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|Three Soviet Classics (Earth / The End of St. Petersburg / Chess Fever)
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Brand: Kino International
One of the undisputed masterpieces of the cinema, no single viewing of Earth will ever reveal all of its poetic brilliance. The third in a triptych of films by Ukrainian director Alexander Dovzheko (after Zvenigora in 1927 and Arsenal in 1928), Earth is strikingly simple in plot. On the eve of collectivization in the Ukraine, an old farmer dies peacefully in bed. His grandson Vasil has a new vision: the village council will buy a tractor to be shared among the farmers. Struggling against the superstition, rich landowners and nature itself, Vasil is ultimately the victim of a tragic murder, but the dawn brings forth a new life and the promise of prosperity to the poor village. The story itself is secondary to the beautifully stunning images that Dovzhenko creates. His love for the Ukrainian people and land intoxicates the viewer with the sensual splendors that fill the screen. Assigned to make a film commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 1917 Revolution, Vsevolod Pudovkin crafted an intensely dramatic and personal dramatization of those earth-shaking events. The End of St. Petersburg opens on a farm where a peasant must stay in the field and plow as his wife dies in childbirth. Trudging to the city to seek work, he is forced into scab labor. He tragically realizes the consequences of his mistake and violently attacks his employer. After jail, he is forced to join the army. World War I, in the best depiction yet of the horrors of battle, destroys all in its path as the bourgeois speculators grow rich. But the revolution frees St. Petersburg from the brutal yoke of the rich and there is born a new hope for the future. The New York Times remarked that "one feels sometimes as though this film were a remarkable newsreel of the Russian Revolution." Also featured on this DVD is Chess Fever a Keaton-esque comedy in which a young man's passion for the game threatens to wreck his marriage.
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Brand: Kino International
Danila (Sergei Bodrov, Jr.) returns from army service to a St. Petersburg transformed into a casual culture high on music and consumerism. The chaotic atmosphere, carefully depicted by Balabanov's moody camerawork, easily invites the smug, belligerent Danila into a world of crime. Soon the youth is accompanying his brother Viktor, contract killer for the Russian underworld, on violent escapades where wads of cash and a well-gripped gun are the ultimate symbols of power. Bodrov's cynical, brutal performance, reminiscent of tough-guy roles from countless Hollywood mob movies, further conveys the sense that 1990's St. Petersburg is not a far cry from the blood-strewn Chicago of the late 1920s. And like Bogart and Cagney, Bodrov makes his morally challenged hero strangely likeable.
|Grigori Kozintsev's King Lear
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Brand: FACETS VIDEO
One of the truly great Soviet films, and possibly the greatest translation of Shakespeare to the screen, Grigori Kozintsev's epic adaptation, shot in Lithuania, is a visually stunning tour-de-force. Screenplay by Boris Pasternak. Music by Dimitri Shostakovich.
|Minkus - La Bayadere / Kirov Theatre
Here is La Bayadere (The Temple Dancer) a ballet in three acts performed by the company that first brought it to the West. Filmed at the Kirov Theater (on the stage where it was premiered in 1877), La Bayadere stars Gabriella Komleva as the pathetic temple dancer, Nikia; Tatiana Terekhova as Gamzatti, the Rajah s daughter, and Rejen Abdyev as Prince Solor.
Based on an ancient Indian poem, the ballet concerns the love between Nikia and Solor. Solor, unfortunately, is obliged to wed Ganeatti, who murders her rival by sending a basket of flowers hiding a poisonous snake. After Nikia s death, the inconsolable Solor envisions Nikia inviting him to join her in the Kingdom of the Shades. In their final dance together, they manage to find a measure of happiness among the phantoms of other maidens who have died of unrequited love.
A piece of history, and a work of art, La Bayadere is quite simply a gem to be savored again and again.
Gabriella Komleva ............ Nikia
Rejen Abdyev ................... Solor
Gennadii Selyutsky ............ Chief Brahmin
Yuri Potemkin .................. The Rajah
Tatiana Terekhova ............. Gamzatti
and the Company of the Kirov Ballet
Choreography: Vakhtang Chabukiani and Vladimir Ponomarev after Marius Petipa
Music: Ludwig Minkus Conductor: Victor Shirokov
- ISBN: 0-7697-8666-9
- Running Time: 130 minutes
- Sound: Dolby 2.0
- Composer/Author: Ludwig Minkus
- Minkus: La Bayadere
- Choreography By Balanchine / Chaconne, Prodigal Son, Ballo Della Regina, Elegie, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux
- Minkus: La Bayadere
- Minkus - La Bayadere / Guerin, Hilaire, Platel, Paris Ballet
- Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake
- The Kirov Celebrates Nijinsky / Sheherazade, La Spectre de la Rose, The Polovtsian Dances, The Firebird
- Swan Lake
- Don Quixote / Baryshnikov, Harvey, American Ballet Theatre
- Jeune Homme Et La Mort / Carmen
- The Little Humpbacked Horse / Maya Plisetskaya, Vladimir Vasiliev, Bolshoi Ballet
|Ballad of a Soldier (The Criterion Collection)
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Russian soldier Alyosha Skvortsov is granted a visit with his mother after he singlehandedly fends off two enemy tanks. As he journeys home, Alyosha encounters the devastation of his war-torn country, witnesses glimmers of hope among the people, and falls in love. With its poetic visual imagery, Grigori Chukhrai's Ballad of a Soldier is an unconventional meditation on the effects of war, and a milestone in Russian cinema.
