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russian resurrection film festival 2013

gentleman of fortune
A scene from the poignant GENTLEMEN OF FORTUNE

Celebrating a decade of détente, a veritable glasnost of cinema, The Russian Resurrection Film Festival kicks of July 24 at the Chauvel Cinema for a fortnight of fun, thrills, thought provocation, and soul searching.

Opening with LEGEND 17, an ice hockey extravaganza that made the Russian box office give a puck , Russian Resurrection Film Festival continues its ten year tenure with a myriad array of movies including dramas, documentaries, and even a disaster flick. Two of the selections, MARATHON and THE GEOGRAPHER are screening here ahead of their Russian release.

One of the highlights is the short and bittersweet THIS IS WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME, a superbly succinct study of the slings and arrows of ordinary lives set on New Year’s Eve, as two brothers contemplate their father’s imminent demise after receiving a devastating diagnosis on his behalf.

One of the siblings is a city slicker navigating the slippery slide of ambition whilst the other has remained in the less cosmopolitan country town of their birth. Both have moribund relationships with their partners, the mundanity and mendacity of modernity grinding them down.  the hope of the New Year, when things are born anew, the chance of fresh starts and new beginnings lends a poignant motif, especially when The boys become surrogate dads to a disenfranchised teenage girl, neglected by her real parent.

Set to the music of a Seventies Soviet classic, THIS IS WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME has the tonal ambience of Dorothy Parkers poem, Resume.

The disintegration of the filial paternal paradigm is explored in THE CONDUCTOR, the story of a Moscow maestro taking an orchestra to Jerusalem to perform The Passion of Matthew. The conductor is not there just to make music but to organise the funeral of his estranged son. Disapproving of his son’s apparent lack of discipline, the devastated dad must deal with the grief and guilt of surviving his son. Vladas Bagdonas is majestically monolithic as the maestro, brilliantly conveying the inner turmoil of his distress; a granite like gravitas, sturdy stoicism in the face of despair. To add to his woes, members of his orchestra are experiencing psychological and emotional meltdowns as well, and there is the palpable danger of extremist action in the streets of the city.

A lighter tone is struck with LOVE WITH AN ACCENT, a multi story apartment movie which takes its template from Love, Actually. It could easily have been called Georgia on My Mind as all the stories are set there, eschewing any recent dispute or conflict between the state and Russia, and concentrating on the whimsical and ephemeral. The mountains and valleys and general Georgian scenery are gorgeous and give ample armchair traveller payoff even when the rom com flags.

Also in a lighter vein, GENTLEMEN OF FORTUNE – both the original 1971 film and the remake from 2012. The original concerned a kindergarten teacher recruited by the police to pose as a notorious criminal in order to reclaim an iconic treasure. It was pitched as a family film and had a lovely naivety and charm. The remake is a brasher, bigger budgeted affair, still charming thanks to its leading man, now a children’s entertainer, but it’s certainly more violent and mildly malevolent in comparison. It’s also 12 minutes longer and doesn’t need to be; movie makers whether in Moscow or Malibu all seem to suffer from the malaise of bloated runtimes, especially with comedies that should be bright and breezy and brief.

Some 28 films make up the festival with about half a dozen being retrospectives, reminding us of the difference in style and content from Iron Curtain days to the present.

So crack open the caviar, sip from the samovar or kick back with a vodka, and submerse yourself in some subversive cinema. Screenings at the Chauvel, Paddington from July 24 – August 7, with sessions at Event Cinemas Burwood on Saturday and Sunday August 3 and 4. Tix through MCA or at the Cinemas


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