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

IdleRich

IdleRich
Sorry that sounded rude - I was doing two things at once, apologies.
I find his films to have a kinda contrived madness to them which robs me up the wrong way somehow. Plus he always shoehorns in his own hobby band playing whacky balkan music which grates too.
 

constant escape

winter withered, warm
No worries. It did prompt an insecure google of whether or not Serbia was technically eastern european, though.

But yeah I can see where that kind of soundtrack can serve to distract from either good or poor quality aspects of the film.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Ah you're right, there is the title in black and white and it does say Soviet and East European. I am now even more sorry.
 

constant escape

winter withered, warm
I mean I'm pretty geographically impaired, so it wouldn't have surprised me if I ventured outside the designated area.

Although maybe there is a certain energy or tone or something that is specific to a the category of eastern european film, which is perhaps my basis for suggestions here.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
I think there is. Certainly to soviet bloc films cos they faced similar situations (and differences of course). And I was thinking that Serbia/Yugoslavia was not in that and also that the Soviet thing had fallen apart by then anyhow.
OK an (almost) animation as promised. Must have mentioned this before cos when I saw it I thought it was competely magical.

Baron Presil
Basically Baron Munchausen - not sure why the name is different - Karel Zeman was making these mixtures of animation and real people before Swankmayer and - I think - more beautifully, though maybe without the Freudian subtext which added an extra dimension to S's work and perhaps gave it longevity.
Anyway, Baron Presil is simply a gorgeous telling of the tale. There's nothing more to it than that but there doesn't need to be - if you have any of the joy of childhood or life in general left then you can just be carried away. In fact this reminds me I have some of his other films on dvd that i haven't got round to watching yet - I must rectify that.

 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Narcissus and Psyche
OK, and one from Hungary - which I've definitely mentioned before, but not for ages. In fact I haven't seen it for ages - would love to see it again in fact. Hopefully the full four hour (or whatever it is) version which blew me away fifteen years ago or so. It looks as though some version of it at least is available on DVD now which is a change for the better.
Again a fantastical mix of the real and the totally unreal with bizarrely over-coloured scenes that just add to the whole fairy-tale feel (you can probably see what type of films I like by now). The film is about the relationship between two characters who are named for the titular Greek myth - Udo Keir is Narcissus, ageless but inflicted with syphilis and weaving in and out of the life of the also ageless Psyche as the nobility of old Europe collapses around them.

 

IdleRich

IdleRich
No worries. It did prompt an insecure google of whether or not Serbia was technically eastern european, though.

But yeah I can see where that kind of soundtrack can serve to distract from either good or poor quality aspects of the film.
I didn't read that second point properly - but it's not just that I dislike the music but that it's literally the band that he plays in for a hobby and he always finds an excuse for them to soundtrack some zany chase scene or something - seems annoying.
 

WashYourHands

Well-known member
Hmmm. We should just get it over with in an orgy of sex and violence. Something to give the world a lasting memory of, but then the rest of the world would think “same old perfidious Albion, always fucking itself to death”.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
I forgot to put the link in (thanks WYH) - this is the one we've been using.


I think you can watch some free but we used that up ages ago. Paid 15 dollars the other day and been watching all week - although recently Liza been making me watch all these silly old slapstick comedies she saw on telly as a kid..
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
I'm bored - gonna list five more

The Fool (or A Fool I dunno, that was what I was told when I watched it) is a more modern one about corruption in provincial post-Soviet Russia. Basically this guy is working on a building and he realises that short-cuts in its construction mean that it is dangerously unstable and that it could collapse at any minute killing the hundreds of people inside. The film details his mission to do something about this - crashing a gloriously horrible party of local bigwigs who are celebrating (there is something about this sordid big fish in a small pond flashiness that always gets me) and setting them alternating between shooting the messenger and scrabbling about to find a scapegoat. Dark and cynical the ending is slightly disappointing but otherwise I much preferred this to the more famous Leviathan which is also about helpless victims being ground up in the machinery of corrupt officialdom.

Demobbed - another cynical one (and one I've definitely mentioned before) but this time a comedy. It's basically the Russian Catch 22/Mash etc and it's about a load of alcoholics, idiots and criminals drafted into the army and being bossed around by idiots and alcoholics. Genuinely funny even in translation (but I think there there several different translations cos I've seen clips that lack the bite of the one I saw. Plus it probably helped I watched it with a load of Russians who explained things I'd missed).

OK back to weird stuff

Golem (from Poland directed by a guy called Szulkin). I'll admit I don't remember this well but I do remember enjoying it a lot. Basically a weird sci-fi which is kinda about cloning I suppose, with the main character being the golem of the title.

A Visitor to a Museum (Lopushansky) - mundane title for a really interesting film. Like virtually all Lopushanksy's films the film deals with a nightmarish world in which most of humanity has been wiped out apart from a few people hanging by their fingernails to a facsimile of a remnant of civilisation - and a load of deformed mutants outside that. The visitor of the title travels through this land aiming to visit a museum that somehow still exists in the middle of an ocean at the end of a rusty train line. The description below this not particularly interesting clip says that it is like Stalker meets El Topo which I understand (and I suppose explains the train clip).


