Sibirskiy tsiryulnik (1998) Poster

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10/10
fabulous
jogrant7 September 2004
In its extended version -where the characters are fully developed and the relationships between them fully explored- this movie is incredible. Not just because Oleg Menshikov is a fabulous actor and Julia Ormond does some of the best acting I've seen her do, but because the plot is interesting and well written and the filming is beautiful.

In the butchered and censored short version crucial elements of the story are missing (especially the complete dialogues between Andrei and Jane and the majority of their scene in bed) and the movie is OK but nothing special.

Why would the studio even release such a lame version? Can you imagine a two hour version of Gone with the Wind? Or a 90 minute version of Titanic?

I saw the full 4 and ½ hours extended film in a cinema and no one walked out because it was too long. I saw the short version on the Cosmo channel and I really don't understand why the producers would stab themselves in the back by releasing a watered down and lacking version –presumably for audiences with short attention spans?- but I recommend avoiding the 3 hours one and holding out for the real film.
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9/10
Critics despise it, I loved it!
radlov10 September 1999
I must have an extremely bad taste. Most professional critics have written devastating comments on this film. I just loved it, all 180 minutes of it! Of course, according to the books, you should not mix slapstick and serious drama. Mikhalkov does it and the result completely vindicates him, I feel. Critics should not forget that cinema is about entertainment. Critics blame Mikhalkov because he did not make another high brow artistic film like « Burnt by the sun », but "prostituted" his talent by bowing to the Hollywood taste. I liked both films evenly well, different as they are. Critics say Mikhalkov presented a phony image of old Russia. Of course his billboard image of tsarist Russia is not devoid of clichés and camp, but what a glorious camp it is! Mikhalkov is accused of painting a much too rosy picture of old Russia. But are the Russians (and other people) not entitled to some glimpses of the beautiful Russia that could have been, but somehow never seems able to materialize in this century of gloom ? The critics point out that the film has a lot of formal weaknesses. To the heck with the critics ! The film may not have a very deep message, but I think it illustrates, in a poetic way, the difficulty Russians and Westerners have at understanding each other. Either you love this film, or you ‘d better leave it . When you look at the vote results, you see three quarters of those who voted on this film adore it (scores 8-10), while the others loathe it (scores 1-4). Apparently it is a film you can't be indifferent to.
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10/10
Wow!
Georges Fadel29 August 2000
I went to see this movie based on a suggestion from a good friend of mine. I expected to see a typical love story and was curious about the way this story was developed and directed. I admit that my expectations were very low in this regard. The Barber of Siberia is a work of art, Mikhalkov is surely one of the great movie authors of all times, and I am humbly thankful to my friend for her priceless advice.

The plot may seem like any conventional love story but the fashion in which the story is developed and the performances of all the actors (yes, ALL of them) is really fascinating.

What strikes you most is when Mikhalkov directly compares the life of a military cadet between Russia and the US. There's also a latent comparison between the American and Russian ideals. I leave it to you to discover how and when these comparisons appear on screen.

Mikhalkov magnificently plays the role of the Tzar Alexander III (the father of the recently canonized Tzar Nicholas II). As portrayed by Mikhalkov, Alexander III embodies the grandeur of Russia and sets the standard on the qualities of a ruler. You cannot but compare these standards to those set by Boris Yeltsin (who was in charge in 1998) and you would better understand the passing of power to Putin.

