If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me. |
Scroll down for recent reviews in english.
Il fratello minore di Andrej,
Nikita Mikhalkov (Russia, 1945):
, compì studi di
cinematografia a Mosca mentre cominciava a segnalarsi come attore (per Danelija
e per il fratello stesso).
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) is set in the early Soviet Union but it is clearly inspired by
Sergio Leone's "spaghetti westerns"
ambientato all'indomani della rivoluzione.
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)
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 Place for a Player Piano (1976, da Cechov) e
Oblomov (1979, da Jancara) sono due lirici stravolgimenti letterari, in un funambolismo di trovate
tecniche, apologo caustico sulla crisi ed il fallimento, grottesco il primo, malinconico esistenziale il
Neokonchennaya Pyesa Dlya Mekhanicheskogo Pjanino/ Unfinished Place 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.
Pjat Vecerov (1979) 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/ Kinkfolk (1982) si inserisce nel ricco filone letterario ottocentesco sulla
"qualità della vita" (satirico alla Nekratov o drammatico).
contadina che va a trovare la figlia in città; sono entrambe sole, l'una per aver cacciato di casa il
marito ubriacone, l'altra abbandonata dal suo; la nipote, una adolescente video-dipendente che ascolta
musica anche quando dorme con gli auricolari (e si sveglia di soprassalto se glieli tolgono), non dimostra
né cervello né coscienza; la vecchia tenace contadina si mette all'opera per arginare lo
sfacelo del nucleo familiare della figlia cittadina, per tenere alla larga la civiltà di massa;
l'umanità che sfila sullo schermo è un genere degradato e inerte: il genero egoista e
cinico, l'ingegnere patetico in cerca di una compagna, l'ex marito umile debole e fallito; ogni scena
riporta particolari metaforici: i giovani in moto inguainati nelle tute che assordano il vicinato, l'atleta che
si allena nello stadio deserto, la parata militare. Alla fine le tre donne si incammineranno
"chaplinianamente" sui binari della ferrovia.
Bez Svideteley/ Without Witness (1983)
Oci Ciornie/ Dark Eyes (1987): spunti "Cechoviani" in un clima
secolo il fallito Mastroianni su un battello a vapore rievoca il suo grande amore perduto, una russa per la
quale lasciò la moglie (ereditiera che di fatto lo mantiene); il tono oscilla dalla farsa alla
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)
Anna Ot Shesti do Vosemnadtsati/ From Six Till Eighteen (1993)
Utomlyonnye solntsem/ Burnt by the Sun (1994) is a somewhat confused
historical film 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,
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.
Sibirskiy Tsiryulnik/ Barber of Siberia (1998)
12 (2007) was a remake of Lumet's classic.
Burnt by the Sun 2 (2010) was a follow-up to his best-known film,
this time set during the Nazi invasion.