Soviet and Eastern European films website - plus some random picks for you

IdleRich

IdleRich
The other day we wanted to watch the 2005 or whatever it is version of The Master and Margarita made for Russian tv. We found a decent one with subs on this Russian movies website - we'd used it before but thought we'd used up our free allocation so wasn't expecting it to work, but it let us watch the thing.... for about half an hour and then it demanded money for us to watch the rest. We were sucked in so we angrily paid 15 dollars for a week's access to the site. And although we acted grudgingly, it truly is an amazing resource. I think you can pay fifteen for a week or more for a month or maybe a hundred for infinite access and I can see we're going to end up paying that, there is just so much great stuff there (and a couple we couldn't find I'll admit, but only a couple).
So, if you have any interest in Soviet films at all (and I've seen a few mentioned) you really should check it out. And just to get you in the mood I'm gonna randomly list ten you should check out (which are probably on the site but to be honest I haven't checked).

The Mascot
Starewicz was an unbelievable animator, it's incredible to me that this is coming up to a hundred years old and still looks great - in fact his later ones such as Renart the Fox are even more technically advanced but I like the story of this one where the teddy bear gets lost in the street and gets caught up in this weird devil's ball involving the rougher tougher street creatures. A truly surreal sequence.


Morphine
I could have put almost anything from Balabanov as he's one of my favourite directors - Of Freaks and Men, shot in pseudo-sepia - in which weirdos use the advent of movie cameras (a recurring theme with Balabanov) to immediately start making porn, Zhmurki is the Russian Pulp Fiction and his adapation of the Kafka's the Castle is a trip - but his version of Bulgakov's short (and funny I understand) story is the one I picked. The adaptation is far from comedic though - from the icy sled trip to the isolated outpost where our young urban doctor will work, the cold seeps into the film and never really lets go. Stir in the descent into addiction, the horrific injuries of his patients (and their increasingly painful operations as our hero dilutes the morphine solution to feed his addiction - as, it is implied, does every other country doctor) and then finally the revolution and collapse and it's not really a laugh a minute. The bits at the end when the guy is wandering lost in his hospital pyjamas, desperate for a fix was one of the most effective portrayals of hopelessness I've seen in a film - you just want him to lie down and die and put everyone out of their misery. Though it's not all like that - in the trailer there is a clip of the strangely sexy scene bit when he performs the gynaecological exam on the countess who stares confidently into his eyes and blows smoke into his face from her cigarette holder and... well, there's a lot to it, check it out.


The Eve of Ivan Kupalo
Ilyenko was the cinematographer for Paradjanov and this adaptation of a Russian folk tale (which was indirectly the inspiration for Fantasia too I think) could be a Paradjanov film - just magical beauty with a dose of Russian strangeness... lovely scene with burning haybails rolling down a mountain sticks in the mind.


Heart of a Dog (the Bortko adaptation from 1988)
Another Bulgakov adaptation. This one is a family favouite in my girlfriend's house, one of those ones they watch every Christmas or something. Anyway it's the Bulgakov story about a dog who is turned into a man by the professor's experiments - along with all the chaos that results. Really a cynical and funny look at the Soviet regime - massive arguments about who gets the best flat and so on (which is a recurring theme in Russian films set in Moscow, there is one Russian comedy which is basically a play that takes place in one room with like a hundred people arguing who gets the right to use a garage for their car - cos apparently this really was a huge issue for a lot of people). OK some of the jokes you need to be Russian to get but it's still a great film. I like the revolutionary song which is sung by various party zealots

"The long hard years...
.... of revolution, are behind us now
The next ten years...
... will also be very hard"

Kin-Dza-Dza
Massive cult favourite since it came out - fuck knows what it means but it's sort of like a Russian Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy perhaps with the main guy teleported to a weird backwards desert planet where they only ever say Ku or something....