This is one of the rare times I get emotional about a film, and believe me the Barber of Siberia contains a lot of emotions. DON'T MISS IT AT ANY RATE!
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8/10
A story of love, friendship and honor, not a reality quest!
Ga-Nozri8 February 2003
I've seen this movie a lot of times, and loved it every time. Surely it is not very truthful story from the historical point of view. It also isn't very realistic and probably it wasn't made to be one. Who says that every movie nowdays should be? Sometimes you want to see something more fairy-tale like. Though you should remember, this is not one of those happy ones. From mine point of view the main idea of this movie was to show the emotions of youth in those days in Russia. Friendship, love and honor were the virtues that were truly valued. Every one of those emotions were shown in the best possible way. The things I didn't like in that movie, were the overplayed roles of some characters and too long scenes showing the russian passion for drinking(???). But those shouldn't be that big obstacles for not loving everything else. If you didn't like the story of this film, you should watch it at least because of the incredible performance of the russian actor Oleg Menshikov, which dimmes everyone else appearance, even the fabulous Julia Ormond. He plays with such passion that even the fact that he plays much more younger character than himself is not noticeable. I think that everyone who is looking for real emotions on screen, should give this movie a chance, and maybe in the end you will be suprised how much you really enjoyed it.
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9/10
A very nice movie
radlov11 September 1999
I must have an extremely bad taste. Most professional critics have written devastating comments on this movie. I just loved it, all 180 minutes of it! Of course, according to the rules, you should not mix slapstick and serious drama. Mikhalkov does it and the result completely vindicates him, I feel. Critics should not forget that cinema is about entertainment. They blame Mikhalkov because he did not make another high brow artistic movie like « Burnt by the sun ». I liked both movies equally well, different as they are. Critics say Mikhalkov presented a phony image of old Russia. Of course, his billboard image of tsarist Russia is not devoid of clichés and camp, but what a glorious camp it is! Mikhalkov is accused of painting a much too rosy picture of old Russia. But are the Russians (and other people) not entitled to some glimpses of the beautiful Russia that could have been, but somehow never seems able to materialize in this century of gloom ? The critics point out that the movie has a lot of formal weaknesses. To the heck with the critics ! This movie may not have a very deep message, but I think it illustrates, in a poetic way, the difficulty Russians and Westerners have at understanding each other. Either you love this movie, or you ‘d better leave it . When you look at the viewer voting results, you see that three quarters of those who voted on this movie adore it (scores 8-10), while the others loathe it (scores 1-4). Apparently it is a movie you can't be indifferent about.
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9/10
Another good film after Burnt by the Sun
mozibuzi4 September 2000
Most of the critics are saying bad things about this movie, but all of my friends who have seen it are saying that it was really good. I started to like Nikita Mihalkov, when I saw his film 'Burnt by the Sun'. This film is quite different, but very good too. The film lasts almost 3 hours, but you won't lose your attention until the end. Actors are good, even I had some problems with J. Ormond's acting at some places. Alexei Petrenko and Oleg Menshikov are the best. As we see Oleg, we can believe him that he is really a man in his twenties(although we know he is not) and it's not because his make-up. The director of photography has done a good work too. I'd recommend this film to anyone, who likes movies with great pictures, cast, and who likes Nikita Mihalkov. You don't have to be a romantic type to like it.
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10/10
Grrrrreat
sasuffie17 February 2006
I stumbled on this film one night on TV. I hadn't heard of it, but I got intrigued immediately. It was the long version, so it got quite late.

I didn't regret that one bit. It has a nice story thats seems to fit if you're willing to go along with it (one can always find a stick to beat the dog). It has witty, funny dialogs. Although it is a romantic story, it does not have the crappy all's well that ends well feel.

The 2 main characters are very well developed (in the version I saw), they are not clear cut, one dimensional. It is true that some other characters are bordering on the slapstick, but I feel this is not overdone. Somehow it balances really well.

Need I say more? Excellent entertainment (in my humble opinion).
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10/10
Unforgettable
fox-946 May 2000
Even if most of the reviews were devastating I decided to go and see the most expensive and discussed Russian movie. And the truth is that I enjoyed every minute of it. For me absolutely the best movie of the year. For a long time no movie impressed me like this one. You can find everything in it - passion, desire, fight, love and hate, tiers...Watching some scenes you laugh and others you cry. Excellent actor performances and a beautiful music make the movie unforgettable. So forget everything you have heard or read about and better go and see it with our own eyes.
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10/10
What feelings of provoked.
Doc-12518 June 1999
"The Barber of Siberia" was actually the first Russian movie shot during the past 8 years which made me proud that I am Russian. After the stream of low-rated films about mafia, prostitution and 'hard life', most of which were brilliantly void of any thought or idea, "The Barber" managed to persuade me that not everyhing's lost for Russia yet.
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6/10
an explosion of all kinds of pretentiousness
rabbits88829 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The thing that I REALLY like about this film is the story and the poetic way in which it wants to develop. But I can't get past the bad thing, which is that it fails at making it convincing.. and both the comedy and the drama are extremely cheesy.

