Russian Language Hall of Fame II

Tools    





By the way, if any of the gifs above are seen as spoilers, let me know and I'll hide them. Don't want to ruin anyone's viewing.
I can't speak for anyone else, but I think they're fine, I don't see them spoiling the movies at all. Nice gif choices too!



Professional horse shoe straightener
I can't speak for anyone else, but I think they're fine, I don't see them spoiling the movies at all. Nice gif choices too!
Thanks, when the films are as good looking as the ones in this HoF it's pretty easy pickings.



Thanks, when the films are as good looking as the ones in this HoF it's pretty easy pickings.
Both of those films are really stunning to look at...and have the story narrative that's equally impressive.



We're currently two weeks into this HoF and, so far, @jiraffejustin, @Takoma11, and @Utraviolence haven't submitted a review yet. Of course, there's no rush or anything. Just letting you guys know.
I'm finishing up another challenge, then I'll be on to this one.



Khrustalyov, My Car! (1998) -


I struggled with this film, I must admit. It's a highly surreal film, filled with multiple scenes of dreamlike and fantasy scenarios with an anything goes feel. I enjoyed several sequences as curiosities, with my favorites being Yuri encountering his identical twin in a hospital, his ride to prison, or the ending sequence. I also liked the black and white cinematography and found it to be a nice touch to the film's atmosphere. Overall, the film is certainly inventive and there's a lot of joy to be found in watching the bizarre sequences in the film. What made it difficult for me to stay on board with the film was that I felt this was often at the expense of me forming an emotional connection with Yuri or caring about his character and the various struggles he faces throughout the film. He just felt like a prop amidst all the bizarre set pieces and the film left me rather cold from beginning to end. It's a shame, because there's a lot going for this film in the way of style. I'm also curious to watch German's other films to see if I'd like this one more if I were to return to it. I didn't enjoy his approach here though, I must admit. I may rewatch it before this HoF ends though.

Next up: Letter Never Sent



Khrustalyov, My Car! (1998) is one I haven't seen, I haven't even heard of. But being surreal can work for me in a movie, if I know it's going to be surreal ahead of time...Otherwise I can think 'hey what the hell is going on', think I'll read about Khrustalyov, My Car! before watching it, sounds trippy and hard to follow.



Khrustalyov, My Car! (1998) is one I haven't seen, I haven't even heard of. But being surreal can work for me in a movie if I know it ahead of time, otherwise I can think 'hey what the hell is going on'.
I'm curious what everyone else will think of it. It generally has positive reviews, so I might like it more once I read what the rest of you think.





The Cranes Are Flying, 1957

Boris (Aleksey Batalov) and Veronika (Tatyana Samoylova) are young, very much in love, and clearly on the way to a very happy marriage. But when WW2 rolls around, Boris decides to enlist and Veronika is left behind. Not having even had a chance to say goodbye to Boris, Veronika deals with the horrors of war and uncertainty, all as she hopes and waits for Boris to return.

So, like, not to give away the ol' ballot or anything, but might this be one of the best movies I have ever seen? I think maybe the answer is yes. While I was watching the movie, I kept thinking that I wouldn't actually have anything to say about it, because I was experiencing it so much on a purely emotional level. How do you put into words "trying not to cry while standing on my living room rug" in a way that is anything close to a review?

But after the end of the film, I actually find that I have many things worth mentioning.

To begin with, I love movies that portray complicated emotional dynamics with an eye to empathy for the different characters. While Boris and Veronika evoke the most sympathy and deep emotion, the actions of the other characters are also understandable. It is hard to see Boris's family turn on Veronika when
WARNING: spoilers below
she marries the man who sexually assaulted her
, but their emotions are totally understandable.

And from a technical/visual point of view, I thought that this was just stunning. From the bookends of Veronika at the parade grounds, to the sequence where she runs through the fiery aftermath of a bombing raid, there were so many memorable and striking sequences. The scene where [spoilers]Mark declares his love and then sexually assaults a stunned Veronika during the bombing raid was so intense on every level.[spoilers]. In moments like that one, the film layers horror on horror.

