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|The Miracle Maker - The Story of Jesus
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Brand: Lions Gate
Voices of Ralph Fiennes, William Hurt, Miranda Richardson. A family searching for help for their sickly daughter cross paths with the one man who can help them: a carpenter named Jesus. This inspiring tale of Jesus Christ features 3-D computer animation the whole family will love! 2000/color/87 min/NR.
|War and Peace
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Tolstoy's epic masterpiece paints a portrait of Russia and her people, caught up in the irresistible tides of history during the Napoleonic Era.
Like Tolstoy's novel, this epic-length War and Peace is rough going, but worth the effort. Winner of the 1969 Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language Film and widely considered the most faithful adaptation of Tolstoy's classic, Sergei Bondarchuk's massive Soviet-Italian coproduction was seven years in the making, at a record-setting cost of $100 million. Bondarchuk himself plays the central role of Pierre Bezukhov, buffeted by fate during Russia's tumultuous Napoleonic Wars, serving as pawn and philosopher through some of the most astonishing set pieces ever filmed. Bondarchuk is a problematic director: interior monologues provide awkward counterpoint to intimate dramas, weaving together the many classes and characters whose lives are permanently affected by war. Infusions of '60s-styled imagery clash with the film's period detail; it's an anomalous experiment that doesn't really work. Undeniably, however, the epic battle scenes remain breathtakingly unique; to experience the sheer scale of this film is to realize that such cinematic extravagance will never be seen again. --Jeff Shannon
|The Rape of Europa
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The Rape of Europa tells the epic story of the systematic theft, deliberate destruction and miraculous survival of Europe's art treasures during the Third Reich and World War II. Joan Allen narrates this breathtaking chronicle about the battle over the very survival of centuries of Western culture.
|Animated Soviet Propaganda: From the October Revolution to Perestroika (4 DVD Set)
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Brand: KINO VIDEO
A landmark four disc Box Set - Unearthed from Moscow's legendary Soyuzmultfilm Studios, the 41 films in ANIMATED SOVIET PROPAGANDA span sixty years of Soviet history (1924 - 1984), and have never been available before in the U.S. The set is divided thematically into four discs, all dealing with different subjects of the Soviet propaganda machine. (DISC 1) AMERICAN IMPERIALISTS contains seven films, almost all of which are drawn from the Cold War era. The recurring image is of the money hungry industrialist self-destructing because of his greed. (DISC 2) FASCIST BARBARIANS is a 17 film reaction to the Nazi invasion of 1941. While Americans were mocked relentlessly, at least they remained human. After breaking the non-aggression pact and declaring war, the Nazis became animals in the propaganda films, turning into snarling warthogs and depraved vultures. (DISC 3) CAPITALIST SHARKS contains six films that take on the bourgeoisie the world over - and sometimes beyond. In INTERPLANTERY REVOLUTION (1924), capitalists escaping to Mars discover the revolution has spread throughout the galaxy. (DISC 4) ONWARD TO THE SHINING FUTURE: COMMUNISM contains 11 works, most of which mythologize the state and envision the inevitable utopias of the future. Dziga Vertov's SOVIET TOYS (1924), however, offers criticism of the state. Generally agreed to be the first Russian animated film, it satirizes the communist members who cashed in on Lenin's New Economic Policy (NEP), which introduced a limited form of capitalist enterprise. - Containing 6 hours of rare material in all, this four-disc DVD set offers a fascinating look at the history of Soviet propaganda. It is an invaluable resource that displays how one of the greatest and most reclusive powers wanted their people to envision the rest of the world, as well as being an idiosyncratic tour through Russia's rich and varied history of animated art. Russia 1924-1984 B&W and Color - 360min - Full Screen (1.33:1) - In Russian with English subtitles
|Andrei Rublev (The Criterion Collection)
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The 15th-century Russian icon painter renounces his art after taking part in a peasant uprising. Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.
At last, the complete version of Andrei Tarkovski's 1966 masterpiece about the great 15th century Russian icon painter (a film suppressed by the Soviet Union and unseen until 1971) is available. It's a complex and demanding narrative about the responsibility of the artist to participate in history rather than documenting it from a safe distance. A landmark in Russian cinema, Andrei Rublev is a beautifully lyrical black-and-white film about harmony and soulful expression. As the late filmmaker says in a supplementary interview, each generation must experience life for itself; it cannot simply absorb what has preceded it. In fact, a whole host of supplements accompanies the film in this Criterion Collection release. Stick with it; it's worth the effort. --Bill Desowitz
|Eisenstein: The Sound Years (Ivan the Terrible Parts 1 & 2 / Alexander Nevsky) (The Criterion Collection)
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Sergei Eisenstein, long regarded as a pioneer of film art, changed cinematic strategies halfway through his career. Upon returning from Hollywood and Mexico in the late 1930s, he left behind the densely edited style of celebrated silents like Battleship Potemkin and October, turning instead to historical sources, contradictory audiovisuals, and theatrical sets for his grandiose yet subversive sound-era work. This trio of rousing action epics reveals a deeply unsettling portrait of the Soviet Union under Stalin, and provided battle-scene blueprints for filmmaking giants from Laurence Olivier in Henry V to Akira Kurosawa in Seven Samurai.
