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Il fratello minore di Andrej, Nikita Mikhalkov (Russia, 1945), compì studi di
cinematografia a Mosca mentre cominciava a segnalarsi come attore,
Georgiy Daneliya's Ia Shagaiu po Moskve/ Meet Me in Moscow (1963)
e per il fratello stesso in Dvorianskoe Gnezdo/ A Nest of the Gentry (1971) .
Come tesi di laurea presentò il mediometraggio Spokoynyy den v Kontse Voyny/ A Quiet Day at the End of the War (1970).
Durante la guerra in una chiesa abbandonata si ritrovano un soldato che ha sottratto ai tedeschi un bottino consistente in diversi antichi dipinti, e una soldatessa, di guardia all'osservatorio del campanile; i due distendono le tele lungo la parete e l'isolamento favorisce un infantile rilassamento della tensione della guerra; ma giunge un gruppo di disertori tedeschi; stringono amicizia e cercano anche loro un momento di svago, ma il soldato russo, quando meno se l'aspettano, li falcia col mitra; nello scontro i dipinti prendono fuoco, il soldato viene ucciso e la sua compagna lascia fuggire l'unico superstite.
Svoy Sredi Chuzhikh Chuzhoy Sredi Svoikh/ At Home Among Strangers (1974), enhanced with
Pavel Lebeshev's cinematography,
is set in the early Soviet Union but it is clearly inspired by
Sergio Leone's "spaghetti westerns".
Mikhalkov indulges in mountain and prairie adventures that at times look
a bit cartoonish, but often rescued by spectacular shots.
This is probably the first Russian film to match Kulesov's western-style
Alas, the score is grotesquely derivative of Morricone's soundtracks with occasional detours into Russian folk music, and many moments look like
The montage seems to be amateurish, alternating close and long shots, alternating color and sepia, with sometimes a hand-held camera that moves frantically
around the room or follows a character through several rooms.
The incorruptible hero is more reminiscent of Soviet propaganda than of
The civil war just ended with the victory of Lenin's communists but now the
people are starving.
Five men, former soldiers in the communist army, celebrate euphorically in
their rural town (a scene reminiscent of George Roy Hillís Butch Cassidy).
Lenin demands that the provinces send all the gold that they can find in order
for the government to buy food.
The local authorities assemble the gold but then have the problem of how to
ship it to the capital: the country is still roamed by gangs of anti-communists
and assorted bandits.
Yegor Shilov's brother betrayed the cause but the authorities trust Yegor to
protect the convoy.
His exuberant friend Andrey Zabelin is disappointed that he is not chosen for the mission.
Yegor gets drugged by a railway station master, Vanyukin, who has been bribed
by Lemke's bandits. Lemke's bandits attack the train and steal the gold, then continue on
the train. But the train is stopped by a man walking on the tracks: he is
the feared bandit Alexandr Brylov, and his men soon storm
the train and kill all the bandits except Lemke who disguises himself as
a captain and asks to join Brylov's gang.
The gold disappears. Brylov doesn't seem to know about it.
Meanwhile, Yegor has returned to the base and is being interrogated, suspected
of having betrayed the communists. He doesn't remember anything, having been
drugged for three days.
Yegor is arrested but escapes in order to prove his innocence. He returns to
the railway station and beats the station master who finally confesses.
Meanwhile, Yegor has found Brylov and fearlessly confronts him calling
calling him "Shourik". Brylov accuses him of having stolen the gold,
but this reveals that there was gold on the train, of which Brylov was not aware. Brylov immediately understands Lemke's true motive and takes Yegor to Lemke.
Yegor beats Lemke but Lemke doesn't know where the gold is, just that someone
must have taken it. Yegor also wants to know who is the
spy that helped Lemke but Lemke refuses to say.
Meanwhile, Yegor has forced Vanyukin to deliver himself to the communists
and admit his betrayal. Vanyukin claims that he doesn't know the name of
the ringmaster and is locked in prison but only to be killed overnight by
someone who has access to the prison. There is a traitor among the communists.
Near the corpse they find Andrey's cigarette holder, but
Andrey has already been placed in charge of the posse that is chasing Brylov
to recover the gold.
Meanwhile, Yegor recognizes a chain that was part of the briefcase:
a mentally-retarded bandit of Brylov's gang, Kayum, is wearing it.
Kayum confesses that he hid it in the fiels to buy himself a house and a wife.
Kayum tries to kill Yegor but instead falls in the river and almost drowns.
Yegor valiantly jumps and saves him.
In order to reveal the name of the spy, Lemke (now permanently tied to a tree) demands half of the gold from Yegor.
Brylov is informed that a large group of communists is closing in on him and
that they are armed with machine guns. But he doesn't seem to care.
The following day Kayum realizes that Brylov has fled with the gold.
Kayum and Yegor improvise a raft, load and tie Lemke onto it, and get down the river to catch up with Brylov.
Brylov has a machine gun and easily kills Kayum while Yegor is trying to
surprise him from behind but slips down a ravine.
Lemke, whose hands are tied, walks towards Brylov demanding a share of the gold
but of course Brylov simply shoots him, wounding him all over the body.
Yegor has recovered the gold but is now alone with the wounded prisoner
Lemke in a place with no food. The starving Yegor valiantly carries Lemke
on his back, while Lemke tries in vain to convince him to keep the gold and
live rich for the rest of his life. Yegor cannot be bribed or corrupted.
Meanwhile, the communists have found out who is the traitor:
a false Nikodimov. The real Nikodimov was murdered and this impostor took
his place, not knowing that the real Nikodomov's wife is still alive and
can testify to it. Nikodimov grabs a gun but is killed in time.
Meanwhile, Yegor and Lemke continue their long trek in a prairie with no
villages. Andrey's forces attack and destroy Brylov's gang, but of course
they don't find the gold.
They are about to give up when Andrey spots Yegor coming out of the woods,
still carrying his prisoner and their precious bag of gold.
Raba Ljubvi/ Slave of Love (1975), again photographed by Lebeshev,
è un elegante melodramma che rievoca
ironicamente il mondo dei cineasti dell'epoca zarista ed è
un arguto gioco di cinema del cinema.