Fall of Otrar - including this cos it's the only Kazakh movie that I know really (although IMDB says that the guy who made it is part of the Kazakh new wave so...), which makes it surprising that it's a huge three hour long epic about Mongols and their battles with er Persians and Baghdad and so on with loads of intrigue and double-crossing diplomacy and people memorably being stuck to poles in the steppes and being left agonisingly to die. I would compare it those Kurosawa epics like Ran or Throne of Blood.
 
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IdleRich

IdleRich
And five more seeing as I'd decided on twenty, even if no-one is interested (some obvious but important ones here)

Hard to be a God
The Aleksei German version is a true cinematic masterpiece like nothing else I've ever seen - until I watched some of his earlier films which did lessen the effect slightly. Anyway this is the second or third adaptation of the Strugatsky brothers book but with a far less literal, much more dreamlike (actually nightmarish) feel to it that basically means that if you don't know the story you'll have no idea what's going on. No matter you just have to lie back and be pummelled into submission by the camera flying through the filth and horror and madness. It took years to make and German himself died just before it came out I think, as, possibly, did the surviving Strugatsky brother, having just time to watch it and give his seal of approval if I remember correctly.


Birds, Orphans, Fools,
I remember being intrigued by this after seeing Andy Votel (who is an expert in Czechoslovakian cinema) describing this as "possibly too weird". Honestly haven't seen it for years but I think it was kinda strange... with that childlike magical quality that I somehow always associate with a lot of these Czech things. Possibly (as Luka said) cos we had Svankmajer on telly all the time as kids.


Sweet Movie
Taboo busting musical(!) nastiness from the former Yugoslavia which was banned all around the world for years (and still is in some countries) and led to the ban on one of the actresses from returning to her own country. But it's not just for the sake of shock, there are many interesting ideas in there and it's got Pierre Clementi too - captured by Anna Planet in her boat filled with sweets and decorated with some guy's head...

 
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IdleRich

IdleRich
OK, l know no-one cares but I'll mention two more as promised.

Cargo 200
Another from Balabanov - I make no apology for that - as I said before one of my favourite directors and I've seen almost all of his films, but for years I avoided this one as I knew something of what it was about and I just couldn't face it. The film opens with a thing saying that it was broadly based on true events and Balabanov has since clarified that to say that he wasn't saying that the whole story occurred but rather that each of the things in it had happened - either to him or he'd been told about them - and that he'd combined them into one narrative. But I'm still not convinced - surely even in provincial Russia in the 80s the police couldn't just act like that with such total impunity?
And there is a bigger question mark - numerous people have pointed out how similar the story is to Sanctuary by Faulkner which I've never read but have now read about. And basically it's extremely similar. Apparently Faulkner wrote the book in a deliberate attempt to create something scandalous and shocking to boost sales - however he was stymied in this because "after submitting the manuscript in 1929, his publisher explained that they would both be sent to prison if the story was ever published."
Whatever, it's a grimy film set in a hideous town* of dirty buildings covered in industrial smog from the countless factories - it looks a bit like that view of Middlesbrough that so shocked me first time I came over a hill and saw it. Anyway the dirt does cover everything and by the end you're drowning in it; it takes a while for you to know where the story is going but there is this feeling of vicious menace below the surface from the moment the professor crashes his car and seeks sanctuary with a redneck vodka making family. At this point it reminds you almost of Texas Chainsaw Massacre or something but it doesn't go quite where you expect.
I'm not gonna reveal the plot but you should know that Cargo 200 was the name for the transport bringing bodies back from Afghanistan and that the main role was turned down by several big name actors who just didn't want to be associated with it. It's a savage attack on Russian corruption and the other side of the coin to his Brat (Brother) which was seen as simplistically pro-Russian by many.


*As an aside, quite a funny story is that our friend in Chelyabinsk who works in a factory owned by his dad was basically sent to that town for a few days as a punishment. If I remember correctly he had to carry this annoyingly heavy piece of machinery, I'm guessing just about small enough for one person to handle but not comfortably, and he had to take it on the train for like thirty hours and deliver it to a factory there and work there for a few days. Basically to sort him out and teach him a lesson.
 

catalog

Well-known member
I really like balabanov as well - he did Brat right? i loved that film - the pineapple scene at the market and doing deals in fishy saunas. i like how they called city names by shortened versions like they were people, 'peter' for petrograd or whatever
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Yeah he did Brat which was kinda weird - it's a much simpler film than most of his others and some people found it strangely nationalistic, but it became hugely successful and it was shown all round the world and then there had to be a sequel and so on. And so he is far more known for that than for adapting Kafka or Beckett even though that was more the sort of thing he did. I mean I don't think Brat is a bad film - in fact I really don't know what to think about it at all - but I do sometimes think it's a shame how it became entirely what he's known for.
 

catalog

Well-known member
definitely the case with me! i think i watched one of his other films, the one about the guy with disabilities? something like that? but after that lost interest. but i might dive into this list at some point rich
 
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