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13 reviews in total 
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21 out of 30 people found the following review useful:
Tough, but needed, 22 November 2011

This is a beautiful, honest, tough, harrowing, and very necessary depiction of the life of women in Russia in the 1910s/20s, and the unromantic nature of the revolution and subsequent civil war. The film follows Varvara, a peasant woman, who's married off to a drunk. He treats her badly, beating and abusing her, and things just get worse from then on for her. But although the film doesn't shy away from showing the awful things she undergoes, it rarely feels as if it's too much: the action is intelligently portrayed, all the acting is top- notch, and the images are so beautiful that the squalor of Varvara's life is always watchable. Less poetry in the visuals and folk context (the peasants' singing, clothing, housing...) - say if it were set on a modern-day housing estate - and it would have been a different matter, just another depressing kitchen-sink drama. But the setting is fascinating, and it's portrayal artistically justified. The film is truly remarkable and worth seeing. It's a tad long and very intense, but repays the effort.

Vdrebezgi (2011)
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Russian Pulp Fiction?, 18 November 2011

Vdrebezgi (Smithereens) is an interesting attempt to make a multi-plotted, multi-charactered tale where all the strands come together in the end. There are guns, sexy girls (and unattractive Russian men), blood and coincidences - all slightly reminiscent of Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, just set in the crumbling, decaying land that is Russia. Some of the scenes are a bit ropey, but overall the acting is generally good, the camera-work tries hard to be inventive, and there are some good one-liners (which made the Russians in the audience at the Sputnik Film Festival in Warsaw laugh a lot. I did too, but not quite as much). Sometimes the interwoven plots strain credulity a bit too much, and there's a little too much gore, but the light, black humour helps get through it. Worth watching, and worth watching the writer-director's future efforts probably.

46 out of 58 people found the following review useful:
Dear oh dear, 7 August 2010

Hmm, to be honest, I shouldn't even be writing this. This film shouldn't exist at all. The first Burnt by the Sun was perfect - and ended perfectly. When I heard that there was to be a sequel, my heart sank, and having finally seen the film, my heart is still down there... This film is bad. From the lack of plot, to the ropey acting, to the appalling FX (oh my word, God save us from yet another one of Mikhalkov's badly rendered German planes!), to the bad choice of shots (few still camera shots, showing Nikita's lost his nerve and belief in his ability to frame a shot well and meaningfully), to the absurd events that occur (e.g. defecating out of planes)... this film has nothing to commend itself. Save yourself... keep the pure memories of the first film and don't watch this.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Very good look at Russia's depressing lack of civil/gay rights, 19 October 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I just saw this film at the Warsaw Film Festival and there was a Q&A with the director right afterwards. The documentary was originally intended to be about gay rights in Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Russia, but after the brutal suppression of Moscow's gay rights march - the makers decided to do a more in depth investigation of the situation in Russia since the atmosphere there is much more homophobic than in the other countries mentioned above.

The film follows five or so Russian gay men and women, some who believe in protesting, others who would prefer to keep their heads down and not attract negative attention. One such gay man is claiming disability benefit at the age of around 23, because he and his boyfriend were beaten up one night by skinheads. When he came to in hospital, he was told he boyfriend, his first, was dead. There are many such sad stories in this film, testament to the appalling homophobic atmosphere in Russia.

The gay march itself, attended by various politicians from around European (and the singer from Right Said Fred), was banned and when it took place, the police allowed neo-Nazis to attack the protesters and then arrested the now-bloodied protesters. It's obvious from the film that there is little immediate hope for Russia (and its fledgling democracy), which gives the film a bitter ending, but that's hardly the makers' fault. Overall though, the film is a great document and very much worth seeing. According to the director though, it won't be in Russia for a while: the Moscow and St Petersburg film festivals refused to show it saying that it wouldn't be received to well by their public. A great shame - they need to see it more than ever at the moment.