L'azione si svolge in una troupe di attori che stà girando un film muto
in riva la Mar Nero, mentre
da Mosca giungono notizie della rivoluzione; la prima attrice, una "divina" di provincia, si lamenta
perchè la sua abituale "spalla" maschile ha deciso di rimanere nella capitale con gli insorti,
ma è corteggiata da un operatore apparentemente gaio e spensierato; mancando i mezzi per
terminare il film, gli attori sono lasciati liberi; l'attrice scopre che il suo corteggiatore è in
realtà un intrepido rivoluzionario che manda clandestinamente a Mosca pellicole sulla repressione
poliziesca; l'attrice, abituata alla vita mondana, cerca eccitazione nell'attività segreta dell'amico,
ma si converte davvero alla sua causa quando la polizia uccide il suo amico; durante la ripresa di una
scena l'attrice punta una pistola contro il capo della polizia e fa fuoco, ma l'arma è caricata a
salve; i bolscevichi irrompono sulla scena e compiono giustizia per davvero; poi l'attrice fugge verso
Mosca, portando con sé l'ultima pellicola preparata dall'amico morto, a bordo di un tram
inseguito dalla cavalleria.
La metamorfosi della parte recitata dalla diva, che passa da uno all'altro dei due film che l'operatore gira contemporaneamente (il "feuilleton" ottocentesco e il documentario moderno) simboleggia il trapasso dallo stantío regime zarista all'entusiasta regime socialista e al contempo dal cinema muto al futurismo. Tutto il film si svolge comunque nel rispetto del codice del feuilleton: l'amore passionale, la morte eroica, la vendetta; ma il tutto in una abbacinante fantasmagoria di colori, a ritmo di commedia sofisticata lubitschiana.
Neokonchennaya Pyesa Dlya Mekhanicheskogo Pjanino/ Unfinished Piece for a Player Piano (1976, da Cechov), with evocative cinematography by Pavel Lebeshev, e
Oblomov (1979, da Goncharov)
sono due lirici stravolgimenti letterari, in un funambolismo di trovate
tecniche, apologo caustico sulla crisi ed il fallimento, grottesco il primo, malinconico esistenziale il secondo.
Neokonchennaya Pyesa Dlya Mekhanicheskogo Pjanino/ Unfinished Piece for a Player Piano (1976), based on an unfinished Chekhhov play,
has a large cast of characters and takes a while to explore each of them.
The initial joyful atmosphere breaks down quickly and tension arises among
almost all of them. By the end, however, nothing has changed: they will resume
their lives exactly as they were before they met.
They are the ones who are "unfinished".
Some of them are cynical (Mikhail, Anna), some of them are naive (Sergey and Alexandra, the two cheated spouses, and Porfiry) and some of them are desperate (Nikolay, Mikhail).
The film is an elegant fresco of the privileged class just before it imploded.
With 20/20 hindsight, the film shows that the aristocrats are
idle, irrelevant and obsolete.
The communist revolution would soon wipe them out.
But they are also narcissistic while they perceive their failure,
and this makes for good (if not great) cinema.
Anna, a general's widow, receives a marriage proposal from the rich and honest Porfiry in the vast backyard of a rural villa, but she is not interested despite
the fact that the manor has debts.
Her stepson Sergey just got married to a nice girl, Sophia.
The exuberant Mikhail and his meek affectionate wife Alexandra come to visit.
Porfiry hides from them and takes Sophia to the river for a boat ride.
Inside the house Mikhail and his wife Alexandra are welcomed by the old colonel,
Alexandra's father, who is already drunk in the morning, and by Alexandra's
Everybody is excited about everybody else.
Mikhail stares in the binoculars and sees two people in a boat: Porfiry and
Sophia. He is clearly stunned to recognize Sofia.
When Mikhail and Sophia meet, it is obvious that they knew each other.
Mikhail mentions that they haven't met in seven years.
She is disappointed to hear that he dropped out of university and became a simple schoolteacher. She reminds him of the ideals that he defended as a young man, like emanicpation, women's rights, progress. He introduces his wife Alexandra, and mentions that he has a son, that, in other words, now lives a mediocre family life. Mikhail mocks the idealists and everybody gets embarrassed.
The colonel keeps falling asleep.
When Anna loses her patience, there is another embarrassing moment.
Anna's neighbor Pavel arrives escorted by two women and a child: Pavel was a good friend of the late general.
Mikhail and Sophia are chatting alone when someone comes. They instinctively
hide in a closet.
They chat there about their past relationship:
they were lovers when they were students.
Shen Anna comes to drink from the liquor cabinet, they again stand still and
silent in the closet.
Sophia comes out of the closet and starts a long monologue thinking that
Mikhail is listening to her but he has left the room.
She ends her monologue staring at the mirror.
Anna's stepson Sergey is a little retarded and poiled, but he is very happy of
having married Sophia, and almost cries of joy. He is
only concerned that they live so far from the nearest town.
Anna approaches Mikhail in the backyard and we learn that they have been lovers, but he doesn't want her anymore
She is resentful, and boasts that the rich Porfiry proposed to her.
Anna, still waiting for the gypsies who are supposed to come from the city, unveils a surprise: a player piano. The guests are terrified when they see the instrument playing by itself, and Alexandra even faints.
Sofia announces that she intends to spend a day helping the peasant women.
Her husband Sergey is moved to tears and offers his clothes for the peasant men.
Mikhail mocks the idea of peasants wearing tuxedos, and Sophia is hurt.
The guests dance at the music of the mechanical piano.
Anna flirts with Mikhail in front of the naive Alexandra, who thinks it is just a prank. Alexandra is happy too and blind to her husband's affairs.
A man from a nearby factory, whose wife is sick, comes to look for the doctor, i.e. for Alexandra's brother Nikolay. But Nikolay doesn't want to leave the party and sends him away in the rain.
Nikolay is the only doctor in the neighborhood.
Alexandra is shocked and Mikhail yells at him.
The grammophone plays opera and Pavel and his ladies make fun of the aria.
They eat dinner at a big table.
The aristocratic Pavel shouts an apocalyptic sermon against the peasants.