For a film that only runs about 90 minutes, this is one of the most all-inclusive "war is hell" films I've ever seen. Again, though Boris and Veronika mainly take center stage, one of my favorite sequences is when Veronika goes to see Boris off at the grounds and the camera passes through the crowd of people saying goodbye: a middle-aged husband leaving his wife; a stunned young woman holding an infant as she kisses her young husband goodbye; a man holding his child while his own parents leans against him. It doesn't matter who it is, the burden of war is heavy on those who leave and on those who stay behind. War has a way of fracturing the lives of everyone involved--those who serve and those who are left behind.

If I had one tiny nitpick, it would maybe be that
WARNING: spoilers below
Mark is maybe too convenient of a bad guy. And by that I simply mean that he gives the film its villain, when the only villain it really needed was the war itself. Mark is ultimately excoriated for his cowardice and not, you know, the rape that he committed against a young woman whose parents had just been killed. It is the one element of the film that I am still thinking over. I do realize that he is an important catalyst for the major events in the film. Just still pondering it.


I'm going to say something really shallow now, so hold onto your monocles, film buffs. I had always thought because of the title and the poster that this film wouldn't really be for me. What a lovely way to find out I was wrong.




Letter Never Sent (1959) -


Mikhail Kalatozov has really been killing it for the past few weeks or so with me. With The Cranes Are Flying and now this film, I'm glad I got to watch a couple of his films for this thread. While I like The Cranes Are Flying a bit more (it sat well with me upon reflection), I also enjoyed this film quite a lot.

This is the kind of film where, instead of analyzing aspects and scenes which I liked, I prefer to say what I felt while watching it. This is in part because I was left in a state of amazement multiple times as I watched it given all the daring shots and set pieces Kalatozov put together. From actually lighting a forest on fire on multiple occasions, to navigating through all kinds of rough terrains, to floating down a fairly rapid, icy river on an unstable wooden raft, I imagine that the act of making this film was just as exciting as the film itself. I also loved the occasional dream-like sequences, such as Tanya and Andrei running to the group after they discovered the diamond mine, Konstantin and Tanya stuck in a thunderstorm, or Konstantin's hallucinations as he floated down a river. They gave the film an extra layer of style which I quite enjoyed. The film also packs quite a bit of suspense and dread into its fairly short runtime.
WARNING: spoilers below
Most of the character deaths were telegraphed ahead of time and were predictable, I suppose, but I wasn't bothered by that as this only made them more dreadful. I also loved the ending. I was convinced the film would have a tragic ending, but I was relieved that at least one of them made it out alive in the end.


My only issue with the film is that Kalatozov made some rather questionable narrative choices. The narrative starts out well by introducing and setting up the stage for a couple character dynamics in the first half hour, like Konstantin's romantic feelings for Tanya (which are complicated since she's already in a relationship with Andrei, another man on their expedition), or Konstantin's rather aggressive personality. Unfortunately though, these sub-plots were pretty much scrapped once the forest fire started and, save for a bit of subtext here and there, weren't explored again. Of course, I still found the final hour of the film compelling for the reasons listed above. I just found it unnecessary for the first half hour to establish these character conflicts given the way they culminated.

Regardless of my issues with the narrative though, I still found the film really enjoyable and, even though it gets off to a rough start, the final hour or so is wholly satisfying on a number of levels.

Next up: The Return



Thursday Next's Avatar
I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Attention hall of famers!

Please don't forget to submit your foreign language ballot for our upcoming foreign language countdown. The deadline is June 10th.


Click here for more details on how to submit your ballot.





Letter Never Sent, 1960

A group of geologists, Konstantin (Innokentiy Smoktunovskiy), Tanya (Tatyana Samoylova), Andrei (Vasiliy Livanov), and Sergei (Evgeniy Urbanskiy) are on a mission to locate diamonds in Siberia. But when a forest fire rages through their remote location, things quickly turn into a fight for survival.

Always interesting to watch two films in a row from the same director (and featuring the same actress), in this case watching Letter Never Sent hot on the heels of The Cranes Are Flying.

On the positive side, all of the strengths and interesting techniques that I noted from the first film were on display here. I will say this for Kalatozov: the guy really knows how to shoot fire in a way that makes it feel full-bodied and three dimensional. Much like the sequence in The Cranes Are Flying where Veronika runs through the aftermath of a bombing, the forest fire sequences are beautiful and horrible at the same time and thoroughly dynamic.

