Mar 222009

This Family Circus cartoon for March 22 reminds me of me when I’m reading anything in Russian. The little girl goes on for 7 frames reading her book — sitting up, lying down, shifting positions, enjoying herself all the time. Then she reports to her mother: “This is a GOOD BOOK! I’ve been reading the first sentence and it’s interestin’ already!”

I’ve sometimes wondered whether I’ve already seen most of the good Russian movies. But in reading Anna Lawton’s book, Kinoglasnost, I’m learning that there are a lot of good ones in store for me. I’m especially interested in seeing more of those from the glasnost years. I need to become more proficient at reading and understanding Russian if I’m going to be able to take all of them in — maybe a little beyond the skill level portrayed in the cartoon.

In the part of her book on the mid-late 1980s, Lawton has helped me understand why My Friend, Ivan Lapshin is considered such a great movie. There is one piece of information I haven’t been able to reconcile with what I’ve read on the web, though. I’ve read that Ivan Lapshin was produced in 1971, and was not allowed to be released until 1985. Lawton says it was made in 1983. It’s not a huge point, but 1971 was a very different time from 1985, and it would be nice to know which period it came from.

I recently purchased a download of Repentance from Memocast. Lawton tells how it portrays a dream within a dream within a dream. “The way the narrative is constructed is disorienting because of time discontinuity and unclear transitions between reality, dream, memories, and fantasy.” Lawton then goes on to give a synopsis. In this case, I think I’ll be glad to have read it before watching it the first time.

It seems I made some lucky choices in my last purchase from Memocast. But Lawton tells about many, many films that I had never heard of that I now want to see, including some that deal with gulags and prisons — always a topic of morbid fascination to me. What else would you expect from a person who predicts that he’ll end his days in one of Hillary’s internment camps?

Feb 042009

Tonight we started watching, Moi drug, Ivan Lapshin (My friend, Ivan Lapshin). We haven’t yet seen enough to learn why so many Russian critics have called it the best film in Russian history, but like I said, we’ve just started.

I’ve also gone back to watch Nikita Mikhalkov’s 2007 film, Twelve, for a 2nd time.


It’s a take-off on Twelve Angry Men. Here is juror #8 (at least he has that number in the play) explaining his “not guilty” vote by saying that the jury members should at least talk about it, first.

But although it starts by extolling the courageous juror, in the end this film is one of the sleaziest, sneakiest pieces of anti-democratic anti-rule-of-law propaganda I’ve ever seen. No wonder Putin said he shed a tear on seeing it.

At least that’s the way I remember it from the first viewing. I’m now watching it a 2nd time to observe more closely just how it was done, because the first time I didn’t realize until the end just how it had twisted. (And that was even though I had already read reviews that gave some idea of what to expect at the end.)

This is one of the few very few times in which Nikita Mikhalkov, the actor, didn’t give an annoying performance. He played it pretty straight. But as a moviemaker, this is as far as I know the worst thing he’s ever done.

No, I don’t mean the production. Mikhalkov is a talented director. It might be better if he weren’t.

I’ll explain more after I’ve seen more of it the 2nd time.