Anna's friend Gerasim is now the owner of the manor.
Gerasim, the son of a peasant, rebuffs Pavel, stately calmly that his
money is paying for the dinner, for the piano, etc.
Pavel rises from his chair and leaves
Now it's Mikhail's turn to rant against the idle aristocrats sitting at the table.
Then it's Nikolay's turn to talk. He breaks into tears and admits that he is bored and hopeless in the countryside, taking care of poor people's diseases.
Mikhail grabs a guitar and starts reciting the story of Sophia and himself: two
students who were in love, but the girl left the boy and never returned, and he became a drunk, dropped out of university, and eventually started an ordinary life.
Everybody listens silently. Alexandra, humiliated, is crying.
It is now evening. Anna has organized fireworks by the river.
Everybody runs to the fireworks and Mikhail confronts Sofia alone.
He cannot understand how she, the idealist, ended up marrying an idle aristocrat.
They still love each other. They hug and kiss
Someone is wathcing them: her husband Sergey.
He stands there speechless until they notice him and then she runs away ashamed.
Fireworks explode in the sky.
Back in the villa, Sergei cries in front of his mother Anna.
His happiness is destroyed and he decides to leave.
Porfiry confronts Mikhail in a field. He calls him
scoundrel and accuses him of having ruined his life (presumably because Porfiry
Mikhail scorns him and runs down the hill like a demon.
But then Mikhail stops to pray God, meditating on his own senseless life.
When he returns to the villa, he finds Sophia waiting for him,
She wants to run away with him, ready to restart her life.
Mikhail doesn't want her. He runs
delirious around the house shouting and waking up everybody.
(The camera that has been mostly static up to this point now walks behind him).
Mikhail admits his failure as aman, and insults Alexndra who nonetheless tries to console him. Mikhail
runs down the hill through the vegetation, chased by her,
and jumps into the river, but the water is too low to drown.
She hugs him, puts the hat on his head, and offers unconditioned love.
She finally touches his heart and he cries with her.
Meanwhile, the servants have prepared a carriage for Sergey, and a woman is
sitting next to him (we don't see her face, but presumably Sophia) as they
wait for the horses to be attached.
Pyat Vecherov/ Five Evenings (1978) è una commedia sentimentale ambientata
(è la prima volta) a Mosca nel dopoguerra.
Un uomo ritrova una vecchia amica e si sistema da lei;
finge di aver fatto fortuna e le chiede di andarsene con lui, ma poi non trovando il coraggio di confessarle
la bugia, va a nascondersi da un amico, il quale lo protegge ma rivela la verità alla donna; l'uomo
vergognoso decide di andarsene da solo, ma poi ci ripensa e torna a casa sua, dove lei lo accoglie a braccia
aperte. L'idillio metropolitano è contrappuntato dall'inquieta vita sentimentale di una ragazza che
vive con loro.
Rodnja/ Family Relations (1982), a vehicle for actress
Nonna Mordyukova, belongs to the vast 18th-century literary repertoire
on the "quality of life".
It's a farcical and metaphorical film that pits an
old stubborn traditionalist peasant against amoral city life (as represented by her daughter) and mass-media modernity (as represented by her granddaughter).
The peasant is repeatedly humiliated but a happy ending reconciles her with
fundamental family values.
Maria, a paesant woman carrying heavy bags, struggles to find a ticket at the train station for the city but finally succeeds.
It's an overnight journey but she is assigned a sleeping compartment with a middle-aged businessman, Yuri.
They start drinking and get drunk and have fun.
Maria is a typical countryside woman, extroverted and talkative.
In the morning the train arrives at the station where
Maria's daughter Nina is expecting Maria.
A general also traveled on the same train and gets off at the same station.
Maria is shocked when she sees that Nina smokes cigarettes, and hurt when Nina
informs her that she separated from her husband Tasik, despite having a little daughter, Ira.
Nina's apartment is located near the soccer stadium.
Maria cries but then she's soon happy again. She is just a happy person.
When she cooks, she wears an apron with the US flag.
Ira is a spoiled child who watches television and listens to rock music.
Maria too is separated: her former husband, Nina's father, now has another family and two children.
Tasik walks in when Nina is not around and Maria insults him and even strikes him.
Out of the blue, Yuri calls and asks to meet in a park.
He shows up with a bouquet of flowers but she's offended to be treated like a young woman.
She runs away and he has to chase her.
He even has a gift for her, a hat.
They soon make peace and enjoy the park.
When Maria gets back home, she has an argument with Nina. Maria criticizes
Nina's city life and Nina criticizes Maria's arch-conservative attitudes,
and all the while little Ira is playing loud Western music and watch television, indifferent to anything else (she wears headsets but the music plays out loud).
We learn that Maria kicked out her husband Vova who was a drunkard and womanizer.
We learn that Nina was dating a colleague called Gena but he went back to his wife.
The camera lingers for many seconds on a landing airplane that Nina sees from her balcony.
Maria, fed up, decides to return home and leaves right away for the train station.
Yuri finds her there, determined to spend the night in a train station because she cannot find a hotel room.
He finds a place to sleep for her and tells her how he was a promising
painter and proposed to a woman but then couldn't marry her and turned to
fishing and became the chief engineer of a fishing plant.
The following morning Maria visits her ex Vova/
Konovalov, who lives in the same city as
Nina. Maria finds him a very sick and drunk old man who lives alone.
She lies that she got married to a chief engineer.
He claims to have a well-paid job but seems to be destitute and abandoned by his sons.
He pretends to be happy but Maria pities him, and eventually he breaks down in tears.
He gets excited when his son Varelik shows up on a motorcycle with his girlfriend. Their noisy motorcycles deafen the neighborhood.
He then forgets about Maria and cares for the stray dogs.
Maria then visits his Vova's son Kirill, who lives in a nice apartment, and yells at
him that he abandoned his father. Kirill is throwing a
party because he's leaving for military service the following day,
and listens without making any comment.
Maria then finds Tasik to apologize for striking him.
She follows him to a restaurant where he meets his girlfriend Lara.
Maria disrupts their dinner and
in fact disrupts the dances when the entertainment begins.