Grigory Chukhraj's poetic odyssey of an accidental hero on a six-day pass is a sentimental journey through the ideals of the Soviet state in World War II. Vladimir Ivashov is the fresh-faced signalman whose trip from the Russian front to visit his white-haired mother becomes a series of detours as he stops to help the loyal comrades, fellow soldiers, and salt-of-the-earth civilians (as well as a few shirkers and scoundrels) he meets along the way. On a transport train he even falls in love with a pretty young stowaway, a feisty blond girl-next-door on her way to visit a wounded boyfriend. Delicately photographed and gently paced, this deliriously romantic road movie is undeniably Soviet in its celebration of patriotism and collectivism, but Chukhraj transcends politics with delightfully vivid characters and a deft mix of comedy, melodrama, and romance. --Sean Axmaker
|Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker
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Live from the Bolshoi Theatre. This 1978 remake is a truly spellbinding version of this Christmas classic. Tchaikovsky's beloved melodies combine with superb dancing to create pure delight. Starring Yekaterina Maximova, Vladimir Vasiliev, Victor Levashev.
Famed Bolshoi duo Yekaterina Maximova and Vladimir Vasiliev star in this production of Tchaikovsky's beloved ballet, The Nutcracker. Maximova dances the role of Maria, the young girl whose mysterious uncle Drosselmeyer (Victor Levashov) gives her a wooden nutcracker (Vasiliev) for Christmas. When he comes to life, she rescues him from marauding mice and is taken to the Kingdom of Sweets for a series of entertaining divertissements from many nationalities.
This production dates from 1987 and the sets and costumes appear to have been in use since well before then. Audio and video quality are rather crude, especially compared to the stunning DVD productions by Patrice Bart and Maurice Bejart. Bart, however, takes liberties with the story line, and Bejart throws it out altogether. Sometimes, all you need is a traditional version of a family holiday favorite, and if you want traditional, it's hard to beat the Bolshoi. --David Horiuchi
- ISBN: 0-7697-0062-4
- Running Time: 100 minutes
- Composer/Author: Peter Tchaikovsky
- Performers: Yekaterina Maximova, Vladimir Vasiliev, Victor Levashev, Sergei Radchenko
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Director Sergei Eisenstein's epic ALEXANDER NEVSKY features some of the most beautiful imagery ever put on film, a majestic music score by Prokifiev and a dazzling, climactic battle on a frozen lake. In 1242, Russia in being invaded by two sides: from the orient by the Mongols and from Europe by the Germans Teutonic Knights of the Holy Roman Empire. The last free city in Russia, Novgorod, calls the Prince Aleksandr Nevsky, who had defeated the Swedish in a previous battle, to defend the city.
Sergei 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. --Bill Desowitz
|Anna Karenina (1967)
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Brand: Kino International
In pre-revolutionary Moscow, Anna (The Cranes Are Flying's Cannes award-winning Tatiana Samoilova), a beautiful young aristocrat, languishes in a loveless marriage to Karenin, a powerful politician and highly visible public figure. When her brother Stiva invites scandal in an impetuous affair with his children's governess, Anna sympathizes with Stiva's faithful wife Dolly. But when Anna's head is turned by the dashing Count Vronsky (Vasili Lanovoy), she finds herself risking her marriage, her family, and her husband's career in pursuit of a romance as self-destructive as it is passionate. The suffocating hypocritical social order that imprisoned Anna in her marriage won't permit her to leave it without paying a tragic price.
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Brand: MPI Home Video
A chilling horror film, SAUNA explores the space between Christianity and paganism. The year 1595- a long and brutal war is finally over. Brothers Knut and Erik- who are part of a commission marking the border between Finland and Russia- commit a terrible sin as they leave a young girl to die a horrible death. As the commission crosses the uncharted swamp, the girl returns to haunt them. Weary men find solace from the nameless village and find a sauna- the sauna where all sins are washed away. Seeking forgiveness the brothers step in…
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