I'm Russian and I don't like Mihalkov because of his vanity, it all seems like some sort of local thing between him and himself. For example, in this movie, there are several scenes that have nothing to do with the story and do not serve for comedic purpose (because were not in the least funny), and could have easily been left out. It is obvious he for some reason liked them and felt it was right to put them in the final cut. The comedy is BAD. The way comedy develops in a Mihalkov film, is usually by trying to have this sort of crazy mess at the beginning, lot of characters, goofy scenes that don't really have much to do with the main plot, etc. This has worked amazingly cool in many films because the trick is when it's done in an uninterested matter. But this film fails miserably at it, because it all seems SO extremely obvious and forced. The scenes last so long they become a desperate attempt at basically forcing you to laugh and have a good time.

In the tragic aspect the film fails as well, not because of the story itself, but because it basically comes from nothing. Mostly because the 2 main characters, apart from having no chemistry between them, are both quite unlikable. I could not see anything appealing about Jane, she seemed totally ordinary and there was nothing beautiful or mysterious in her for which some young guy would fall. The scene where she meets Radlov is painful to watch, the script in that scene is idiotic. Andrei was simply too stupid. I love Menshikov but I kept feeling bad for him in this film, him playing a cadet at 38 it's ridiculous, all he did was constantly acting like a guy with some mental issues in order to appear younger. And his character becoming a mad man for Jane and feeling the most brutal adoration towards her makes no sense, not because he doesn't know her but because she isn't in the least interesting, and later she randomly jumps in his bed, right after telling him she was no good for him, managing to become even less interesting, plus skanky. On top of that, they both mess up with a character that was clearly there to make this sort of "villan" for the story. But actually, the Radlov character never did any harm to anyone and had no intentions of it, through the movie, Jane continued to make an idiot of him in order to use him for her business purposes, and Andrei egoistically puts him in an awkward position when he goes to propose to Jane. Then, Andrei publicly hits him with a stick and of course that ends badly for Andrei and Jane. Well, what did they expect?

Bottomline, bad film, although it does have a romantic story even if it's not convincing.
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7/10
Definitely viewable, warts and all
Jugu Abraham22 October 2001
This is not Mikhalkov's best film. Yet a Mikhalkov film is one that presents a story with a twinkle in the eye. His films come very near to the black comedy genre. Take his swipe at the average American not understanding Mozart's music--if it is taken literally, it will cloud the Mikhalkov perspective of life through cinema. That perspective is poles apart from the filmmaking of his half brother Andrei Mikhalkov Konchalovsky, who is serious and quite a bit of a perfectionist (he worked with Andrei Tarkovsky on his earlier movies), e.g. "Runaway Train" and "Shy People" made in Hollywood or "Siberiade" made in the former USSR.

Mikhalkov makes serious scenes seem light and a lark: the deportation to Siberia marked with opera singing; the dangerous duel that ends with a hero lying wounded in a Quixotic manner; a very tall Czar Alexander (the director) who puts down his queen with a most 'unroyal' remark. Mikhalkov and his half brother are great visualizers and have good ears for music--which is why the film is a treat to watch--natural splendors of Siberia, recreating a "Dr Zhivago" milieu with more authenticity than Mr Lean (who did a great job considering he could not shoot his film in the USSR).

I am a great admirer of good Russian cinema: especially the works of Tarkovsky, Kozintsev, Eisenstein, Konchalovsky, Talankin in that order. Mikhalkov is not the best but all his films are worth a view. But I have one suggestion--never take his films as what appears for there is a layer underneath the obvious--that needs to be seen tongue in cheek. And unlike Konchalovsky--the quality of direction is never consistent in Mikhalkov's works--it varies from the brilliant to the almost stupid.