A biography of the first czar of Russia was the final movie project of the great Sergei Eisenstein's life. It would be his undoing, as Stalin was not pleased with part II of this epic. But Ivan the Terrible, Part I still stands as a magnificent, rich, and strange achievement. This is a "composed" film to make Hitchcock look slapdash; every frame is arranged with the eye of a painter or choreographer, the mise-en-scène so deliberately artificial that even the actors' bodies become elements of style. (They complained about contorting themselves to fit Eisenstein's designs.) If you don't believe movies can be art, this could be (and has been) dismissed as ludicrous. But Eisenstein's command of light and shadow becomes its own justification, as the fascinating court intrigue plays out in a series of dynamic, eye-filling scenes. This is not a political theorist, but a director drunk on pure cinema.
Part II continues with the struggle for power and the use of secret police, a controversial segment that caused the film to be banned by Stalin in 1946 (the film was not released until 1958). The predominantly black-and-white film features a banquet dance sequence in color. Obviously the two parts must be viewed as a whole to be fully appreciated. Many film historians consider this period in Eisenstein's career less interesting than his silent period because of a sentimental return to archaic forms (characteristic of Soviet society in the '30s and '40s). Perhaps it was just part of his maturity.
Alexander Nevsky (1939), Eisenstein's landmark tale of Russia thwarting the German invasion of the 13th century, was wildly popular and quite intentional, given the prevailing Nazi geopolitical advancement and destruction at the time. It can still be viewed as a masterful use of imagery and music, with the Battle on the Ice sequence as the obvious highlight. Unfortunately, the rest of the film pales in comparison. A great score by Prokofiev was effectively integrated by the Russian filmmaker, but stands on its own merit as well.
|Russian Ark: The Masterworks Edition
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Brand: UNIVERSAL MUSIC VIDEO DIST.
A modern filmmaker magically finds himself transported to the 18th century, where he embarks on a time-traveling journey through 300 years of Russian history in Alexander Sokurov’s masterpiece. Filmed in HD with directors commentary
Russian master Alexander Sokurov has tapped into the very flow of history itself for this flabbergasting film. Thanks to the miracles of digital video, Sokurov (and cinematographer Tilman Buttner) uses a single, unbroken, 90-minute shot to wind his way through the Hermitage in St. Petersburg--the repository of Russian art and the former home to royalty. Gliding through time, we glimpse Catherine II, modern-day museumgoers, and the doomed family of Nicholas II. History collapses on itself, as the opulence of the past and the horrors of the 20th century collide, and each door that opens onto yet another breathtaking gallery is another century to be heard from. The movie climaxes with a grand ball and thousands of extras, prompting thoughts of just how crazy Sokurov had to be to try a technical challenge like this--and how far a distance we've traveled, both physically and spiritually, since the movie began. --Robert Horton
- A modern filmmaker magically finds himself transported to the 18th century, where he embarks on a time-traveling journey through 300 years of Russian history. Filmed with a cast of thousands, three live orchestras and an army of technicians, Russian Ark is the longest uninterrupted shot in film history, and the first feature film ever created in a single take. Format: DVD MOVIE Genre: FO
|Eclipse Series 11: Larisa Shepitko (Wings / The Ascent) (The Criterion Collection)
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Brand: Image Entertainment
The career of Larisa Shepitko, an icon of sixties and seventies Soviet cinema, was tragically cut short when she was killed in a car crash at age thirty-nine, just as she was emerging on the international scene. The body of work she left behind, though small, is masterful, and her genius for visually evoking characters interior worlds is never more striking than in her two greatest works: Wings, an intimate yet exhilarating portrait of a female fighter pilot turned provincial headmistress, and The Ascent, a gripping, tragic World War II parable of betrayal and martyrdom. A true artist, who had deftly used the Soviet film industry to make statements both personal and universal, Shepitko remains one of the greatest unsung filmmakers of all time.
