Mihalkov's most celebrated film is a display of conjunctural opportunism and creative decline. The whole setup, love triangle et al, is recycled from his own Chekhov movie, painted over with a layer of generic USSR-signifiers. Heavy borrowing, too: people talk in Gherman, riverbank scene with kids pure Klimov. Scenes with daughter subtle and endearing like a hammer hitting your head.
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.
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.
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).