Choke (2008)
1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Very rude but very good, 10 October 2008

Just saw this film at the Warsaw Film Festival and I was very impressed. This characters are very wacky, but always interesting and the script keeps coming up with surprises. Usually quite obscene ones in fact. The premise could have been quite depressing - a sex-addict has a mum with Alzheimer's who can't remember his name... and all he can think about is the awful way she brought him up... but there are lots of hilarious moments to lighten this scenario. The jokes are good, and the acting is great too - especially Kelly Mcdonald and Angelica Houston. Sometimes, however, the logic of the film is a bit stretched (yes, most of it's meant to be absurd, but the ending gets a bit too far-fetched). Also, the director Gregg is APPALLING as an actor - he reads all his lines wrong (stick to directing, you're actually pretty good!). But all in all, very funny and well worth watching.

7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Fantastic, 20 October 2007

This was the best of 12 films I saw at the 2007 Warsaw film festival. If you liked 'Euforia' or 'The Return', you'll love this. A woman is stuck in the middle of nowhere in the middle of Russia, living in a shack by a railway line. Her husband dies and all she has are a few animals for company and a guy she gets a lift to the mortuary with. She must learn to live on her own and decide her life for herself. While it may sound simplistic, the film is very lyrical and very moving, with some very funny moments and moments of sheer pathos. Cinematography is great, acting too and the overall atmosphere is almost haunting. Well worth an hour and a half of your time.

15 out of 62 people found the following review useful:
Arty but unrewarding, 18 October 2007

I was looking forward to this film because of the unusual formal nature of the film: the screen is split into between two and twenty little screens at various points during the film - sometimes they are static, sometimes they float around... And while I liked the style and I think it will possibly start a trend, I can't say I actually enjoyed the content of the film. The main character, a runaway teenage girl, was obnoxious and lacking in any redeeming features. She swore in the most puerile way, and sometimes spoke to the screen in a stagy declamatory manner which wasn't suitable (for this film that is). The dialogue in general was bad and her parents couldn't act at all. As for a story - well there wasn't too much of interest going on, so I left the theatre feeling I'd seen a reasonable piece of art form-wise, but that I hadn't been moved at all.

Co/Ma (2004)
5 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
pointless, 28 May 2006

This has barely anything to do with Mike Figgis, only one sequence shows any of his influence. The rest is complete rubbish, bad actors mucking around with nothing at all to say. The fact that 19 up-and-coming (and hopefully now-going-down) actors and filmmakers got the chance to meet and work with Figgis and made this pile of... is extremely depressing for those of us who would have killed to have had their opportunity. Having met a modern master of cinema (Hotel, Timecode), they then decided to make a pastiche of a soap opera. No wonder some of them even break down in tears at their colleagues' waste of this chance.

And one more thing, those 11 votes of ten (as of May '06) for this film? Hmmm... the filmmakers themselves me thinks.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
bad, 15 May 2006

Erm, this is pretty bad actually. I like R Dogs, P Fiction and J Brown but this and its sequel have none of the imagination or style of those other films. Uma is good as usual and there are a couple of good shots but the plot is awful, no characterisation, the fight scenes (they aison d'etre of the film surely) are feeble compared to Crouching Tiger (the actors just aren't up to the physicality of it all - even the Matrix had better fights) and the dialogue is dull as well. Basically QT thinks he's such a genius he can do anything and no one around him will dare to tell him otherwise. A pretty pointless way to spend a couple of hours in all.

7 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
cliché after cliché..., 24 April 2006

For the first 30 minutes I just sat cringing - every imaginable cliché about the mafia and Italians and the wonderful idyllic childhood this mix creates poured forth. You've heard it a hundred times before and, guess what, better. The head mafia guy in the district "was loved by everyone" (ahem, even though the hero's father despises him and we learn that very few people truly like him - the cliché therefore being contradicted by the rest of the film) and of course, everyone has their own cute nickname. The only original addition was that of race and racism, specifically, against African-Americans (but hey, guess what, the hero is DIFFERENT - he doesn't really share the prejudices of his friends). This too though was handled rather ham-fistedly, at one point a character uses a racist term and the next minute the person on the receiving end of it has not only forgotten it but forgiven it completely. It was a plot-serving cop-out of the highest order.

Furthermore, for a film directed by such a consummate actor as De Niro, there are a few bad performances - specifically by the teenage version of the hero and his love interest (who was actually appalling).

That said, by half way through I got a bit more drawn into the story, but this is still a very inferior mafia/growing up film.

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