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Entries in Konchalovsky (1)

Sunday
Oct222017

ANDREI KONCHALOVSKY: A RETROSPECTIVE

Born into Russian aristocracy and groomed from an early age for classical music concert halls, Andrei Konchalovsky instead chose the life of a visual artist and was soon accepted into Moscow’s prestigious film academy, VGIK. A meeting with the great director Andrei Tarkovsky (with whom he would co-write the 1966 classic, Andrei Rublev) inspired the twenty-something; at the age of 27, his debut feature The First Teacher (1964) found worldwide acclaim and announced the arrival of a true Soviet cinematic visionary.

To commemorate the great director’s 80th birthday, a celebration of his career will feature at this year’s Russian Resurrection Film Festival; six films, from the early dramas to his brief but brilliant Hollywood journey to his contemporary works, that acknowledge the remarkable contribution to world cinema made by Andrei Konchalovsky…

NEST OF THE GENTRY (1969)
Stars: Irina Kupchenko (pictured, right), Leonid Kulagin, Beata Tyszkiewicz, Vasili Merkuryev.
Plot: A Russian expat returns from Paris to his aristocratic life, mourning his late wife. Charmed by the daughter of his cousin, he is infatuated with the thought of a life spent with her, despite the obstacles such a love must face. But one last hurdle must be overcome – the unexpected reappearance of his betrothed…
Fact: Boasting intricate period detail and richly shot by Georgy Rerberg, Konchalovsky’s adaptation of Ivan Turgenev’s novel was the director’s third film, but only the second released in his homeland. Following The First Teacher, Konchalovsky made the 1966 romantic drama Asiya’s Happiness, only to have it shelved for over 20 years due to the director’s breaching of strict narrative guidelines set by the Soviet authorities. 

UNCLE VANYA (1970)
Stars: Irina Kupchenko, Innokenti Smoktunovsky, Sergei Bondarchuk, Irina Miroshnichenko.
Plot: Dr Serebryakov, a retired academic, and his beautiful young wife Yelena travel to their country estate, to stay with the home’s custodian, the professor’s brother Vanya. Yelena’s allure charms Vanya, as well as the town’s doctor, Astrov; meanwhile Sofya, Serebryakov’s daughter from his first marriage, struggles with her own unsatisfying life. When Serebryakov decides to sell the estate, the complex relationship dynamics are forced into the open.
Fact: Arguably Konchalovsky’s masterwork, his adaption of Chekhov’s play enjoyed international success unprecedented for Soviet cinema. The respected New York Times critic Vincent Canby noted all the performances were “marvellous” and that Chekhov’s text was “remembered by the filmmakers with deep appreciation and taste.” The film was included on the US National Board of Review’s Top Foreign Film List; the director took home San Sebastian's Golden Seashell honour.

RUNAWAY TRAIN (1985)
Stars: Jon Voigt, Eric Roberts, Rebecca De Mornay, John P. Ryan, Kenneth McMillan.
Plot: Manny, a hardened convict and Buck, a fiery younger prisoner, escape from a brutal Alaskan prison in the depths of winter only to find themselves on an out-of-control train with a female railway worker, while being pursued by the vengeful head of jail security.
Fact: Roger Ebert wrote of Konchalovsky’s action epic in the same sentence as The African Queen, Stagecoach and The Seven Samurai, stating “great adventures are great because they happen to people we care about.” Adapted from an original script by Akira Kurosawa, this brutal yet beautiful survival story earned three Oscar nominations (Lead and Supporting Actor categories, as well as for Henry Richardson’s editing); scored Voigt a Golden Globe for Best Actor; and, earned Konchalovsky a Palme d’Or nomination at Cannes. (Pictured, above; Voigt, left, and Roberts)

  

TANGO & CASH (1989)
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Teri Hatcher, Jack Palance.
Plot: Two rival LAPD narcotic detectives are paired in an effort to bring down a Californian drug kingpin, only to find themselves framed and sent to maximum security prison. From inside, they need to clear their names, nail the villain and stay alive while everyone around them wants them dead.
Fact: The set of Konchalovsky’s most broadly commercial film was a hotbed of creative differences, studio interference and colliding egos, making it all the more remarkable that Tango & Cash has emerged as one of the more memorable and cherished ‘buddy cop’ action comedies of the 1980s. With the bulk of principal photography in the can, the Russian proposed an edit that was slightly more serious in tone than first envisioned. That was the final straw for producer Jon Peters and Warner Bros, who took control of the film and employed 2nd unit helmer Peter McDonald (Rambo III), gun-for-hire Albert Magnoli (Purple Rain) and Australian editor Stuart Baird (Executive Decision) to lighten the mood. 

GLOSS (2007)
Stars: Yuliya Vysotskaya (pictured, right), Irina Rozanova, Aleksandr Domogarov.
Plot: Pretty young thing Galya leaves her provincial upbringing behind to make it big in the world of high fashion super-modelling. But her ambitious resolve is tested when setback after cruel setback chip away at her dreams.
Facts: As Andrei Konchalovsky neared 70, he turned his eye towards Moscow’s faux upper-class and shallow fashion industry sector with Gloss, one of his most contemporary and relevant works. A biting satire that has been labelled a deeper, darker version of the Anne Hathaway/Meryl Streep hit The Devil Wears Prada, Gloss didn’t sit well with all the critics but proved a domestic hit. It also showed the director at his most playful, boldly employing some surreal touches that his old mentor would have appreciated and exhibiting a buoyancy in his filmmaking, even when the subject matter gets a little grim.

PARADISE (2016)
Stars: Yuliya Vysotskaya, Peter Kurth, Viktor Sukhorukov
Plot: Described by The Hollywood Reporter as “ a somber and ambitious tale of love and loss set during Europe’s most hellish mid-century days”, Paradise track the story of three intertwined lives – Olga, a Russian noblewoman arrested for housing two Jewish children; Jules, a rotund policeman drawn to Olga’s tatus, who makes demands upon Olga in exchange for leniency; and, Helmut, an aristocratic old-flame whose position of power within Olga’s concentration camp allows her hope of escape.
Fact: Shortlisted to the final nine for the 2016 Foreign Film Oscar, Paradise represents one of the crowning achievements in Konchalovsky’s remarkable career. The mix of rich romanticism, historical theorising and humanistic horror, the fearless filmmaker once again rattled a few critical sensibilities but would wow international festival audiences. Stunningly lensed by longtime collaborator Aleksandr Simonov, the director’s 22nd feature won the Best Film Golden Eagle at the 2016 Russian Film Awards, as well as trophies at Gijón, Munich and Venice, whose judges honoured Andrei Konchalovsky with the Silver Lion for Best Director.

The 2017 RUSSIAN RESURRECTION FILM FESTIVAL launches October 26 in Sydney with other capital cities to follow. For ticket and session details check the event’s official website.