Andrej Michalkov Konchalovsky


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Sceneggiatore ed assistente di Tarkovsky durante la prima metà degli anni '60 (scrisse Andrej Rublëv), Andrej Mikhalkov Konchalovsky debuttò alla regia con Pervyj ucitel/ Primo Maestro (1966), la storia di un giovane maestro che all'indomani della rivoluzione viene inviato dal governo bolscevico ad alfabetizzare un villaggio dell'Asia Centrale, abitato da contadini radicati nelle loro usanze e nelle loro credenze, scettici e ostili nei confronti degli ideali di cui è imbevuto il missionario rosso; il giovane pieno di entusiasmo si dà subito da fare per vincere la resistenza dei cafoni incolti, ma i vecchi, arroccati attorno alla figura atavica del pope, danno fuoco alla sua scuola e violentano la sua ragazza; e alla fine l'ideologo capisce che i sentimenti secolari della gente non si possono cancellare con la forza in un sol colpo.

Istorija Asi Kljacinoj/ Storia di Assia la Zoppa (1966), altra fine analisi psicologica del mondo contadino (Una contadina incinta rifiuta l'offerta di matrimonio di un innamorato perchè aspetta che il vero padre si faccia avanti, ma quando questi lo farà, dopo il parto, sarà lei a tirarsi indietro; infiorettato di racconti e scene di vita dei contadini).

Asya Klyachina's Story (1967) was only shown twenty years later.

Romans o Vijlublennych/ Romanza degli Innamorati (1974), musical sentimentale che risente le influenze di Fellini nouvelle vague.

Sibiriada (1980) is a colossal melodrama that spreads over multiple generations, a huge fresco of Soviet civilization. In the first hour (about life at the beginning of the 20th century) the cinematography is often more impressive than the story. As far as the plot goes, the most interesting thread is the one that has to do with a road to nowhere that an old crazy man wanted to build and that turned out to represent an existential mission for both his son and his grandson; but the swamp that lies ahead is cursed. The swamp, three times bigger than France, become the real protagonist of the film, although rarely seen, until the end, when the real protagonist is revealed: the village's graveyard.

The film opens with an oil rig explosion and an old man who stares at pictures of the past posted on the wall. Part 1 is set at the beginning of the 20th century. A snow storm blankets a village in a rural area of Siberia. A child, Kolya, has a violent argument with other children: he stole their dumplings. He befriends a runaway convict, Rodion, a revolutionary, and tells him that he steals because the Solomin are rich. Kolya, instead, is left home alone after his mother drowned and his father set out to build a road in the woods. Kolya's only company is a crazy young woman that they found in the woods. She just hangs around, but she is useless. An old idiot, Ted, comes begging. Kolya explains that the old man is easy victim of the Solomin's greed. By pretending to be an anarchist armed with a bomb, the runaway convict helps the crazy old man to recover his pelts from the arrogant Solomin trader who cheated him. Kolya the child runs to tell his father Afonya in the woods. His father is chopping the trees to build his road and just caught a lynx. Afonya doesn't know where his road will go. He just chops trees down in a random direction. The evil girl Nastya catches Kolya stealing and makes him run naked around the well in the snow, then throws his clothes to the ferocious guard dog. Kolya is eager to follow Rodion to the city to become an anarchist himself. Rodion builds a raft with a sail that glides around the icy lake. The police find Rodion in Kolya's hut but he pulls out the bomb and tells Kolya to get the iceboat ready. Nonetheless the bomb fails, Rodion gets captured, the ice boat is burned by the Solomins and Kolya tries in vain to get someone to help Rodion. Documentary footage shows that the revolution has started.

Nastya is now a strong young woman armed with a rifle. Kolya doesn't want to work for his father anymore: that road to nowhere is a pointless project. The Solomins hear of the revolution when two of the young come back injured: the poor are taking over. Nastya walks to the woods whenever she wants to meet her lover Kolya. She is craving sex with Kolya but makes the mistake of telling him about the revolution. His father is still chopping trees, but Kolya gets excited that the revolution has started. It means that the poor like him will soon be on top now, not the Solomins anymore. She, resentful, simply walks to the field where her poor cousing Phil works and kisses him. Afonya gets tired and, drunk, falls asleep on his road: he dies and his face is soon covered with ants. Kolya tries to stop Nastya's wedding but the Solomins beat him up and dump him in the river. Later she refuses Phil but he rapes her in the barn. Nastya runs away and finds Kolya in the river.

