9 items from 2012
It starts with a bang, but ends with a poignant whimper. This is supposedly a smarter Bond, you see, giving you first-class action and breathtaking imagery, but also a Freudian look into the secret agent's psyche. A pity, then, that the plot is utter nonsense. Bardem's Joker-ish baddie isn't interested in world domination; he has a personal score to settle, and an unfeasibly cunning plan…
The Return director finds form with a penetrating look at class resentment in money-obsessed modern Russia, perfect conditions for a noir-ish drama. Markina is magnificent as a hard-up divorcee, who does what she has to when her wealthy partner begins to ail.
Room 237 (15)
(Rodney Ascher, 2012, Us) 102 mins
This investigation into the myriad interpretations of Kubrick's The Shining goes far deeper than anyone needed, »
- Steve Rose
Awkward families threaten a recovering patient's marriage in a subtle Russian marvel
If Claude Chabrol had made a film that looked like a Russian parable of human vanity, it might look like this gripping and disturbing film from Andrey Zvyagintsev. (I found myself thinking of both Merci Pour Le Chocolat and old Count Bezukhov's will in War And Peace.) Elena is only the third feature-length film from this 48-year-old director, after The Return (2003) and The Banishment (2007); it is in many ways his most intimate, and the film with the most contemporary and realist character.
Nadezhda Markina plays Elena, a middle-aged former nurse from a poor background who appears to have struck it very lucky. A wealthy patient, Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov) married her and now she lives with him in his luxury apartment with nothing to do but tend conscientiously to her husband. He is ageing, but their love life is still vigorous, »
- Peter Bradshaw
Retrieved from Exile: Zvyagintsev’s Dismissed Sophomore Effort a Neglected Masterpiece
Newly minted Russian auteur Andrei Zvyagintsev’s second feature, 2007’s maligned The Banishment, has been resurrected for the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival’s “Films that Got Away” program, and it also happens to be one of the most astonishing entries to play in the entire fest. Famously premiering at Cannes to mixed response (though it snagged Best Actor), it’s dismissal was remarkable, especially considering this was his follow-up to his much hailed 2003 debut, The Return. It only played at a handful of other festivals of note but never was released theatrically in the Us. Now, after redeeming himself in the global critical arena with his latest offering, Elena, perhaps we have the opportunity to revisit his dismissed second outing, a neglected effort that, as the tests of time will prove, should amass the critical jubilation it deserves as a masterful, »
- Nicholas Bell
Title: Elena Director: Andrei Zvyagintsev Starring: Nadezhda Markina, Andrey Smirnov and Aleksey Rozin Building tension is an art form in itself. Hitchcock knew that, and apparently so does Andrei Zvyagintsev. It is also quite apparent that he is a student of Hitchcock with his newest slow-burner, Elena; which is a follow-up from the The Return, another film with the same moral ambiguity. Elena would be classified as a modern film noir, if we’re looking to categorize cinema. Even the opening shot carries some unnervingly ominous symbolism, with a raven landing on an empty, autumnal tree branch and cawing loudly, making the only noise that can be heard. We gaze through [ Read More ] »
Cinephiles, unite! The name Andrei Zvyagintsev is relatively unknown on these shores, as his remarkable debut "The Return" quietly came and went (though it is now on Netflix Instant -- Go!) and his tremendous sophomore effort "The Banishment" never saw a proper release in the West. That's all about to change with "Elena," his third and most refined piece of work, which not only saw a premiere at Cannes Film Festival but also left with the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize. Zvyagintsev's aesthetic might make him seem like Andrei Tarkovsky II, but his voice is still his own, eschewing his mentor's liberal use of magic for more grounded, realistic stories.
Set in contemporary Russia, the film follows the titular character (Nadezhda Markina) as she cares for her wealthy second husband Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov) in a gigantic penthouse apartment, in a high-class area of the country. By contrast, Elena's jobless »
- Christopher Bell
A Touch of Class: Zvyagintsev’s latest slow burn reaches a masterful boil.
Over the past decade, one of the most celebrated new filmmakers to come out of Russia is Andrei Zvyagintsev, with his highly celebrated 2003 debut The Return, and the equally acclaimed 2007 film The Banishment. A filmmaker with a knack for teasing tense thrills out of seemingly banal human relationships, he returns with his best work yet, Elena. A class clash potboiler, it’s a simple but deliciously hypnotic narrative about wealth and the queer way it tends to push people out of their comfort zones.
We’re introduced to Elena (Nadezhda Markina), wife and caretaker to Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov), a couple in their mid-sixties comfortably living in an expensive apartment in Moscow. Through their interactions, we learn that they each have children from a different marriage and that Elena used to be Vladimir’s nurse and, thus, »
- Nicholas Bell
Andrei Zvyagintsev is one of the most interesting among active filmmakers today. He has only made three feature films. Each of those three films is built, to put it in literary terms, on the scale of a novella rather than an epic novel. Each film delves with aspects of family bonding—or at least that provides the least common factor for the tales, only to multiply and enlarge on aspects of an individual’s life beyond the family, subjects often relating to psychology, politics, sociology and religion. And that is what makes any Zvyagintsev film interesting—its universality and its inward looking questions, all open ended for the viewer to ponder over after the movie gets over. And Elena is true to that spirit.
Famous Russian novels (later made into films) often had for their titles mere names—Anna Karenina or Dr Zhivago. But those novels went beyond those ordinary names. »
- Jugu Abraham
While Sundance Film Festival is a wonderful place for discovery, programmers still curate a small, but wonderful line-up of festival favorites. From our journeys around the film festival circuit the last year we are here to let you know what should be on your radar. Most of these can be found in the Spotlight check, but there are also shorts and midnight films to be seen! Check them out below, with help from our own Nick Newman. We’ve also partnered with other sites to give you an extensive overview of coverage, so check out the links below!
Synopsis: A bored, retired rock star sets out to find his father’s executioner, an ex-Nazi war criminal who is a refugee in the U.S
Why It Should Be On Your Radar: Reactions were mixed at its Cannes premiere this year (our review here »
- firstname.lastname@example.org (thefilmstage.com)
As a followup to Jesse Cataldo's guide to the inaugural edition of the Museum of the Moving Image series First Look, which runs through January 15, when it closes with Raya Martin's Buenas Noches, España (he'll be there — and that's the trailer above, of course), I thought I'd round up a few supplementary items, starting with Eric Hynes's overview in the Voice, where he notes that First Look "already has a discernible identity":
In each their own way, the invited filmmakers approach film as a terrain for formal dexterity. They hail from all over the world—representing 11 countries and four continents — but nationality seems well beside the point. These are films in which borders are crossed as a matter of course: An Italian filmmaker tails a hero of the Armenian avant-garde (The Silence of Peleshian), while a Belgian master conjures Malaysia in the Cambodian jungle (Almayer's Folly); dramas resemble »
9 items from 2012
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