But Mr Mikhalkov, what a pathetic waste of Richard Harris' talent to merely advertise his name in the credits for an insignificant role in a long movie...
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5/10
Visually a stunner but very easy to see why opinions are so divisive
TheLittleSongbird10 August 2013
The Barber of Siberia is a very strong example of a polarising film that will induce divisive opinions. It is very easy to see why people will find merit with The Barber of Siberia, at the same time though it is equally easy to see why others will dislike it. There is enough to like and appreciate but on the whole the general feeling this viewing of The Barber of Siberia had was indifference. Visually, it is an absolute stunner and one of the most beautiful films there is. The photography is just glorious, the scenery and costumes are evocative and the colours are the very meaning of sumptuous. The music is hauntingly beautiful, wasn't sure of the relevance of using Mozart, Verdi and Strauss was, but their music are suitable choices and are used well. Julia Ormond is radiant and very believable in her role, and of the Russian actors Marina Neyolova really stood out, she was fabulous. Anna Mikhalkova is fine too. Not all the actors succeeded though, Oleg Menshikov disappoints in a performance that seems out of his comfort zone, rather too quirky for a more serious role than he is accustomed to, he and Ormond have a lack of spark too. Nikita Mikhalkov is physically commanding but too overly-theatrical(quite a lot of the supporting roles are over-played actually) as the Tsar, comes across as a vanity project somewhat, he also directs and in a way that is rather self-indulgent. The script mixes comedy and drama, and the mix doesn't gel together or on its own. The comedy is taken far too broadly and the drama is too overwrought, when they're together it's like two completely different films. Too many characters are sidelined too, especially those of Richard Harris and Alexei Petrenko, Petrenko is still quite good but Harris is wasted. The story also doesn't engage and one that will move people or leave them cold(the latter unfortunately applies with me), a lot of the time it glosses over the important bits, making the depiction of 1880s Russia superficial and almost too idealistic, and spends too much time on the less-important ones(like scenes of almost nothing that go on too long). The pace drags far too much, there are even some scenes that don't even move, and the length is excessively bloated, if the film was trying to disguise that the story wasn't enough for the 3 hours it did a poor job in that respect. All in all, visually and musically The Barber of Siberia enchants but in terms of writing and storytelling it is a test for endurance. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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2/10
much ado about nothing
helen-5413 October 2000
This movie had the biggest advertising campaign any movie ever had in Russia. "Epic movie about Russian culture", "Great saga of Russian spirit", endless articles and interviews. For me this movie was the biggest disappointment. The main character played by Oleg Menshikov is a stupid immature boy ready to set up his comrades because of a woman who doesn't even look like a lady. What is there to admire? In the first part of the movie the story doesn't develop at all. People's festival scenes look like boasting about Russian audacity.

I respect Mr. Mikhalkov for his previous works both as actor and director, but this movie just demonstrates his ambitions to be considered the "Tzar" of Russian cinema.
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3/10
A visually gorgeous monument to pretentiousness
mvvik7 January 2005
Although I rated it 3 out of 10, I have to be fair and mention that there are certain enjoyable aspects to this movie; perhaps I was too harsh. Let me start therefore by mentioning those positive aspects: it is a very well crafted movie (Mikhalkov sure has no lack of skill), with gorgeous cinematography, and plenty of wonderful visuals. The bad side is, there is nothing else about it that I can recommend. In regards to the portrayal of pre-revolutionary Russia, and the ideas expressed in the movie, it is utterly silly, fake and pretentious. In fact, it is fake and pretentious to the point of being ridiculous.

The idealization of tsarist Russia is so unabashed, it will make every Russian in his/her right senses laugh hysterically. Another laughable aspect is that the movie's director (the eminent Nikita Mikhalkov) has chosen to cast himself as H.M. the Russian Tsar Himself. A less laughable (but telling) aspect is that Mikhalkov's monarch of choice is Alexander III, one of the more tyrannical and abhorrent Russian tsars (he succeeded the much more progressive and educated Alexander II, who, alas, was killed by leftist terrorists). The main ideological theme of the movie is very familiar to every Russian: it's the idea of the "Russian soul", too complicated to be grasped by primitive soul-less westerners (especially the uncouth American characters in the movie). The national monopoly on human sentiment implied by the "Russian soul" idea is laughable, and it is deeply ironic that this idea is identical to the purely American notion of American national superiority (here I should mention that I live mostly in U.S. but am Russian by blood, birth and up-bringing - grew up in Moscow - so I know what I am talking about).

In short, this movie is candy for your eyes, and renting it may not be a total waste; it has some simple entertainment value. However, the best use for this movie is to select a particularly stunning scene, and press the "pause" button; it makes for a wonderful decoration. -- Victor
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10/10
As good as a movie can get!
Donnie Zuo30 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
It's one of the most bumpy emotional roller coaster that I've ever ridden in a movie.

If it's fictitious, why don't we make it dramatic to the utmost? Most likely Nikita Mikhalkov shares this view with me. This is a story of fate. The film didn't bother to conceal the cruelty of fate, instead it planted seeds on the most barren soil and nourished leaves and flowers, even though they are only ironies or self-satisfying jokes on war, hierarchy and fusty disciplines, which at least managed to inspire people, if not causing a revolution.

