17 January 2012 3:34 AM, PST | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

With only a fraction of the Us's screens, Russia is the seventh-largest global film market. And Hollywood expansion is forcing local cinema-makers to up their game

It was a film with no lead actor that laid claim to the Russian box office last year. Vladimir Semyonovich Vysotsky, the immensely popular Soviet-era singer-songwriter, poet, actor and man of protest, was always going to be the only person on stage when his biopic got made. The marketing campaign for Vysotskiy. Spasibo, Chto Zhivoy (Vysotsky, Thank God I'm Alive), which opened on 1 December 2011, kept shrewdly stumm about the identity of the actor behind the CGI and the $30,000 silicone mask used to resurrect a national hero (described to me as "John Lennon crossed with James Dean, but sounding like Dylan").

A mystery wrapped inside a dissident enigma, then, and Russians made it the top-grossing local movie of the year ($28m and counting). But they'd »

- Phil Hoad

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