Stalinist Russia, circa 1930, is recreated in this Russian-French film that focuses on a small, elite gathering of family and friends who appreciate the idealism of Stalin’s visions because they do not have to experience its darker side of gulags and purges.
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Very warm and lovely portrait of a Russian family full of individuality and affection on one summer day in the 1930s, with the absurdity of Stalin's authority just poking its nose in occasionally. But then a little worry starts with the arrival of a mysterious visitor, and a heightening of tensions, as the day declines - still warm, still sunny, but then it's gentle no more. Painfully nostalgic, and near perfect.
Very subtle film, but powerful and foreboding. It may not be immediately apparent, but the lead, Kotov, is played by the director. If you want to see one of his films with more glamor and action, check out Barber of Siberia. Great stuff!
A sometimes listless and over-ambitious but finally devastating portrait of Stalin's horrifying "meat grinder" of a political system, where not even heroes were safe. The abiding image of the film is of the broken and imprisoned man at last being driven away past a gigantic grinning image of Stalin, as if going beyond the welcoming facade and into the concealed reality of the cannibalistic machine.
Though I dislike Nikita Mihalkov as a person (through his abusive behaviour and affinity to Putin's politics), he must be a genius as a director. This film touches every time I rewatch it. It's not about the plot, it's all about those impecably directed scenes, and the stunning performances of actors. I can't believe they prefered Pulp Fiction for the 1994 Palme D'Or (the jury was presided by Clint Eastwood).
Le chef d'oeuvre de Mikhalkov : cela commence avec légèreté comme une pièce de Tchekhov pour s'achever dans la plus terrible brutalité. Certains passages, de toute beauté, restent comme en suspens, intemporels.