It takes too much to fall into an innocent youth. For a love of a Russian boy as innocent as Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray, an ill-fated American widow had even more to pay, which I admire so much. **(spoiler) It's really ironic while the reason for their acquaintanceship was the soulless machine with a poetic name of "The Barber of Siberia", André Tolstoi actually became one at last.** It's not only his tribute to his first love, but also his revenge on his fate by instilling meanings into a shallow notion called faith.

It's funny. It even seems too hilarious for a theme of sad love. I occasionally laughed from the utmost of my heart, which I never did during watching "Borat" several days ago, and I knew perfectly that I would have to pay for that as the story unfolded. I did. It's easy to resist the temptation of either happiness or sadness, but it's quite another thing to deal with both at the same time.

Judging from my own cinematic experience, "slippery floor" and "proposal" are two of the most dramatic scenes I've ever seen and the fat ignorant American officer who didn't give a damn about Mozart is among the most comedic characters. I found it surprisingly funny because they're not sheer jokes. They are actions which involved courage, optimism and reasons. And that's why even more tears were shed **(spoiler) when the mask boy played Mozart for our ignorant officer in an incredible harmony and the officer was finally convinced and shouted, "Mozart is a great composer".** The very idea of understanding and believing overwhelmed me.

Need I bring forward the attractive acting, artistic cinematography and gorgeous score? I mean...it's Russian. It features beautiful landscape, American beauty, Russian cute guys and, of course, a bittersweet story of love and friendship, changes and fate.

As the movie told, in the day of forgiveness, strangers beat each other black and blue and then begged for forgiveness, and they were serious. Relating to that, I recalled the friendship between André and Polievsky. **(spoiler) They fought a fencing duel and hurt each other**, but Polievsky was the most devoted one through the whole film that went great length to help and protect André.

When the boy eventually took off the mask and kept on running along the coast, I'm convinced that life can be ill-fated sometimes, but it will be worth it if you took it on with courage and sincerity.

The last time I've heard Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 23 was in Alexander Sokurov's "Spiritual Voices", in which Mozart was also specially mentioned. And then this one came. Now to me Mozart seems to become a tag for Russian films --- though the two of them are excellent in its own way.

Thanks to my friend's recommendation, this film adds an extraordinary color to my complex of Russian cinema.
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4/10
Take the money and run
Koschey22 May 1999
I saw this ego-centric "effort" at achieving a film of "epic" status in the company of several native Russian family members. Five people gave 5 different reactions, from Mikhalkov worship to my cynicism.

I saw a movie that looked like Mikhalkov took a lot of "Canal +" money, put some of it in his (and other's) pockets and turned the project over to a bunch of film students. I counted at least 4 different "styles" in the movie. There is no way that the same director is responsible for these different scenes. Contrast these for yourself:

·Cadets polishing shoes with a dog.

·Train station scene (saying goodbye to Andrei).

·Outdoor panorama shots.

·Ormond talking through the keyhole.

·Initial attempt on the Grand Duke and later chase scenes to get Andrei back to sing in Figaro.

·Fencing sequence

Julia Ormond is faster than superman. Learning about his transfer belatedly, she gets all the way across Moscow in one minute to say goodbye to Andrei.

The Russian natives felt that the impression given of Russian life was "caricature" and not history. They called it "tourist postcard" Russia.

They were all proud that a Russian director/producer/fixer has managed to break into the "big time" and be able to waste over 30 million dollars of other people's money while maybe putting a little into local pockets during filming.

