Rebels with a Cause: Valeri Todorovsky’s Russian Hipsters and the Postwar Jazz

Mels (Anton Shagin) and Polly (Oksana Akinshina)

Russians tend to love music. People who are familiar with the country’s cinema know that there are usually a couple of songs in the films produced in Russia, especially in those from the Soviet period. Actors often double as singers and vice versa. It is therefore surprising that the musical had been neglected by the movie industry for almost half a century – until a few years ago.

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The World Needs a Hero: Vadim Sokolovsky’s The Book Of Masters as a Modern Russian Fairy Tale

Ivan (Maksim Loktionov) and Katya (Maria Andreeva) reunited at the end

The Walt Disney Company has been really active in Russia in recent years. Last year, it bought 49% of the shares of 7TV and launched its own television channel in the country. Yet Disney’s attempts to enter the Russian market did not begin with that event. With The Book Of Masters, the company had already fully financed a film for Russian audiences exclusively in 2009. On paper, the partnership sounds like a match made in heaven. Russia possesses a rich tradition in folk and fairy tales, after all, and who would be better suited to make use of it than Disney, which has long been known for its adaptation of exactly such stories?

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Scorsese and DiCaprio Set to Reunite for The Wolf Of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese (left) and Leonardo DiCaprio (right). Photo by Robert Hanashiro (USA TODAY).

One of the most successful actor/director partnerships of the last decade is back. Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese will reunite for their fifth collaboration. The Wolf Of Wall Street, set to begin production in New York in August, is a timely drama based on the memoir of white-collar criminal Jordan Belfort, a drug-addicted stockbroker who was indicted for security fraud and money laundering in 1998 and spent 22 months in prison.

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Back to the Roots: Recalling the Silent Age in Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist

George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo)

The Hollywood industry has had a soft spot for nostalgia and its own past as of late. This has been an ongoing trend for a while now, as the example of Martin Scorsese’s 2004 movie The Aviator about the notorious multibillionaire, bon vivant, and film pioneer Howard Hughes demonstrates. But the latest awards season is probably the culmination of this movement. Two motion pictures by New York mahatmas – Hugo, Scorsese’s 3D adventure for children, and Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris – both won multiple prizes by trying to recall the glory of former times. None of them, however, has been more successful than a rather peculiar project for the industry today: a black-and-white silent film from France by director Michel Hazanavicius.

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Heart Is…

One of the many versions of the cover

If you saw this film with friends you probably were embarrassed by the end, because this poignant tale leaves few with dry eyes.

Heart is… is a melancholy tale about a wonderfully innocent pair of children, neglected by their mother, forced to live with relatives, who eventually move and are unable to support them any longer.

Directed by Oh Dal-gyun, Heart is… is a tragic masterpiece which comments on the brutality of society, particularly on the dimension of human trafficking.

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Double Agents: Cold War Revisited in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Gary Oldman in his Oscar-nominated performance as George Smiley

Spy thrillers have long fascinated the masses. Ever since the two World Wars, people have shown great interest in intelligence and counterintelligence, which only increased during the Cold War with its two adversarial camps. The most famous of the literary and cinematic secret agents is James Bond, the super-spy by English author Ian Fleming. He has become a global phenomenon in the last six decades, first as the main character of a book series in the 1950s, then in (so far) 22 big-screen adventures for the last half of a century.

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The unseen side of Japan: Nobody Knows

From L-R: Yuki, Kyokyo, Akira, and Shigeru

Hirokazu Koreeda did a fantastic job of telling the story of these young children, abandoned by their mother, who have to fight for survival.

The oldest boy, Arika Fukushima (Yûya Yagira) is smart, witty, and hard working. His mother often leaves him in charge to do everything from cooking, to paying the bills and taking care of his younger siblings. His mother is rarely around and sometimes she leaves money for the kids; which is never enough for the lengths of time she is gone.

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The Odd Couple: Dysfunctional Russian Lives in Boris Khlebnikov’s Help Gone Mad

Help Gone Mad
Engineer (left) and Zhenya (right) on one of their adventures

What would happen if you transferred Miguel de Cervantes’s peculiar twosome of Don Quixote and Sancho Pansa or Samuel Beckett’s equally eccentric pairing of Vladimir and Estragon from Waiting for Godot to the Moscow of the 21st century? This is exactly the experiment Help Gone Mad, an interesting Russian independent film by Boris Khlebnikov, seems to conduct. It is anything but an ‘ordinary’ movie, although the outline is pretty straightforward.

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