Documentary footage shows that Lenin has died. Kolya, now an older man, returns to the village with a younger comrade, who is actually his son Alexei. When the people of the village shoot at him, he complains that they missed: they don't practice well enough. He then knocks at the gate and the elderly of the village finally open, recognizing him as the young man they expelled years earlier. He introduced Alexei to Nastya's father, and crudely relates that Nastya died during the revolutionary struggle He is now an enthusiastic party official and brings news of progress: the state has decided to start drilling oil nearby and he needs them to work on the road that his father left unfinished. It turns out that road was not completely useless, after all. Kolya tells Nastya's brother Spiridon that Nastya was burned alive by the reactionaries. The following day Spiridon refuses to follow the others to work. Alexei is ready to shoot him on the spot, but Kolya decides to simply arrest him and give him the same treatment that the Solomins gave him many years earlier: Kolya and Alexei tie Spiridon's arms and leave him in a boat to drift downriver. The other men follow Kolya in the forest and start chopping trees, just like Kolya's father used to do. But the men think that the swamp is cursed. Alexei burns religious icon, brainwashed that god does not exist, and laughs at their superstitions. Kolya has to force them to advance in horrible terrain. Old Solomin goes insane. Even the steely Alexei eventually begins to doubt his father's mission (that increasingly looks as senseless as his father's was). And one day Alexei sees a ghost appear in the mist. Alexei is terrified, but it is only his father Kolya. They light a cigarette and set the swamp on fire: it is one huge field of petroleum. They return to the village but Spiridon has escaped: he kills Kolya and tries in vain to show his affection for Alexei. The kid runs to the boat and starts rowing. Spiridon chases him in another boat, but, realizing that Alexei, has no intention of ever living with his father's assassin, eventually Spiridon lets Alexei row away.

Documentary footage in fast forward shows the rapid industrialization of the country and the start of World War II. A girl walks out naked from the river and finds a wounded and/or exhausted soldier lying by a tree. She calls her grandfather, who recognizes him: Alexei. And the old man guesses Alexei's purpose: avenge his father's killing. Spiridon has been sentenced to ten years in a gulag. He tells the girl, Taya, that he traveled 5,000 kms to get there, in vain. He carries only one belonging: a turntable inside a briefcase. Taya, whose brain doesn't seem to work too well, falls in love with him right away. But a patrol arrives by river: they are recruiting all the men to go to the front. Tanya runs along the river swearing eternal love to Alexei, who has volunteered even if he is underage. The other men of the village, instead, follow the oders reluctantly because they have been working for years in the swamp and they feel that they are close to completing Kolya's project. Now they do believe that the swamp is an ocean of petroleum. They just need a few more days; but the official has orders to recruit everybody.

Alexei is the only man to survives a massacre by the sea. He finds an officer whose belly has been ripped open by a bomb and carries him away in an improvised sleigh amid an enemy bombardment. It turns out Alexei saved an important man, who turns out to be Phil Solomin. For that heroic deed he gets decorated.

