socialist realism requires the showing of the typical life of people, and there is certainly a lot of that in movies from the Soviet era, but there is also a lot that’s far from it — in unusual combinations.

This is a mixed up explanation, but then the movie a mixed up thing, too. We’re liking it so far.


  • It would be very interesting if you write more detail about your impressions of this movie.

    I’m a Russian and for me this film is ???????????? ???????? on one hand – and is unsual, ?????? film on another hand.

    For example, how do you find the soundtrack, the music composed by Gennady Gladkov?

  • It would be very interesting if you write more detail about your impressions of this movie.

    Im a Russian and for me this film is obyknovennoe chudo on one hand – and is unsual, chudnyy film on another hand.

    For example, how do you find the soundtrack, the music composed by Gennady Gladkov?

  • Reticulator

    Hi, Alexander. My wife and I did enjoy that movie, but it’s so unusual that I hardly knew what to say about it. I’ve been meaning to watch it again, though. I’ll do so when I’m again near Internet that’s fast enough for movie-watching, and then maybe I’ll have more to say about it. I see that you post a lot about Russian cinema over on LiveJournal. I wish I knew enough Russian to read what you write there. With great effort I can make out a little of it.

  • Thank you for the attention to my Live Journal, I have to say there are two-language posts (Russian-English), not all, but many. Of course, my English is not ideal, but I try to duplicate almost every text. So, you may confidently to use the tags in my Journal – in the old posts, you can find the links on English-speaking reviews on Russian films.

    Yes, in my LJ I write about Russian movie mainly. Perhaps, in near future I’ll write more non-Sherlock-movie…

    As for The Ordinary Miracle/Obyknovennoe Chudo, I think you need to see all Mark Zakharov’s films:

    12 stuliev (12 chairs), based on Illiya Ilf & Yevgeny Petrov’s novel. About great trickster Ostap Bender who hunts for the treasures put away in the one chair.

    Tot samyy Myunkhgauzen (The same Munchausen) – 1979

    Dom, kotoryi postroil Svift (The House that Swift built) – film-fantasmagory about British-Irish writer-satirist Swift. – 1982

    Formula Lyubvi (Formula of Love) – about the adventures of the Count Caliostro in Russia. If someone would ask me what the Russian film must be seen by a non-Russian/a foreigner before the other ones, I say it’s Formula Lyubvi. – 1984

    Ubit’ drakona (Kill The Dragon) – 1988

  • In Mark Zakharov’s films, there are humour, music, sense, eccentricity, sadness, optimism… He is a successful theatre director in the Lenkom Theatre (Moscow). If to find some analogies in the West cinema, I’d say that Mark Zakharov’s films like Terry Gilliam’s movies + Tom Stoppard’s plays.

    Mark Zakharov in – //

    I agree that Obyknovennoe Chudo is very unsual film, but, on my view, the very important thing is Culture context for movie. That’s why I’m seriosly interested in how the western viewers see Russian films and what think…

    P.S. Would you tell me why you are so much interested in Russia? Maybe, somewhere in your site/Journal I can find the text about it?

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