Nonetheless, Tasik dances with his mother-in-law Maria in the middle of the restaurant while all the patrons clap. The dance becomes a duel as Tasik accelerates the pace until Maria can't keep up anymore.
Maria leaves in tears and, disgusted by city life, decides to go back to her village.
She meets Yuri and lies to him that she has decided to go back to her husband Vova.
Yuri is shocked and disappointed.
Nina sees Maria off to the train station.
Nina has learned that Maria has invited Vova to go back to the village with her.
The train is about to leave and Maria still hesitates to board.
The general is on the same train. Maria doesn't board, still waiting for Vova.
She remains alone in the empty train station.
The following day festive crowds flood the station: they are the young man leaving for military service, escorted by friends and family.
And Vova is there. Maria thinks that Vova finally came to join her, but Vova
is there only to see his son off, and even want to introduce Maria to his wife Lyuba.
Nina and her daughter Ira are there too.
Everybody is dancing and singing.
Maria walks away from the crowd and Nina follows her.
Maria, Nina and Ira (three generations of women) walk away along the railway tracks.
Maria is so happy to be reunited with them that she forgets the bucket full of her belongings. Little Ira runs back to pick it up but instead throws it away so that Maria cannot leave.
Bez Svideteley/ Without Witness (1983) is a kammerspiel starring Mikhail Ulianov.
Oci Ciornie/ Dark Eyes (1987) is inspired by four of Chekhov's tales
in a nostalgic Fellini-esque atmosphere, alternating farce and tragedy.
All'inizio del secolo il fallito Mastroianni su un battello a vapore rievoca il suo grande amore perduto, una donna Russa per la quale lascio` la moglie (un'ereditiera che di fatto lo mantiene)
La cinematografia di Mikhalkov rappresenta la più completa fusione
della cultura classica russa con la realtà contemporanea sovietica. Il suo calibrato iperrealismo,
che fa ricorso a tutti gli strumenti del mestiere, è consapevole tanto del futurismo quanto del
Mikhalkov è un cineasta completo, un meticoloso costruttore di film,
che cura in egual misura la recitazione degli attori (non a caso sempre gli stessi, secondo una prassi
ereditata dai cineasti più personali d'Occidente, da Buñuel a Bergmann, da Fellini a
Hitchcock), la fotografia (aliena dai formalismi in cui altri registi sfogano la limitazione di espressione),
la musica (come Fellini, Leone, Bergmann), ecc.
Urga/ Close to Eden (1990), scripted by Rustam Ibragimbekov,
set in the steppes with nonprofessional actors,
is an ethnographic parenthesis, a moving tribute to a civilization of the past, with a masterful ending.
In a vast empty prairie,
a Mongolian rider chases another rider, who turns out to be a woman.
He catches up with her but she fights and manages to jump back on her horse and escape.
When they are both back in their tent/yurt, we see that they are husband and wife.
The bleeding wife tells the husband that three children are one too many.
He wants a fourth one. His old mother laments that he married a woman from the city. He tells Mongol legends to his little son Bouin.
We learn that they are Mongols who live in China.
His name is Gombo and his wife is Pagma.
The family is isolated from any village.
One day a Russian truck driver falls asleep at the wheel and almost drives
into a lake. To wake up, he starts dancing and singing and running.
There's nobody around, but he runs into something that terrifies him.
He runs back to the truck and frantically starts the engine, ending up
into the lake. He tries to get help
by blowing the horn of the truck and shouting. Finally
Gombo and Pagma hear him, and Gombo rides to the lake.
The driver can finally tell someone that he found a corpse in the grass, but Bayartou is not shaken: the dead man is a relative, left to the birds as tradition among the Mongols.
Gombo can't help pull the truck out of the lake so he invites the truck driver, Sergei, to sleep in his tent.
Sergei thus see how Gombo kills a sheep and then how he and Pagma dismember the
animal to cook its body parts. Gombo shows his little son Bouin how to do it.
Sergei is revolted by the scene and looks away.
Initially he doesn't want to eat his food but they don't start until he joins,
and then he enjoys the roasted meat with them.
Sergei is very extroverted and chats with the children.
Their little girl Bourma plays the accordion.
Sergei sees the poster of a Hollywood star (Sylvester Stallone) that a neighbor, a drunkard named Bayartou, pretends is the photo of a brother who lives in the USA.
That night Sergei sleeps in their yurt with them. Gombo tries to make love to Pagma but she still refuses, afraid of getting pregnant again.
She explains to Gombo what a condom is. She tells him that he should get a TV set so he can learn the things that city people know.
Bayartou, always drunk, rides by again, holding an umbrella he found in the prairie, and gives them gifts: an apple and an egg. He tells them that his
brother is coming to visit him from America, and rides away pretending that he has to prepare for the visit.
As they eat the apple and the egg, Gombo remarks that Bayartou only owns his horse.
Gombo helps Sergei pull out the truck from the lake, and Sergei gives Gombo
a ride to the city. Gombo rides in the back of the truck with two horses.
They separate and Gombo rides into the busy town on his horse, surrounded by
thousands of bicycles and pedestrians.
Gombo walks into a pharmacy where he is supposed to buy condoms, but walks out without buying them and instead wanders around and explores the town.
Back home, his little son Bouin and little girl Bourma see that the horses are
running away, and their mother has to ride after them.
Meanwhile, Sergei visits his Russian wife Marina.
While they make love, their daughter reads a book about Lenin in the
hallway outside their apartment.
The crazy Bayartou rides into the apartment building on his horse and gives the girl an apple.
They are Russians living in a Chinese town in which nobody speaks Russian.
He's building a road.
Back home, Pagma is playing with Bouin and Bourma in the prairie.
Gombo has an appointment with Sergei in the evening and has to kill the time in the town.
Gombo is the only person in the town on a horse.
Back home, Pagma and the children go to sleep in the yurt.
In town, Gombo meets Sergei and a Russian friend of his in a night-club where young people dance to Western music.
Sergei, drunk, becomes very melancholic and nostalgic.
He wades through the crowd of dancers and stops the music.
He offers money to the band to play a song whose score is tattooed on his back.
He removes his shirt and the musicians read the music on his back while he sings.
The police arrest him.