Documentary footage shows that the war has ended and the Soviet Union sent a man around the Earth. Alexei now works in the petroleum industry. He returns to his father's village 20 years later leading an oil drilling crew, armed with state-of-the-art equipment. Only old people live there now. The crew takes down the century-old gate in a few seconds. It takes Alexei forever to recognize Taya, the only attractive woman in town (the only one who is not an elderly woman). Alexei recognizes instead his uncle Spiridon, now an old man. Spiridon has served his jail term and even fought in the war in the penal batallion. Alexei cannot take his reveng on an old man who can abrely walk but takes his revenge psychologically: Alexei tells Spiridon that they will demolish the village and build a modern town. Taya is obviously sex-starved because she seduces him by the river. She has been waiting for 20 years, after all. Alexei's enthusiasm dies out when his boss Tofik tells him that the bureaucracts authorized drilling only in the village itself, not in the swamp where Alexei and his father found petroleum. Alexei, upset, drives an all-terrain caterpillar vehicle into the swamp. He meets Taya's granpa who is still alive. He keeps going and eventually found the cabin built by the workers before they were drafted in the army. The draft is sinking, the floor has already mostly collapsed, and Alexei cries tormented by ghosts of the past before sinking in the mud... But it is only a bad dream: he wakes up and is energetic as usual. The construction is proceeding quickly and demands Alexei's attention. Taya complains that he already forgot about her. Spiridon watches speechless as Alexei's crew destroys his village and then reads from the holy book for the burial of Taya's grandmother, attended by all the elderly people of the village. Meanwhile, in the capital Phil Solomin has become a powerful politician and learns of a project that would completely wipe out the village: a new dam. The only thing that could stop the project is if Alexei's crew found petroleum. At the village Alexei is now interested in Taya, but Taya is less willing. He insists on visiting her and then gets into her bed while she is in the kitchen. He is surprised when his boss Tofik walks in, scantily dressed, and Tofik is outraged to find another man in Taya's bed. Taya laughs loud at the scene, even if Tofik is outraged, assuming that she cheated on him with Alexei. Soon Alexei begins to break down: after a work accident, caused by his iron discipline, he tries to restore the ancient gate of the village with his hands. Phil flies over the swamps with the engineer in charge of the new dam. He asks the helicopter to land at his village so he can pay his respects to the elderly. When Spiridon sees his godson Phil, Spiridon rants against the oil rig; but Phil explains to him that the choice is between the oil prospectors (who are slowly but steadily encroaching the village) and a dam that would flood the whole region: if no oil is found, the dam will be built. Phil's godfather armed with a rifle tries to shoot Phil, but is restrained by the old women of the village. Phil doesn't even try to defend himself. Phil does not forgive himself for not having fought against the decision to build the dam. Phil meets Alexei, the man who saved his life, but they don't recognize each other. Alexei is now hated by the crew. He wants to leave, but Tofik forbids him. When Tofik notices Phil and stops talking to Alexei, Alexei is grabbed by the other men who beat him up. Phil makes Tofik feel guilty about not having found oil yet. Phil leaves having understood that Alexei is the son of Kolya. Back in the capital Phil is scolded by his superior for delaying the dam project. Phil retorts that the state has been postponing for too long the development of Siberia's great mining potential, and asks for more time. Back in the village, Tofik signs the paper that forgives Alexei and releases him from work. Alexei can't wait to leave town. Alexei bids goodbye from his coworkers and then, all dressed up like he was when he arrived, he stops by Taya's place to see if she'd leave with him, but she tells him that she is pregnant and doesn't want to marry him, letting him understand that it is not his child. He leaves calling her a fool, and doesn't see that she is crying. Just then his old crew strikes oil: a black cloud spreads in the sky. Alexei runs to hug and celebrate with the others, but the rig catches fire and collapses (the first scene of the film) and Alexei dies in the inferno trying to save a coworker. Back to the capital, a telegram with the news of the oil strike reaches Phil during a meeting with hundreds of delegates. Phil walks to the podium and announces that oil has been found in Siberia. Back at the village, Spiridon makes fun of the death of Alexei with Taya, but Taya confesses that she is pregnant with Alexey's child. Phil in person is there to supervise the work. The village is up in arms because the workers have surrounded the graveyard: the soil is catching fire all around the graves. The bulldozers quickly put out the fire but in doing so they destroy all the graves. Phil has the vision of his own father coming out of a grave to hug him, and then Nastya and all the others who are buried there, and lastly Alexei, all of them hugging Phil like a hero. Documentary footage shows the development of Siberia in the years to come.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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Maria's Lovers (1984) primo film hollywoodiano: nel dopoguerra, in un umile villaggio russo d'America fa ritorno un soldato, reduce dagli orrori della guerra, che può finalmente sposare la fidanzata; ma crisi d'impotenza dovute ai traumi subìti lo inducono a lasciare la moglie, che avrà una relazione e un figlio con un vagabondo di passaggio, per ricongiungersi poi felicemente a lei.

Runaway Train (1985): un cinico killer evade con un maniaco sessuale dal carcere dell'Alaska, ma sul treno che prendono il conducente muore e loro restano in balía con una passeggera della locomotiva; il direttore del carcere, un sadico spietato, arriva in elicottero per il duello finale; si saslvano soltanto il maniaco e la ragazza. Film catastrofico.

Duet for One (1986) and Shy People (1989) were very minor films.

The Inner Circle (1992)

Ryaba, My Chicken (1994)

House of Fools (2002), his best film in 20 years, is almost a remake of Philippe de Broca's Le Roi de Coeur/ King of Hearts (1966).