I also really liked just how both the camera and the characters move in a way that conveys fear or exhilaration. These larger scale sequences contrast nicely with other more intimate, or even claustrophobic sequences. I really enjoyed the acting, and the characters felt very lived in.

The only downside to having watched both films back to back is that certain sequences in Letter Never Sent, while amazing, are just a bit less amazing than their counterparts in The Cranes Are Flying. For example, the scene in which Sergei corners Tanya in one of their dug-out holes and looms over her, possibly considering sexual assault. (Please tell me if I misread that sequence, people). It immediately brings to mind (SPOILERS for The Cranes Are Flying)
WARNING: spoilers below
Mark looming over Veronika during the bombing raid
. Both films even feature a shot of Tatyana Samoylova with her head thrown back and her eyes open but unseeing. I liked a lot of these "echoes", but in each case I felt like their presentation in The Cranes Are Flying was slightly superior.

Letter Never Sent is about 1/3 character drama and 2/3 survival thriller/drama. I felt that both parts were actually pretty well done. The last 15 minutes or so of the film was bleak, and all the more because of the relatively lighter content of the first 10-15 minutes. I did think that it would have been nice to get more interaction between the characters in the last act. But on the other hand, I felt as if the theme of the characters becoming more and more isolated made sense.

Really solid, and another film that I might not have watched purely for superficial reasons, so I am very glad it was nominated here.






Letter Never Sent, 1960

A group of geologists, Konstantin (Innokentiy Smoktunovskiy), Tanya (Tatyana Samoylova), Andrei (Vasiliy Livanov), and Sergei (Evgeniy Urbanskiy) are on a mission to locate diamonds in Siberia. But when a forest fire rages through their remote location, things quickly turn into a fight for survival.

Always interesting to watch two films in a row from the same director (and featuring the same actress), in this case watching Letter Never Sent hot on the heels of The Cranes Are Flying.

On the positive side, all of the strengths and interesting techniques that I noted from the first film were on display here. I will say this for Kalatozov: the guy really knows how to shoot fire in a way that makes it feel full-bodied and three dimensional. Much like the sequence in The Cranes Are Flying where Veronika runs through the aftermath of a bombing, the forest fire sequences are beautiful and horrible at the same time and thoroughly dynamic.

I also really liked just how both the camera and the characters move in a way that conveys fear or exhilaration. These larger scale sequences contrast nicely with other more intimate, or even claustrophobic sequences. I really enjoyed the acting, and the characters felt very lived in.

The only downside to having watched both films back to back is that certain sequences in Letter Never Sent, while amazing, are just a bit less amazing than their counterparts in The Cranes Are Flying. For example, the scene in which Sergei corners Tanya in one of their dug-out holes and looms over her, possibly considering sexual assault. (Please tell me if I misread that sequence, people). It immediately brings to mind (SPOILERS for The Cranes Are Flying)
WARNING: spoilers below
Mark looming over Veronika during the bombing raid
. Both films even feature a shot of Tatyana Samoylova with her head thrown back and her eyes open but unseeing. I liked a lot of these "echoes", but in each case I felt like their presentation in The Cranes Are Flying was slightly superior.

Letter Never Sent is about 1/3 character drama and 2/3 survival thriller/drama. I felt that both parts were actually pretty well done. The last 15 minutes or so of the film was bleak, and all the more because of the relatively lighter content of the first 10-15 minutes. I did think that it would have been nice to get more interaction between the characters in the last act. But on the other hand, I felt as if the theme of the characters becoming more and more isolated made sense.

Really solid, and another film that I might not have watched purely for superficial reasons, so I am very glad it was nominated here.

Nice review! I finished reviewing that one earlier today, in fact. Out of curiosity, what did you think of my review?



Nice review! I finished reviewing that one earlier today, in fact. Out of curiosity, what did you think of my review?
I really liked it and agreed with most of what you wrote.

I would say my main point of difference is that, while it is true that a lot of the character development doesn't "pay off", I kind of felt like it worked. It's almost like a Psycho-style thing where what you thought was the conflict ultimately is not the conflict. It kind of highlights the way that what we feel is important in the moment can radically shift in an instant.