A funny, quirky, warm, beautifully photographed and excellent acted Russian drama - especially by the director's daughter. It has a great pre-WW2 atmosphere and shows Soviet Union in it's golden age pre-Stalin with beautiful costumes and lovely sunny atmosphere. It do outstays it's welcome by 15 minutes though and should have ended without it's violence. Then this film would have been absolutely perfect.
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).