Archive for Russian

OTPOKN BO BCEJEHHON

Posted in FILM, Politics, Television with tags , , , , , , , on April 30, 2008 by dcairns

Starship Titanic

No, I didn’t just collapse on the keyboard, the title of this post is (sort of) the name of a ’70s film (or maybe it’s a TV show, or a dream?). More Russian sci-fi madness. It’s the source of the images here and here.

This film really invites you to take multiple mind-altering substances and trip out.  “Come on,” it whispers in your ear, “everybody’s doing it? Whassamatter, you scared or something?” which is irresponsible really as it’s a kids’ movie. Maybe if you speak Russian it all makes sense, but watching it without translation induces a strange feeling. It becomes necessary to provide your own simultaneous faux-translation, making up a plot in a desperate attempt to make the freaky imagery less mind-altering.

See You Next Wednesday

“Want some space-cake? You know it’s space-cake because we’re shooting it with a starburst filter. Oh, by the way, how do you fancy spending your next birthday on an ALIEN WORLD?”

You get a slightly zonked feeling just from watching the fairly long dialogue scenes and not understanding a word, and the faces of those Soviet children are kind of… odd. Nice, but odd. When we get to the space age sets and costumes, about ten minutes in, things pick up. I like the leather interior of the kids’ space-ship. The special effects start up soon after and things get seriously peculiar.

Leather boys

“Boy, I bet those space aliens will be so grateful for us bringing them the gift of Marxist-Leninism.”

There’s some inexplicable close encounters with unidentifiable flying bric-a-brac, and then part of our team bundles into a nifty space shuttle to have a looksee at a forbidding planet.

Cody Kropotkin, Rocket Ranger

“Cody Kropotkin and his Teen Space Rangers head off into uncharted void-stuff.”

“Watch out for that chrono-synclastic infundibulum, Kapitan!”

Into the Yonder

“Keep your eyes on the road, Cody!”

Rockets Red Glare

“This is the best fun we’ve had since Chekov defected!”

Soon our team make planetfall on Metaluna, or Altair IV, or Planet Foozbane, or wherever it is – 

Planetfall

Right around here we get a sudden blast of sorta-solarized footage lifted straight out of 2001, and I bet Mosfilm didn’t pay MGM for the use of it. All’s fair in love and cold war. Plus it’s a fitting retaliation for what Roger Corman and Curtis Harrington did to NEBO ZOVYOT, turning it into the enjoyable but less-respectable QUEEN OF BLOOD. Cultural piracy went both ways.

Shuttlebug to Foozebane

“Everybody remember where we parked.”

And now we go on location (GREAT location — if this was the BBC it would just be a Devon chalk quarry) there’s quite an epic feel, and the odd characters turning up give it a sense of David Bowie music promo.

Funk to Funky

“We are the chin-strokers and we bring you — hedge-hog hats!”

Then we head indoors for what seems like AGES, but they keep bringing in new robots and aliens and sets and weird effects, so it never gets dull. A very small amount of alcohol is enough to make you feel completely psycho at this point.

Medicinal Compound

“…two…one…zero…we have Smirnoff!”

Starchuckles

LOFRAO (Laughing Our Fat Russian Asses Off).

There’s something very weird going on with a big scary machine that some robotic types want to stick the kids into. They probably want to turn them into free market counter-revolutionaries. Or else it’s some kind of weird sex thing.

http://i249.photobucket.com/albums/gg220/donpayasos/scifi/vlcsnap-161210.png

Escape! Pursuit! Domestic robots standing around on a hill!

Droidwich

“Click-Whirrrr… can I buff your spacesuit, master? Whirrr-click!”

New Worlds to Conquer

“My work is done here.”

Yuri Nation

A happy ending! Except I have no idea what has been achieved or who the guy in the suit works for. It’s weird seeing him there, he kind of ruins the feeling that we’re on another planet. Just as people in space suits make any location feel like another world, so a guy in a suit with bad hair makes any location, however amazing, seem like a 1970s BBC Scotland outside broadcast.

The space-suit thing reminds me of something I saw as a kid on TV. I think it was on Nationwide, a rather shonky regional news show, and they did a report on UFOS and weirdness. The presenter said that the S family had been on holiday and they’d taken a photo of their son. Everything seemed normal at the time, but when they got the pictures back from the chemist –

And here they show a picture of a kid on a hillside, only behind him is a man in a spacesuit — a suspiciously terrestrial one — with mirrored visor, lurching towards the smiling, unsuspecting lad with arms outstretched menacingly!!!

It sounds very silly but it freaked the hell out of ten-year-old me, and I believe I physically recoiled from the TV which, kid-fashion, I had been squatting right in front of.

A powerful memory… except I couldn’t swear that it actually happened.

Infinity is out Business

“See you next time, space-comrades!”

I Came, I Saw…

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2007 by dcairns

Aleksei Kravchenko

Since I’ve been going on about faces rather a lot (more on BODIES, soon), I couldn’t very well fail to mention this little chap, Aleksei Kravchenko, in COME AND SEE, which I re-saw recently at a screening I put on at Screen Academy Scotland.

(Screening this film is problematic: I was approached by more than one person with the question, “What are you showing tonight?” and when I replied, “Come and See,” they’d say, “But what are you showing?” and the whole thing turned into a protracted Abbott & Costello routine.)

Elem Klimov’s astonishingly powerful and horrific WWII movie is another of those films which is relentlessly dark and negative, but never becoems depressing. One emerges glad to be alive. A big part of the film’s power comes from the extraordinary central performance by young Kravchenko, whose commitment to the role of a young partisan fighting the Nazis in Belarus was so strong that Klimov and his crew  feared for the boy’s sanity. Although Klimov’s humanitarian impulses were not strong enough to prevent him from, like William Wellman in his 30s gangster films, using live ammo…

Anyhow, the face is eloquent, what I call a PROFOUND FACE, and the performance powerful, and at times Kravchenko looks like a bad drawing (like I might draw) of my nephew Calum, which also intensifies my emotional responses… although what we really get is the Universal Face of Suffering Humanity, filtered through the specifics of a single person’s features. 

The makeup is also hugely important, as the hero’s shattering experiences gradually give him the weathered face of an old man…

Klimov’s wife, Larissa Shepitko, directed THE ASCENT, which is maybe the ultimate film about the Eastern Front, whereas Klimov’s movie is more of a descent into Hell than an altogether realistic portrait of a campaign, but the effect is of an engrossing psychological realism, with the commitment to P.O.V. maintained relentlessly: when the boy is deafened by exploding shells, the soundtrack is engulfed by a droning, ringing tinnitus effect that continues, slowly fading, for the next half hour of screen time. Compared to this, those moments in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN where Tom Hanks’ hearing is affected are like the Tom & Jerry version.

Klimov’s heavy use of steadicam reminds me of another film of sweeping movement towards death, acts of violence we don’t want to see but are driven ineluctably towards: the BBC play ELEPHANT, written by Bernard MacLaverty, directed by Alan Clarke.

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