There was good news in the film world last week, as embattled, iconoclastic Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov was finally liberated after nearly two years of government-mandated house arrest. Having been detained on apparently trumped-up charges of embezzling state funds for a theatre initiative, his imprisonment became an industry cause celebre attracting the support of Cate Blanchett and Lars von Trier, among others. Serebrennikov’s qualified release (he still can’t leave Moscow) is good news for many reasons, not least among them that he can return to his strange, kinetic brand of film-making.
It was the Serebrennikov-related headlines that accidentally prompted this week’s streaming discovery, as I found myself wondering whether the director’s remarkable 2012 film Betrayal – a memorable standout from that year’s Venice film festival that never got a UK release – had quietly slipped on to any online platforms. An internet search of the usual channels proved fruitless until I stumbled upon an oddly bounteous site: Soviet Movies Online. Very much a does-what-it-says-on-the-tin enterprise, the service boasts an impressive library of Russian cinema dating from the 1920s to the present day.
Auteur - Names - Eisenstein - Tarkovsky - Zvyagintsev
Big auteur names abound, from Eisenstein to Tarkovsky to Zvyagintsev, but so do a plethora of less familiar discoveries and curiosities – all available with English subtitles, alongside a variable bag of other linguistic options. Some random clicking got me entranced by a lavishly stylised 1947 musical interpretation of Cinderella from the Lenfilm studio vaults – its sparkly fantasy undercut by sour-cream dashes of Soviet satire. From the next decade, a stoically handsome adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot, awash with mid-century Technicolor gloss to counter the stern, dark narrative, is all the more intriguing for its incompleteness. A sequel intended to cover the novel’s second half was never filmed.
Such films are tucked between more canonised classics. Grigori Chukhrai’s 1959 anti-war...
Wake Up To Breaking News!
Keep the change!