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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


What’s on at the Flicks?
Vladimir Kozlov

The highest profile Russian film to be released this month is Alexander Sokurov’s “Faust.” Although in Russia it is perceived as a domestic film, this is actually a co-production, in which the US, Germany, France, Japan, Great Britain and Italy also took part, and the movie was made in German.


Premiered at last year’s Venice film festival, “Faust” was awarded the Golden Lion and became the first movie in years by a Russian director to collect a major film festival’s main prize. Sokurov’s rendition of Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s play about a man who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge, features an impressive international cast, including Germany’s Johannes Zeiler and Hanna Schygulla, Iceland’s Sigurður Skúlason and Russia’s Anton Adasinsky. The movie was co-written by Yuri Arabov, Sokurov’s long-time collaborator and the winner of the best screenplay prize at Cannes film festival for another Sokurov movie, 1999’s “Moloch.”

Those audiences who are interested in American independent cinema should check out “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” This movie by first-time feature director Sean Durkin premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, earning Durkin the best directing award. It was later screened at a number of other international festivals and won nominations for the Independent Spirit Awards as the best first feature, while Elizabeth Olsen was nominated as the Best Female Lead.

Alexander Sokurov’s “Faust.”

“Martha Marcy May Marlene” is based on the story of Martha (Olsen), a young woman in her early twenties who ran away from an abusive hippie-like cult community, where she spent two years. Led by cruel yet charismatic Patrick (John Hawkes), the community bears some similarities to the Manson “Family”, although the film is set in the present. Having escaped, Martha stays with her sister and brother-in-law who are eager to help her, but coming to terms with “normal” reality turns out to be a difficult challenge for Martha…

Although George Clooney has a successful mainstream Hollywood career as an actor, in his directing efforts, he usually steps out into the world of independent filmmaking as, for instance, in his 2005 black and white period piece “Good Night, and Good Luck.” His most recent film, “The Ides of March” could hardly count as a blockbuster either. The drama, with a very moderate $12 million budget, is based on Beau Willimon’s 2008 play “Farragut North”, and tells a story of a Democratic presidential candidate in the 2004 elections. The main character is Stephen Meyers, an idealistic staffer for the candidate who learns a lot about dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail. He is played Ryan Gosling, the star of Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive”, one of last year’s highest profile movies. His role in “The Ides of March” brought Gosling a Golden Globe nomination. The film was also nominated for the award in three other categories: Best Director, Best Motion Picture and Best Screenplay.

“Martha Marcy May Marlene”

Meanwhile, directing keeps attracting people whose main careers have been outside the movie business. Although singer Madonna starred in several movies and once won a Golden Globe for her performance in Alan Parker’s “Evita”, her directorial debut, 2008’s “Filth and Wisdom”, starring the rock band Gogol Bordello’s front man Eugene Hutz, bombed critically. Still, that fact apparently didn’t discourage the singer from further endeavors in the cinema, and she recently made another effort, “W.E.” This is a romantic drama featuring two sets of characters, whose love stories are set more than six decades apart: King Edward VIII (James D’Arcy) and American divorcée Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) in the 1930s, and Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish), a married woman who falls for Evgeni (Oscar Isaac), a Russian security guard, in the present day. Although the critics’ opinions about the movie diverged, it won two Golden Globe nominations: for the Best Original Score and the Best Original Song—and won in the latter nomination.

While “W.E.” has just some biographical motives, “The Iron Lady” is a fully-fledged biopic about the former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. She is played by Meryl Streep, a role that won her a Golden Globe. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd, known for the 2008 musical “Mamma Mia!” The film is structured as a series of flashbacks to her life as one of the world’s most powerful women, while focussing on Mrs Thatcher’s retirement first with and then, tragically, without her waggish but affectionate husband, Dennis.

“The Iron Lady”

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