Gombo jumps on his horse and follows the police car to the police station.
Gombo runs to a fancy nightclub where his uncle Van Biao, wearing a tuxedo, is playing piano and forces him to stop playing. They ride their horses to the police station and Gombo's uncle bails out Sergei.
On the way to Van Biao's home, Gombo opens up to him that he would like a fourth child and that he came to buy condoms. We learn that he didn't buy the condoms because first he wants to talk to a Buddhist lama.
Via Biao laughs.
Since Pagma called him a barbarian for not owning a TV set, he buys one.
And since everybody in town was riding a bicycle, not a horse, he buys one.
So he sets out on the dusty road towards the Buddhist temple carrying a bicycle and a TV set.
He doesn't get any meaningful advice from the monk and finally heads home, riding through the vast empty prairie.
He stops to eat in the grass and enjoy testing the new bicycle.
Suddenly an army of medieval horseriders emerges from the prairie and starts chasing him.
He rides away in his bicycle.
It's Genghis Khan, played by Bayartou, married to his wife Pagma, with his Mongolian retinue.
They capture Gombo.
Genghis Khan makes fun of his city belongings, as if he betrayed Mongolian civilization.
Genghis Khan orders his troops to destroy the TV set.
Sergei shows up, again asking for help for his truck.
Genghis Khan captures him too and sets fire to his truck.
Gombo and Sergei are killed.
Gombo wakes up: it was just a dream. The TV set and the bicycle have always
been on his horses.
A giant rainbow has appeared in the sky.
Gombo finally reaches home and opens the presents and builds an antenna.
His family, though, doesn't seem to appreciate their value:
Gombo's mother is more fascinated by the bubble-wrap of the packaging,
little Bouin plays inside the box that contained the TV set,
little Bourma, the accordion player, tries to make music with the bell of the bicycle,
and Pagma simply cooks dinner.
Finally Gombo can turn on the TV set. One channel is covering a meeting between the presidents of the US and of Russia. Another channel is showing people singing.
Gombo's wife is disappointed that he didn't buy condoms.
He lies that the pharmacy didn't have any. She leaves the yurt, angry.
Gombo sees her on the screen of the TV set, as if it was one of the channels, and he runs outside.
She's riding away on a horse, and Gombo starts chasing her on another horse.
He catches up with her and plants an "urga" on a hill (a Mongolian symbol that means they are having sex).
We then see little Bourma playing on the accordion the song tattooed on Sergei's back while Sergei sings the words and little Bouin listens smiling.
We now hear the voiceover of Gombo's fourth son, who was conceived in that occasion.
He's talking from the future.
They called him Taimoudjine, the same name of Genghis Khan.
Where Gombo planted the urga there is now a giant chimney spilling black smoke
into the sky.
He tells us that the lake doesn't exist anymore, and no Russians live there anymore.
He is married but has no children. He plans to visit Los Angeles for vacation.
We hear a telephone in the background.
He is at the same time the fruit of ancient traditions (Gombo prevailing over Pagma) and the complete annihilation of those traditions.
Anna Ot Shesti do Vosemnadtsati/ From Six Till Eighteen (1993)
Utomlyonnye Solntsem/ Burnt by the Sun (1994),
scripted by Rustam Ibragimbekov,
is a somewhat confused
that frequently lapses into comedy. For the most part is
feels more like a theatrical production, with a
Chekhovian atmosphere and Chekhovian characters.
The film begins in a city apartment, where a young man, Mitya (Oleg Menshikov),
lives with a French servant and tutor hired by his father when Mitya was still
a child. Mitya doesn't sound normal: he plays Russian roulette with an empty
revolver. Meanwhile, his servant reads the news:
mysterious fireballs have been seen streaking across the sky.
The phone rings and Mitya accepts a new assignment.
The real action, however, is set in an idyllic countryside during the Stalin rule of the 1930s.
Tanks are about to enter a wheat field but the peasants stop them in order to
save their harvest. Some go
running to alert an influential neighbor, Sergei Kotov. Sergei rushes to the
fields and yells at the commander, who recognizes him as a former hero of
the nation and apologizes. Sergei lives in a nice house with his extended
family. Besides his much younger wife Marusya and and their daughter Nadya, there is a cast
Marusya's mother, her grandmother, her uncle
Vesvolod (who spends all the time reading the newspaper),
her grandmother's friend Elena,
Elena's son Kirik (congenitally broke),
and their maid Mokhova. Mokhova is addicted to medicines,
and the older women decide to throw them in the river.
Everybody makes fun of the fact that the middle-aged Mokhova is still a virgin.
A truck driver is looking for a village where he has to deliver some furniture.
He asks a shy spectacled woman, Lyuba, who replies that her is in the village of artists,
writers, painters and musicians, and she never heard of the other village.
Lyuba is a scholarly colleague of the uncle.
It is a national holiday.
Nadya watches a parade pass by. A man who is wearing dark glasses like a blind
man leaves the parade and "smells" Nadya, but obviously he is not blind at all.
Nadya leads him to Sergei's house, where he seems to recognize everybody and
surprised that they are still alive. The stranger plays the piano and then removes his
disguise: he is the young man of the beginning, Mitya,
and they all know him well as
a joker who grew up in that part of the world.
Marusya introduces him to her husband Sergei, but Mitya hints that they have
met before. The two men exchange a quick look.
Marusya is obviously nervous.
Left alone by the river bank Mitya and Marusya talk about the past: they used
to be lovers.
Marusya had suffered a trauma as a teenager when she had discovered her recently
widowed mother flirting with Kirik.
Soldiers run to the river and force everybody to wear
gas masks for an exercise. The commotion is comic. Marusya and Mitya ask to
be treated as casualties and carried on stretchers. When Nadya and Sergei
return from a boat trip, they find the river bank deserted. Sergei seems anxious
to return to the house and check on Mitya and Marusya.
He catches Kirik trying to seduce Lyuba and the rest of the family dancing the
can-can while Mitya is playing the piano, still wearing the gas mask.
The truck driver is still driving around looking for the unknown village.
He stumbles into a group of workers erecting a platform for
a hot-air balloon carrying a vast portrait of Stalin but they send him away
without helping him find his address.
