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Hard to Be a God | Blu-ray Review

As far as the immersive powers of cinematic spectacle go, it’s doubtful any will come close to rivaling the achievements of Russian auteur Aleksei German, a figure many have hailed as the post important director in his country following Tarkovsky. And yet, he is still largely unknown, at least in comparison to the worldly renown of his comparable peers. Over his five decades as a filmmaker, German only produced five films, a perfectionist whose later works far outshine the fastidiousness displayed in the comparable methods of someone like Stanley Kubrick.

Obtaining a serviceable print of his titles often proves difficult (though the tenacious may yet unearth bootleg copies here and there), which hasn’t helped audiences acclimate to his idiosyncratic style. Passing away while working on the finishing touches of his last film, Hard to Be a God, a sci-fi epic taken as representative of the director’s work,
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Aleksei German obituary

Soviet and Russian film director whose reputation is based on only four films, all of them masterpieces

Aleksei German, who has died of heart failure aged 74, was among the very last in a generation of film directors victimised by the Soviet Union's draconian attitude to the arts. As a result, since 1968 German had made only six films, one of them co-directed and one uncompleted at his death. Three of them were shelved for several years, and Khrustalyov, My Car! (1998), seven years in the making, was repeatedly bailed out by French money. German's reputation is based on only four films, all of them masterpieces.

Gradually, after the fall of communism in Russia, German's films were screened at cinematheques and festivals in the west. Khrustalyov, My Car!, the only one of his works that was not banned, provoked a mass walkout by critics at the 1998 Cannes film festival. According to the Hollywood Reporter,
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Aleksei German: The World's Greatest Assistant Director

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Above and below: Khrustalyov, My Car!.

The joke about Aleksei German was always that he was great but only Russians liked him. Several years ago, I invited a non-Russian-speaker to a screening of Khrustalyov, My Car! (1998) at Brooklyn's Bam cinema. Ten minutes into the screening, an odd thing happened. I felt the urge to tell my companion to stop reading the subtitles.

The following scene prompted me: A middle-aged housekeeper opens the curtains and spikes her morning tea with cognac; someone polishes a shoe and talks about a veterinarian prone to lethargic sleep; a woman with a yoghurt facial scolds a senile lady for using a walker and, moments later, for taking a large kielbasa into bed with her. The old woman claims to be defenseless against sexual fantasies. Some words are misheard; a grocery receipt is scrutinized; a winter coat is sniffed in search of mothballs, two doll-like Jewish
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