Er, anyway, if people are interested in this I'll do five more later.... and put up the link to the actual site if I can find it again....
 

luka

Well-known member
Staff member
I am interested, would like more 'Idlerich recommends films' threads
thats going to make craner so jealous and enraged. he hates it when people treat Rich as our resident cineaste. he'll be absolutely fuming. "why does no one ever ask me. it's always Rich Rich Rich like he's the only man who knows how to operate a DVD player"
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Ha I'm not at all though but I have watched a fair few Eastern bloc things cos of both my girlfriend and my interests I suppose. I wouldn't come to Craner on Euro sleaze and giallo stuff though.
OK - here's some more Eastern bloc stuff.

The Party and The Guests (Nemec)
There are loads of classics from the Czech new wave - but assuming everyone has seen Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, Daisies, The Cremator etc it's worth digging a little deeper for things like this one. A less spectacular vision than the above but this one was controversial and was banned several times. The gist of it is some hipsters (and the actors were basically the intelligentsia of the Czech new wave I think) go for a walk in the forest and get menaced by some people who represent the state and make them come to a "party" in a house drawn on the floor with chalk. Kinda surreal and satirical and also an interesting historical document of course.
 

Linebaugh

Well-known member
thats going to make craner so jealous and enraged. he hates it when people treat Rich as our resident cineaste. he'll be absolutely fuming. "why does no one ever ask me. it's always Rich Rich Rich like he's the only man who knows how to operate a DVD player"
Craner and I have opposite Dissensus schedules so I know nothing of him. What I've gathered is hes some horny Italian socialite who hounds upscale cocktail lounges
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
The Case for a Rookie Hangman (Juracek)
Another Czech new wave film (that was also banned - I think that the problem was there was a brief relaxation of the rules "the Czech spring" and people made all this stuff and got excited, and then the rules clamped down again and everyone got fucked for all the films they had made in that period obliquely criticising the regime. According to wikipedia this was the end of his career - although I think I remember watching a short of his about an agency that rented out cats for the day to cheer people up).
Anyway, this film is an adaptation of Gulliver's Travels - but one of the later books, not the stuff everyone remembers about Lilliput and the giants etc - but set in the modern day (or 1970 or whenever it was filmed). I'm basically a sucker for these kinda Alice In Wonderland style tales where the protagonist wanders from one surreal adventure to the next and as I remember it this is a particularly strange one.
Trailer here in fact

 

IdleRich

IdleRich
The Saragossa Manuscript
I really like Has and his version of The Hourglass Sanatorium should be well known I guess. Another literary adaptation he did was of Potoki's The Manuscript Found In Saragossa which is kind of like a Polish take on 1001 Arabain Nights - in that it is stories within stories within stories - set in Spain. To be honest the book gets a bit wearing after a while cos it just goes on and on and on (after an amazing and intriguing start to be fair) so I'd perhaps advise going straight to the film.
If you've ever read American Gods by Neil Gaiman there is this bit where two people bond over a film that they have both seen and no-one else has - they can describe the plot and one of them thinks it's Polish but the other thinks it's Spanish. Anyway, you never find out in the book what they're talking about but it's clearly this film. Random bit of kinda trivia for you there.
Oh, turns out Scorsese is a fan


(actually he doesn't say that much about it but there are a couple of clips in that mash-up)
 

constant escape

winter withered, warm
What about animated ones? Or films that include animated sequences? I've seen a few by Jiri Barta, including an amazingly detailed wood-carved cubist puppet rendition of the Pied Piper of Hamelin:


Also a few shorter ones,

one with a kind of proto-wes-anderson vibe:



And one by Jan Svankmejer, who is also a bit of a cult figure apparently

 

luka

Well-known member
Staff member
back when me and Rich and Craner were children there were only 4 channels on television and channel 4 was exclusively dedicated to east european animation like that which would have the curious effect of frightening you and boring you at the same time
 

constant escape

winter withered, warm
Nice, hadn't heard of Ladislas Starewicz before. I forget how nice a no-dialogue film can be, even a short one.

Also just remembered Underground, which I found at a library last year:

 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Nice, hadn't heard of Ladislas Starewicz before. I forget how nice a no-dialogue film can be, even a short one.

Also just remembered Underground, which I found at a library last year:

Not Soviet but whatever. Find his films irritating which is a bigger issue.
 
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