Mitya tells Nadya a fairy tale which is really a summary of his life:
he and Marusya were in love, then his boss sent him away on an important
mission and she married the boss.
Suddenly a fireball coming from the river flies through the house.
Marusya is disturbed by the story and runs upstairs. When her husband approaches
her, she threatens to kill herself. But he calms her down and they hug.
The fireball explodes in the woods and sets a tree on fire.
Mitya, alone with Kirik, mentions that he worked as a Soviet spy in France.
Kirik tells him that
Marusya waited for him for one year and even tried to kill herself.
Meanwhile, Marusya is having sex with Sergei, on top of him.
After the sex, Sergei admits to Marusya that he
worked for the spy agency and the young Mitya was
one of his men and Sergei sent Mitya to France as a spy.
But Sergei thinks that Mitya obeyed because he didn't want to be killed as
a traitor where Sergei was obeying the state because he loved his country.
Mitya asks to talk in private with Sergei.
Mitya has not come to visit his old friends, but to arrest Sergei.
A black limo is waiting nearby and will come to pick them up in two hours.
Sergei doesn't seem too upset and tells Sergei that they have time to play
the football game that he and his friends play every sunday.
The truck driver is driving across a field and asks peasants in vain
for directions to his unknown village until they chase him away.
The whole family assembles in the woods for a chaotic football scene.
When Sergei and Mitya are alone again, Sergei reminds him that he, Mitya,
was a former "White" soldier and his mission in France consisted in
betraying eight of his former comrades
who were then shot without a trial; whereas Sergei was a war hero of the
revolution. Sergei thinks that Mitya has invented the charges against him
to take his revenge for Sergei's marrying Marusya. Mitya angrily informs
Sergei that he will be forced to confess that he spied for the Germans and
the Japanese, and plotted to kill Stalin.
Mitya plays with Nadya like an affectionate uncle, but minutes later summons
her father to the black car that has been waiting outside.
An excited Nadya is allowed to ride in the black car, not understanding that
they are taking away her father. Before leaving the house, Sergei stares
nostalgically at a photograph of him and Stalin when they were comrades;
and wears his old decorated uniform.
The whole family bids farewell to Sergei and Mitya, thinking that they are
just going on a trip.
In the car a confident Sergei mutters that he will personally talk to Stalin and those who conspired against him will be punished.
The truck driver is blocking the road, forcing the car to stop.
He shouts that he ran out of gasoline. He asks the agents for a little gasoline.
Then he recognizes Sergei the national hero. And Sergei
Sergei is actually the first person who knows the unknown village,
but the agents think that he is trying to escape and beat him up.
Mitya watches coldly. The truck driver runs away terrified but then comes back.
Mitya tells him to put his hands behind his head.
Just then the hot-air balloon rises in front of them, carrying the huge
banner with Stalin's face.
Mitya salutes the fluttering face with a smirk.
He then orders his men to
execute the driver and move the truck out of the way.
In the car Mitya stares at Sergei's face covered in blood.
Sergei begins crying because he understands that nobody will help him
as they pass by the giant face of Stalin (perhaps the man who ordered Sergei's
In the last scene Mitya is back in his city apartment staring at the ceiling.
The camera slowly moves down and shows that he is lying dressed in his bathtub,
bleeding to death, while one of those mysterious fireballs seems to be
watching him die from outside the window.
The last screen shows that
Sergei "confessed" to all charges and was executed; and that
Marusya was arrested and died in a concentration camp.
By then the most famous Russian director both at home and in the West,
in 1997 Mikhalkov was also appointed chairman of the Russian Union of film-makers.
Sibirskiy Tsiryulnik/ Barber of Siberia (1998), scripted by Ibragimbekov and photographed by Pavel Lebeshev, is a three-hour epic, overlong and implausible.
Much of the film is farcical, to the detriment of what could be a poignant period drama.
If there was any attempt to analyze the relationship between the USA and Russia, it is completely lost.
The cinematography of Pavel Lebeshev is the real highlight, otherwise the
large-scale grandiose scenes would simply be overblown self-indulgency.
The film opens in 1905 in the USA. A woman is writing a letter to her son
Andrew who has just joined the military.
We see a comic interaction between Andrew and his sergeant who
doesn't know who Mozart was: the sergeant, angry at Andrew for unmasking his
ignorance, punishes Andrew by forcing him to wear a gas mask (gas masks didn't exist back then, but that's a detail).
Back to his mother, her letter is about what happened to her
when, before he was born, she left the USA for Russia in 1885.
At the time a young attractive rich lady,
she traveled on a train to Moscow that had to stop to pick up a platoon of soldiers.
Some soldiers sneaked into first class and the woman was entertained by
cadet Andrey, who (speaking fluent English) told her that he sang the part of the
barber of Seville in Mozart's opera "The Marriage of Figaro".
Jane and Andrey drink in her first-class compartment until he gets drunk
until his captain found him.
She arrived in Moscow where she was welcomed by her father and his assistant
We learn that her husband Harry died, eaten by crocodiles in Egypt.
Just as Jane and her father are riding out of the Kremlin, terrorists
attack the governor in a nearby street, and Andrey is one of the soldiers
who has to fight and arrest them (Andrey though lets one escape).
Jane's father takes Jane to admire his life's work, a giant machine called
"Barber of Siberia" designed to cut down forest trees 500 times faster than
Her father and Kopnovsky demonstrate the machine to her, and explain that they need money from the grand duke to complete it, and the
general Radlov, who is both in charge of the military academy (i.e. of the cadets) and of the ministry of inventions, has exerted his influence on the grand duke to fire her father.
She concludes that her father is completely crazy but decides to help nonetheless.
Her mission is to convince general Radlov to request funding from the grand duke for her father's project.
Jane meets general Radlov (who conveniently speaks English) in a magnificent palace and tells him that her
husband died in combat, fighting the Indians along general Custer.
Jane flatters the general.
The general and Jane walk out of his office just when some cadets
are hilariously washing the floors of the ballroom. One of the cadets is Andrey.
The general invites Jane to the forthcoming ball.
