The wrestler

wrestler1If one decade ago I had been told, in light of Sin City and other films of the sort, that I’d ever be moved by Mickey Rourke on the screen, I would’ve not believed it. But welcome be the news: at this age (his, but also mine) it’s comforting to see that the autumn of life can still be very productive — when not terrific.
 
But it’s not always like that, of course; and such is the case of the main character of The wrestler, Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson, a decaying professional pushing sixty who, in the twilight of his career goes over the rings of the State performing in third class fights. When the many blows he’s taken along perhaps too many years in such job start passing him a serious bill, he tries to put some order in his life — only to find that it’s not so easy to make do for all his past mistakes. Continue reading “The wrestler”

Tarkovski revisited

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I was only a teenager when — by suggestion of a friend under the intelectual fever that, in the early 80’s, stroke some middle-class sectors in Spain — I went to an unlikely cineclub in a not so advisable district of Madrid, rather distant from home, for watching a so-called “independent” movie titled Stalker, supposedly of the science-fiction genre and directed by some exotic and unknown (for us) Russian filmmaker called Tarkovski.
Needless to say that, used as I was to the livelier -when not frantic- action pace of USAmerican or European films that (then exactly like today — nothing has changed in this respect) almost exclusively filled our billboards and TV channels, I found it desperatingly slow, mostly boring and virtually incomprehensible. Besides, since I was expecting a “proper” sci-fi work, I was rather disappointed.
However, there was something indefinably interesting about it that outstood; not just the fact that it was different from any other movie I had watched before, but something else that I could not quite grasp; and despite my uneducated taste of those times and my little knowledge of the world — let alone the Russian soul, I had the feeling that it contained some message worth apprehending, and that some kind of art was involved worth being understood. Continue reading “Tarkovski revisited”

17 moments of spring

seventeen-moments-of-springThere are so many TV series out there, one can’t watch them all; not even just the ‘best’ ones (supposing ‘best’ makes any sense when it comes to tastes). Unlike films, series are very much time consuming, and often addictive (actually, for the consumerism cultures we’re totally immerse in, such addictiveness is the ultimate goal of producers, and it is much preferred over quality), and unless you’re as sickly overcritical as I am, or have thrice my free time, you’ll be simply overflowed with the offer and just pick whichever serial is made the easiest for you to watch, or the ones more aggressively distributed and publicized.
And this is how, hadn’t you come across this post, you would miss one of the most and true unforgettable TV series ever: 17 moments of spring (Semnadtsat mgnoveniy vesny); an excellent twelve-chapter Soviet production from the 70’s directed by Tatyana Lioznova that relates, in a WWII historical background,  the vicissitudes of fictional character Colonel Maksim Maksimovich Isayev, a Soviet undercover agent infiltrated as an officer into Hitler’s SD under the name of Max Stirlitz. The plot covers seventeen moments spread throughout February and March 1945 (not really spring, but well), narrating how Stirlitz struggles to carry out a mission he’s received from Moscow: to ascertain whether some high-rank German officers are trying to secretly negotiate a separate peace deal with the allies in the Western front (that would allow the Germans to concentrate their forces in the East) and, in case affirmative, to try to foil any such agreement. Continue reading “17 moments of spring”

Moscow does not believe in tears

cartelTranscending any genre cage, Moskva slezam ne verit is probably the first Soviet movie I see that does not end tragically. But it is not the less ‘Russian’ for that – not the less touching. On the contrary, it is one of the most captivating stories I’ve ever seen, about a humble woman in pursuit for happiness. It gives a glimpse into life in the USSR on a very human level and from a women’s point of view; and is also a tribute to the Soviet era some people in the ex-USSR still consider to be the best years of their lives.
In 1958’s Moscow, three provincial women in their twenties who share a room in a workers’ dormitory (typical for the time and place) strive for making a living in the metropoli and for pursuing their goals. In a close and endearing way, some of the popular clichés about Russia are depicted, like the unstylish dresses, the worker’s paradise that isn’t, the sharp contrast between the city and the peasants who live outside… And the three different personalities have been carefully chosen in a way that virtually any of us can feel identified with one of them: modest Antonina, bold Lyudmila and responsible Katerina. They are believable, easy to understand, and by the end of the story we have grown quite fond of them, getting a feeling of familiarity, as if they were our personal acquaintances. Continue reading “Moscow does not believe in tears”

The dawns here are quiet

azorizdestikhie1I’m a devotee of Russian cinema because it almost never disappoints me, and it takes in fact a pre-eminent place among my all-times favourites. Títles such as Siberiad, Solaris, Uncle Vania, Dersu Uzala o Moscow does not believe in tears, to name just a few, are among the first in my top list. But today a new film has come to by its own right oust a step down many of the others: I’m talking of The dawns here are quiet (A zori zdes tikhie).
And by saying ‘new’ I don’t mean it’s a release – actually it was produced in 1972 – but that I’ve just watched it for the first time, having never heard of it before. Indeed, because of this ‘hermetic markets economy’ our planet is divided in (European, USAmerican, Chinese, Russian…) not even Culture – or maybe least of all Culture! – is granted free trade, and thus Sovietic cinema very rarely reaches our Western shores. So, it’s only thanks to some acquaintances of mine from the former Eastern Block that I get to know, every now and then, of these cinematographic gems. Continue reading “The dawns here are quiet”