Wings and The Ascent, the two films included in this Eclipse series set, are equally bleak and gorgeous. Though they differ greatly, both films focus on heroic characters whose imaginations run free though they are confined by tragic, war-related conditions. Made 10 years apart by Soviet director Larisa Sheptiko, a film-school contemporary of Andrei Tarkovsky’s, Wings and The Ascent are social dramas investigating the inner minds of protagonists yearning to be elsewhere. Wings (1966), Sheptiko’s first feature, stars Nadezhda Petrukhina (Maya Bulgakova), a retired Stalinist fighter pilot who works as a school headmistress, punishing students in lieu of dealing directly with hard feelings she has for her daughter, Tanya (Zhanna Bolotova), for marrying a man she disapproves of. Though courted by museum curator, Pavel Gavrilovich (Pantelejmon Krymov), "Nadya" wistfully dreams of lost love lost, both for another man and her airplane. Filmed in black-and-white, banal scenes of Nadya shuffling through school halls are interrupted by shots of her plane, gliding through clouds in open air.
The Ascent (1977), on the other hand, is claustrophobically terrestrial. Based on a novella by Vasili Bykov, it depicts two Soviet partisans, Sotnikov (Boris Plotnikov) and Rybak (Vladimir Gostyukhin), searching for food to feed their starving troop in German-occupied Belarus. This war film depicts horror through landscape, featuring long shots of frozen tundra and snowy forests. Well-known as a Christian allegory, The Ascent likens Sotnikov to Christ as he morally transcends corruption and cruelty inflicted upon himself and his partner by Russian Nazi-collaborator, Portnov (Anatoli Solonitsyn). Like Tarkovsky’s masterpiece, Andrei Rublev, The Ascent charts a character’s path through a dark, dismal historical period. Set partially afield and partially in prison camp, it makes for brutal viewing that is nevertheless stunningly rewarding. It is wonderful to have a female auteur to add to the Russian cinematic canon, as Sheptiko brings to these hardened characters a sensitivity that could be construed as feminine. --Trinie Dalton
|Burnt by the Sun
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Winner of the Academy Award(r) for Best Foreign film and the Cannes Grand Jury Prize, BURNT BY THE SUN is the unforgettable story of a Soviet hero whose happy family is suddenly targeted by Stalin's secret police. Nikita Mikhalkov directs and stars as Colonel Serguei Kotov, a hero of the Revolution who is spending the summer in the country with his young daughter (Mikhalkov's real-life duaghter), his wife and her eccentric family. But when his wife's childhood love suddenly appears, the idyllic summer day takes a surprising turn. A lyrical film filled with beauty and warmth, BURNT BY THE SUN isalso an indelible account of a man dedicated to family and fatherland, cruelly destroyed by political paranoia.
|Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan
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Award-winning Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov illuminates the life and legend of Genghis Khan in his stunning historical epic, MONGOL. Based on leading scholarly accounts, MONGOL delves into the dramatic and harrowing early years of the ruler who was born as Temudgin in 1162. As it follows Temudgin from his perilous childhood to the battle that sealed his destiny, the film paints a multidimensional portrait of the future conqueror, revealing him not as the evil brute of hoary stereotype, but as an inspiring, fearless and visionary leader. MONGOL shows us the making of an extraordinary man, and the foundation on which so much of his greatness rested: his relationship with his wife, Borte, his lifelong love and most trusted advisor.]]>
First entry in a proposed trilogy, Mongol vividly captures the beauty and brutality of ancient Mongolia. Beginning in 1172 and ending in 1206, Sergei Bodrov's Oscar-nominated epic presents future conqueror Ghengis Khan as more lover--and fighter--than diplomat. Against his father Esegui's wishes, nine-year-old Temudjin chooses his own bride, whom he marries in the years to come. Hopes for the future, however, turns to thoughts of vengeance when the clan forsakes the boy upon Esegui's death. While Temudjin (now played by Zatoichi’s Tadanobu Asano, a quietly commanding presence) makes his way in a cruel world, turncoat Targutai (Amadu Mamadakov) becomes the new khan. When an opposing clan kidnaps Temudjin’s wife, Börte (Khulan Chuluun), he eventually retrieves her, but betrays blood brother Jamukha (Sun Honglei, Seven Swords) in the process, leading to further enslavement and more Kurasawa-style slicing and dicing. Throughout his travails, Temudjin comes to believe that Mongols must unite to share the same language, culture, and set of values. Sustained by his faith in the god Tengri and the devotion of Börte, Temudjin sets out to wrest control of Mongolia from Jamukha and his women and children-killing hordes. Except for an over-reliance on CGI during the climactic battle sequence, Mongol equals the scope and grandeur of historical predecessors, like Braveheart and Hero. If much of the cast is Chinese and Japanese, Bodrov, who directed Prisoner of the Mountains, conjures up authenticity through detailed costumes, Mongolian dialogue, and remote Central Asian locations. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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