Andrey visits his mother, an actress,
and asks for a little money. She refuses but
the maid, who is clearly in love with him, gives him the money.
The grand ball thrown by the general is a disaster because
the floor has been so well waxed by the cadets that it's impossible to
walk on it: too slippery. A piano accidentally pushed almost hits the crowd
The only ones who can dance are the cadets who, real pranksters, apply rosin to the soles of their shoes, and then carry dames around the floor.
On the way back to their barracks, a fellow cadet, a count, makes fun of Jane
and Andrey challenges him to a duel.
Andrey gets wounded but not seriously. Their captain Pavel covers up for them,
otherwise they would be tried for an illegal duel and their careers ruined.
Jane remains unaware of the duel.
While Jane is entertaining the general and getting him drunk at a county fair (the holiday of Maslenitsa), the convalescent Andrey writes a letter to withdraw from military academy.
The drunk general disrupts the Maslenitsa celebrations, even causing
a colossal explosion. Jane is totally amused by the mess she caused.
The count cadet reveals to Jane that Andrey was wounded in a duel with him.
Jane visits Andrey at the hospital and tears his resignation letter.
One day the general decides to propose to Jane and, of all people, he asks
Andrey to be his interpreter. Andrey reads the general's love letter to her
but then changes the words and make it his own love letter to her.
The general is humiliated that his well-planned proposal ended in a such as charade, and Jane's father is desperate that the general may have lost his motivation to help his project. Jane is disgusted by his egotism, promises to deliver
according to their "contract" (implying that she was somehow hired by him)
and make us doubt that he is really her father (maybe she just played the part
of his daughter in order to fulfill the contract).
The general is furious at Andrey but can't punish him because he is scheduled
to sing in a production of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" before the grand duke.
Jane is so touched by Andrey's action that she visits him at his mother's place.
She tells him the truth about herself: that she's been hired by the inventor, that's basically a prostitute.
She accepts his proposal of marriage but she warns him that men don't marry women like her.
He is shocked but she's really in love. They make wild love on the floor.
The maid, who is secretly in love with Andrey, overhears them and cries.
After sex, Jane opens up to Andrey.
When she was 14 and her mother was sick at the hospital, her stepfather abused her and made her his lover.
Jane confesses that she's never been married.
The film then moves on to the performance of Mozart's opera, with the grand duke in attendance.
During a break, Jane carries on her charade with the general, still determined to get an audience with the grand duke. The general is jealous of Andrey and Jane makes fun of Andrey as a meaningless childish suitor. Unfortunately, Andrey happens to overhear them. Heartbroken, he flees the theater. The other performers
desperately look for him in order to restart the performance.
They find him in the street and drag him back to the theater, but he
is delirious and strikes the general in front of the audience.
The film returns briefly to 1905 at the camp where the sergeant is still
waiting for Andrew to admit that Mozart was not a great composer.
Andrew plays Mozart on the piano for him.
His mother's voiceover as she's writing the letter
confesses that she, the hardened adventuress, was truly in love for the first time in her life
and resumes the story of what happened to Andrey.
Jane is outraged that the newspapers report a doctored story: that Andrey
tried to assassinate the grand dure and the general save the life of the
Andrey is sentenced to
seven years of hard labor and a further five years of exile
Andrey pleads guilty to the assassination attempt in order to protect Jane's reputation.
Jane sees him briefly one more time when he's being escorted to the train, squeezed with hundreds of other prisoners.
The film now returns to 1905, to
the villa where the lady is writing the letter to her son Andrew.
She tells us that it took seven years for the inventor to complete his invention and three more years for Jane to obtain permission to test it in Siberia;
and that she agreed to marry the inventor because it was the only way to
get to Siberia. Back to 1895, we see the giant invention being deployed
by an army of peasants, but then the peasants run away in panic when the
monster machine starts chopping down trees.
Jane steals a carriage and rides to the village where Andrey is exiled.
She finds his home but he is not home.
We see that his family is hiding in a room: he married the maid and
they have several children. The maid is scared of Jane and holds her breath
until Jane leaves.
This ends the lady's letter to her son Andrew. She is ready to tell him
her secret: that Andrew is Andrey's son.
We are back in 1905. Jane drives to the camp where Andrew still insists
that Mozart is a great composer and his sergeant finally gives up and
shouts to the troops that Mozart is a great composer.
Andrew can finally remove his gas mask.
Jane arrives in her car and gives the sergeant a ride.
The last scene shows us what happened when she left the Siberian village:
Andrey did see her from a distance and ran after her carriage but couldn't catch up with her.
Jane will never know that Andrey did see her that time even if she didn't see him.
12 (2007) was a remake of Lumet's classic 12 Angry Men (1957), which was in turn an adaptation of Reginald Rose's 1954 teleplay.
Burnt by the Sun 2 - Exodus (2010) and
Burnt by the Sun 3 - The Citadel (2011)
are sequels to his best-known film,
both set during the Nazi invasion.
Solnechnyy Udar/ Sunstroke (2014), a three-hour historical epic,
Ivan Bunin's anti-communist diary "Okayaniye Dni/ Cursed Days" that was banned in the Soviet Union and on his short story "Sunstroke",
unfolds slowly. It proceeds on two tracks: one set in a prison camp where
tragedy awaits thousands of prisoners, and one set on a steamer where a love story is told through farcical slapstick-style episodes.
It's a love story against the backdrop of the civil war, just like Andrey Kravchuk's Admiral (2009) that came out a few years earlier.
As usual, Mikhalkov employs a cinematographer, Vladislav Opelyants, who maximizes the effect of his large-scale scenes.
The film takes a lot of detours for no apparent reason other than display
Mikhalkov's skills at reconstructing the looks and atmosphere of the past.
The love story takes forever but it is actually barely sketched and, from what we see, totally implausible. We have no idea why he gets so obsessed with her and why she accepts him, a complete stranger, and why then she leaves him.
The film shows some irrelevant episodes in excruciating detail but then omits
the actions that would make them relevant.
It's a case of "much ado about nothing".
The film opens in 1920 during the civil war.
The Soviet commander gives the anti-communist rebels (the "whites") 24 hours to surrender and promises they will be spared and allowed to emigrate.