If you want to "think" you have seen Russia go see this movie. Drink some coffee before you go.
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4/10
Disappointing almost all the way
minna12 February 2001
Most critics have written devastating about that Michalkov-movie, but I wanted it to see myself. And, unfortunately, they are right. The film had the greatest budget ever in Russian movie history, two international stars, colorful mass scenes, apparently shot quite close to the Kremlin - but in the end it appears to be a nice, sweet nothing. You would not believe, that this director earlier has made masterpieces like Urga and Burnt By the Sun. The characters in the storyline are not convincing, neither Jane nor McCracken nor Andrej. Only general Radlov worth being mentioned. It remains on the surface all the time. Politically it is to me a glorification of the army, and especially the Russian one with values like honor and duty. And, having lived at least half a year in Siberia: My Russia is much more than the one that is depicted in Michalkovs movie. Regarding "Burnt By The Sun" by the same director as a no-question-10-points-movie, one of the best I ever seen in my entire life, I was totally disappointed by that one. Sorry. Nevertheless, Michalkovs unique talent in delivering amazingly beautiful pictures is still there.
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9/10
Do you know why the film has not been released in the USA?
Kiril Nikolaev8 January 2007
Do you know why "The Barber of Siberia" has not been released in the USA? After watching the film, the committee, which approves the foreign films for being released at the American movie theatres, said: "It's impossible for an American sergeant not to know who was Mozart! The film reveals the American officers as morons, so it is not suitable the film to be shown at the theatres". That's the explanation, which Nikita Mikhalkov gave by himself for the lack of releasing of "The Barber of Siberia" in the USA during his guesting of a popular Bulgarian talk-show. That reminds me of a line from the RAMMSTEIN's famous song called "Amerika": "Die Freiheit spielt auf allen Geigen..." In English:"The Freedom is playing at all violins..." (the song aims to show the "freedom" and the "non-censorship" in the USA) By the way the broadcasting of that song at any American television is forbidden.
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10/10
a 10 for 1 of my favorite movie.
went9 July 2006
I like a lot of movie's , but The Barber of Siberia is to me a 10+ movie! An epic romance about lost love, betrayal and the human spirit.It is Nikita Mikhalkov's most ambitious film and first film shot in English. It's one of my favorite, absolutely brilliant, movie.Hertbreaking love story with Julia Ormond (as Jane) always in movement like a waltz that sometime turns into a polka and sometimes into a french cancan. Oleg Menshikov played the lead role in 17 films and worked with the most talented Russian directors.Oleg was born on November 8 1960 in Senpoukhov, Moscow.In 1981 he graduated from Chtepkine Drama School and started to perform on various stages, playing in The Idiot and Caligula(for which he was named Best Actor at Moscow Theatre Festival in 1991).In 1998 he accepted the Russian National Prize for his entire work in film.

I visit Moscow ,special to see the shooting-location.The bridge over the Yauza (krasnokazarmennaja pl),the prison on misjudge per,Faleevskij per, the small street near Kremlin.Also Novodevitsje(the lake). For your interest; on DVD by RUSCICO, wildscreen.180 min, 16:9. Specials +++. also PAL. all region.
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10/10
incredible
boikoblagoev10 March 2003
laugh and cry to death, watching this movie! brilliant combination of happiness & sorrow. an extraordinary russian masterpiece... i can't tell u whether u'll like it or not, but it's great.
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beautiful
Kirpianuscus11 October 2015
beautiful landscapes. and seductive story. clever mixture of humor and drama. a bitter love story. and Russia in a splendid portrait about past, tradition, image about world, love and duty. Oleg Menshikov does one of that characters who are essence of a state of soul. the science to explore the emotions of young Tolstoy, the madness of gesture from profound love, the dialog with Jane, the search of sense in an absurd universe, all as embroidery of significant details. Julia Ormond gives a special aura to her character. and that is not a real surprise. the film is about evolution. the evolution of lead characters. the evolution of Russia itself. an admirable scene - the presence of Nikita Mikhalkov as Alexander II . a not great film. but, surely, a beautiful one.
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3/10
I will remember this film!
kpavlov5 January 2001
No, guys and girls, I'm not Russian! As I watched the comments so far I noticed that Russians in general feel insulted by the picture.

I can understand them. I feel insulted too. So that was it the secret of the "Russian soul" - "Taking everything to the extremes"! Poor Dostoyevski, he lived his live not knowing this..

The postcard images of previous century Russia are interesting since no one had seen them until now. There is also a serious dose of nostalgia - "Oh, that grandeur and colour of the Empire, where did it disappear!"

Somebody compared this film to "Titanic" and "Star Wars". Yes, as long as it is a fairy tale, it resembles them..

So what do we have now - caviar, vodka, bears, snow, "Russian soul" - everything that people imagine when they hear "Russia". But the art is gone..

Mihalkov! You can do better!
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6/10
big flop from director of "Urga"
suvakovs7 July 2002
What a disappointment from the director of "Urga". I agree with the comment that Mikalkov went after big bucks. The story about stubbornness and Mozart was ridiculous, and then Mikhalkov himself as czar... Really hard to comprehend. I hope Mikhalkov would find back his soul because he is a great director. But after this movie there is little to expect.
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8/10
Mikhalkov's AMBERSONS, huge, beautiful, slightly flawed
Michael Moricz28 August 2006
I am unequivocally a Mikhalkov fan. BURNT BY THE SUN is one of the finest films I've ever seen from any director in any country. It is clearly his masterpiece to date and many of his other films are very fine indeed.