There is civil war raging near a psychiatric hospital. Every evening the patients stare out of the window waiting for the one and only train to ride by. The two sanest people are Janna, a girl who plays the accordion and imagines that everybody dances at her songs, and who is in love with a rock star, and Ali, a man who is in charge of keeping the place clean, a poet who always carries a knapsack. The other patients are deranged to one extent or another. One even sets fire to the drapery. One day, as the patients eagerly await to see the train from the window, the doctor announces that there will be no train. He then whispers to a nurse that they are cut off from the world: no telephone and no radio. And the nurse, after lighting up a cigarette, responds that she is quitting. The following morning the girl wakes up to complete anarchy: someone stole her accordion, her housemate is swinging naked from the chandelier and mad people are running frantically in every corner of the building. The hospital has been abandoned by the doctor and by the nurses. Eventually the patients find the exit and break out of the gate but before they can even think of leaving the precint bombs start falling. Chechen soldiers enter the building. They need a room for a wounded soldier and a room for the prisoners. The wounded soldier turns out to be a female soldier, and no less tough for being a woman. The group is led by a middle-aged commander. A Russian captain comes in a tank to sell a corpse. He and the Chechen commander bargain the price, then sit down and chat, and they find out that they both fought in Afghanistan and that the Chechen's division saved the Russian's division from certain annihilation. But now they are enemies. Unbeknownst to the two commanders, the Chechen soldiers also sell dope to the Russian soldiers. The Russian soldier smokes dope and, while stoned, he accidentally triggers his machine gun and starts a shootout. Luckily nobody gets hurt, but the Russian commander gets mad at his soldier and leaves the place without even picking up the money that the Chechen commander hands him. One of the Chechen soldiers, Ahmed, proposes to Janna. It is a prank, but Janna takes it seriously. She is torn whether to accept the marriage proposal or remain faithful to the rock star, whom she seriously consider her fiance. All the patients get excited at the news that Janna is getting married. She gives them presents and they give her presents and help her with makeup, haircut, etc. She wears her white dress and her best shoes, grabs her accordion suitcase, and walks out to the camp of the Chechen soldiers. The commander gets mad at Ahmed for taking advantage of the poor girl, and a fight erupts. She grabs the accordion, like she does when her fellow patients get out of control, and starts playing her favorite polka. And soon the soldiers are playing their own music, singing and dancing nostalgically. Ahmed keeps pretending that he is going to marry her. Ali comes to get her back. The soldiers grab his knapsack to inspect it and find that it is full of paper: all his poems. Ali asks Ahmed why they are making fun of the girl. He is sane enough to understand that the girl is delusional. When Ahmed replies that he wants to take her away from the "nuthouse", Ali replies that the "nutshouse" is their home. At night Janna has second thoughts and decides that she has to remain faithful to the rock star. Ahmed tells her that he never intended to marry her anyway and they make fun of each other. He gets drunk and falls asleep on her lap. When he wakes up in the morning, she is in love again, and wants him to marry her. Bombs start falling on the building again, and the patients are again in panic. Ali leads the patients to the basement, and a fat woman steals a machine gun. Janna wants to help the Chechen soldiers pack. She is still dressed in white and carrying her suitcase. She is hurt when Ahmed jumps on the truck that is leaving the hospital in a hurry. She keeps playing the accordion not realizing that a helicopter is crashing behind her until it explodes. Ali is beaten while trying to save the money of the hospital. Bombs keep falling and demolishing what is left of the hospital. The wounded female soldier is left behind. She gets to the window of the room where Janna is mourning, and starts shooting at the Russians, but is killed, causing Janna a hysterical crisis. The other patients are all in the basement. Russian soldiers enter the building. Janna's white dressed is now all soaked in blood; and this was supposed to be her wedding day. She cuts her hair in desperation.
The doctor finally comes back. He went looking for help. Another troop of Russian soldiers enter the building. They find all the rooms empty but eventually meet the doctor with all the patients. The commander breaks down: he has had enough of the war, of death, of mines, of mud. A shootout erupts. Then the Russian soldiers realize they are shooting at their own men. They capture all the "bandits" except one who ran away: Ahmed hides among the patients, disguised as one of them. The Russians display the badly wounded Chechen commander, who sees Ahmed hiding among the patients but doesn't say anything. Ahmed is trembling. The doctor sees Ahmed but the patients defend him, even Ali, and Ahmed takes his place next to Janna. Her romantic dream has come true and she closes her eyes and sees her rock star singing for her.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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