Thousands of soldiers surrender and are taken to a prisoner-of-war camp in Crimea.
The white officers are asked one by one to sign the letter of surrender.
The sympathetic Bolshevik officer Georgi is the one who collects the letters.
In line to sign the surrender is a young white officer, Junker, with a briefcase that contains a German camera.
Another one, Koka, has a suitcase full of tobacco (his father's collection) and a dog.
Another one (the unnamed protagonist of the film) still cannot believe what has happened. He asks "How did it all start?" and a flashback takes us back to a steamer in 1907.
The steamer leaves the port and we see two passengers: a younger version of the officer and a lady with two children.
The lady is staring to our (unnamed) officer with binoculars.
We are soon back to the prison camp, where the officers expect to be allowed
to emigrate soon. The officer with the camera offers to take a picture of
everybody, and another officer suggests to title it
"Apotheosis of Reconciliation".
But our office thinks it's humiliation, not reconciliation.
The officers learn that their fate has to be decided by a Hungarian (Bela Kun)
and a Jewess (Rosalia Zemlyachka)
The film returns to the steamer in 1907. Our young officer meets the mother
Georgi is watching the scene with binoculars.
of the children, Tatyana, a talkative and extroverted woman married to a
foreigner, and then the young attractive woman he's really after, who turns out to be the nanny.
Back to the camp in 1920, the photographer is ready to take the group picture but the communist Rosalia shows up to shame them for taking a picture as if they
were the victors and promises that she will post their picture in all newspapers to show the losers. When she leaves, the white officers are not in mood for
a group photo anymore.
Back to the boat, the film wastes a lot of time showing us a farcical chase of
a veil that keeps flying away (the officer tries to catch it and return it to the nanny but the little boy catches it first) and a comic encounter of two
twin girls with a minor writer whom they think is Cekhov (already dead in 1907).
Back to the prison camp in 1920, we hear a lengthy sermon by Rosalia against
religion. The white officers sometimes argue among themselves and sometimes have fun.
Every now and then we see the famous sequence of the stroller rolling down
the stairs from Ejzenstein's "Potemkin", except that it's mixed with the crowd of soldiers and it's shown in slow motion. Here the stroller is pushed down the stairs by an officers who has stuffed it with souvenirs and other memories of old Russia.
The stroller crashes at the bottom of the stairs among the burning ruins of a battlefield.
And the officer keeps thinking how did the Russian Empire collapse.
Back to the boat, we see a (lengthy) magician's show. The officer offers his collaboration in order to attract the attention of the nanny, but ends up losing his watch. One day he thinks he sees from his cabin that the nanny has disembarked and jumps out of the boat while the boat is already leaving the port. Comically, he mistook the mother for the nanny. Now the mother thinks that he's madly in love with her, and confesses to him that she likes him too.
The officer tries desperately to stop the steamer but the steamer is already
far away. He is saved by the nanny, who has watched him with binoculars
and convinces the captain to turn the ship back.
The officer is invited to dinner at the ship's restaurant by the magician who
destroyed his pocket watch, grateful that the officer didn't tell the audience that the trick had failed. He convinces the nanny to get off at the first port and
takes her to a hotel. We still don't know their names. In the room she
immediately undresses and they make love
(we see the machine of the steamer, a not so subtle metaphor for sex).
When he falls asleep, she dresses up, talks to him a weird
("what happened between us was just a sunstroke which can't go on too long because otherwise you will get burned")
and bids him goodbye.
When he wakes up, she has disappeared. The hotel manager tells him that
he took her to the steamer and she left on the steamer.
She left behind a melancholy farewell letter and a candy.
A boy at the port, Egoriy, tells the officer that she was crying.
The officer would like to send her a telegram but he knows neither her name
nor where she lives.
Walking around town with the boy, the officer is transfixed when he sees the
photo of a family in a photographer's window. The photographer tells him that
it's the family of the principal of the high school.
He pays a lot of money for the photographer to take a photo of him and
post it where the family's photo is.
For the rest of the day the officer hangs out with Egoriy who becomes his tourguide.
The boy is obsessed with Darwin's theory that humans descend from monkeys.
He can't believe that he descends from monkeys, and that even the czar descends
from monkeys. He casually mentions to the officer that the river makes a huge bend so that from the top of a hill they can still see it.
The officer jumps into the river from the top of the hill and the boy
is impressed by this reckless act, but back in his room, alone, the officer cries.
Back at the prison camp,
a hated colonel who betrayed a fellow white officer
is strangled overnight (we don't see by whom) and in the
morning Rosalia announces to the white officers that they
will be evacuated by boat because the railway has been blown up.
Finally, Junker can take his photograph of the large group of fellow prisoners.
Back to 1907, the young officer takes the next steamer as the boy Egoriy bids him farewell. The boy runs after him, realizing that he forgot his expensive pocket watch, but can't catch up and so the pocket watch remains with the boy.
We also see that the town's photographer removes the officer's photo and restores the original photo of the family.
Back to the prison camp, the Bolsheviks lead the white officers to a barge,
and lock them inside.
The officers board, excited that they will soon be free.
Rosalia and Bela watch.
Inside the barge, Koka gives away his suitcase full of tobacco and confesses
to our officer that he's the one who strangled the colonel.
Junker approaches our officer and hands him the pocket watch that
he once left behind, saying that it comes from
Georgi, the Bolshevik who registered them when they arrived and who has watched
powerless as Rosalia and Bela made all the decisions.
Our officer realizes that this grown-up Georgi is the boy Egoriy who befriended him in 1907, and starts crying. Just then the order is given to sink the barge, with all the thousands of white officers locked inside it.
The barge sinks, killing everybody.
Georgi is watching the scene with binoculars.
The film now informs us that millions of Russians died and
we see Junker's photograph.
Mikhalkov's political views in the Putin era were close to Putin's
Mikhalkov was a religious conservative, opposed Western influences,
supported the invasion of Ukraine in 2022,
conspiracy theories that the USA/NATO were trying to destroy Russia.
He was given his own
TV show, "Besogon" ("Exorcist"), on state television.
In 2007 Mikhalkov made a film celebrating Putin's 55th birthday.