Dec 172009


I didn’t care for 1612 Chronicles of the Dark Times (2007). It doesn’t help that it’s a Nikita Mikhalkov film.

I’m not a fan of Mikhalkov, in part because he defends the state of artistic freedom under a national leader who has an uncanny knack for not being able to find the murderers of outspoken journalists. This behavior affects us as well as Russia. It is not helpful for journalistic and artistic freedom in the U.S. or anywhere else, especially at a time when it is under attack around the world, perhaps like it hasn’t been since the 1930s.

But I also don’t care much for Mikhalkov’s acting. In most movies he plays Nikita Mikhalkov rather than whatever character he’s supposed to be playing. At least in Dark Times he didn’t give himself any role that I noticed. If he did, we were at least spared another sight of him in a muscle shirt.

But Dark Times is especially bad. It could just as well be an American movie. Even the realistic parts are improbable when they’re not trite. And the minor actors look too bored to be engaged in a life-and-death struggle.


I could say a lot more bad things about Mikhalkov and his work, but I just finished re-watching Unfinished Piece for Player Piano.” I’ve watched it about once a year since 2006, and I think more highly of it each time. Sometimes I can’t believe it was made by the same Nikita Mikhalkov who made so many films I dislike (such as Burnt by the Sun, to name another). Even his acting is good in this one, here playing a doctor who doesn’t really like being a doctor, especially when the work has anything to do with patients and disease.

Life is not simple.