It seems unfortunate that so much controversy was generated about BARBER OF SIBERIA based on its budget. Had there not been as much money spent, there would not have been as much hollow publicity and Mikhalkov would never have generated even a fraction of the resentment that swirls around this movie from Russian people. What has clearly happened here is that after all the hoopla and expense, people were expecting something more "important", perhaps something more political or more complex and less charming. What they got was a very old-fashioned and lovely romantic film which treats the "old days" of Tsarist Russia with a forgiving and nostalgic eye.

There's no question that this film is more decidedly commercially-oriented than any other Mikhalkov film. But if in its sprawling ambition it doesn't quite have the incisive mastery of balance between beauty and intellect that earmark his best work, it still has plenty to commend it. In this film Mikhalkov seems to intend to use the pageantry of old Russia (both in terms of geography and architecture) as the backdrop to a sweet love story of warmth and humor. It's pretty much a universal story, not at all particularly innately Russian in its basic conception, but told in the context of a myriad of very idealized and elaborate images of Imperial Russia.

I can understand how a very serious-minded Russian might feel the film is too light, too forgiving of Tsarist institutions and bureaucracy, too comedic. But Russia is not only Dostoevski -- it is also Gogol or Ilf and Petrov. This film represents a certain love affair with Russia, albeit through the kind of lens a Capra or a Lubitsch gave to America in their films. It starts out as a romantic comedy set against a HUGE tapestry that emphasizes beauty over subtlety -- it deepens as it goes along, and as a result the end result eludes definition.

What it is perhaps most like (in this respect) is Welles' THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS. Huge attention to detail but a decided point-of-view to idealize the nostalgic time being explored.

And sadly, the other apt comparison to AMBERSONS is in terms of running time, as clearly it has been somewhat over-edited for commercial reasons. I've only seen the 3 hour version, but I would willingly see the 4 1/2 hour version, because I trust Mikhalkov enough to suppose that the film would be better at the greater length, as there are a few slightly disjointed or compressed transitions in the 3 hour version which no doubt reflect cuts.

What there need be no controversy about are the photography (which is stunning -- this is the most beautiful film ever shot in Russia) and the performances, especially Oleg's. It is old-fashioned movie-making of a type seldom seen these days. It is no ANDREI RUBLEV, but its heart is in a different place.

The real crime is that this film was never released in America. I saw it on the big screen in New York a few years ago thanks to a Russian film festival, and I'm grateful I had the opportunity, because it's almost like Americans were prevented from seeing it. All I can say is this: you should see this film in the theater if you have a chance. It's not Mikhalkov's finest film, but it is in certain ways his most ambitious. It is sumptuously beautiful to look at on the big screen, and even Mikhalkov not quite at his best is eminently worth the time invested. He's one of our greatest living filmmakers in the world, and you will not be wasting your time watching this film, even with its slight sense of narrative imbalance and its forgiving nostalgic glow. To most viewers it is a beautiful and endearing film.

Not every film can be as devastating as BURNT BY THE SUN. This film is more akin to the diffuse charm of Mikhalkov's DARK EYES, with that earlier film's combination of comedy and tragedy which was clearly Chekhovian. No-one expected DARK EYES to be all things to all people -- were the portraits of the local bureaucrats in that movie not gentle satires as well, and isn't that film a bit about an idealized "Russian spirit" that informs the philandering tragic character which Mastroanni plays? Certainly. But since that film didn't cost a zillion dollars like this one, no one complained about it.

Forget the budget. Just see THE BARBER OF SIBERIA and enjoy it on its own terms.
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9/10
Either you like it or you hate it. Just what I love.
blentus14 May 2005
Saw it today (3 hour version), and loved it. Although I didn't expect much, I was pleasantly surprised with both the picture and the story.

Quite many people gave bad reviews based on their 'political perception' of Russia in that period of time, but since movie was made like a fairy-tale comic tragedy, at no point of time did I even think "Is this true image of Russia from that time?" At the end of the day, this is not a documentary (nor was it intended to be) about Russia at the end of 19th century - it is just a story, and should be watched like a story.

Acting was fantastic (I even liked Julia Ormond very much), shots were great, and altogether, this is a movie worth seeing.

At least, you will experience emotions after you see it. You'll either like it, or hate it.
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