Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Dir: Andrei Konchalovsky, 1979, Russia, 6 hrs. (7.5*)
This massive 6-hr production looks like it was made for Russian tv, a mini-series in 4 parts about 90 minutes each; since the film was also fullscreen, I'm assuming it was made for tv rather than the cinema - too bad I wish it had been widescreen, for the star and subject of this film is Siberia. In particular, a small village on the Volga River, and about three generations of its inhabitants, some of whom leave Siberia, some of whom return. This epic (in time if not in numbers of people) covers nearly a century of this area, from Czarist Russia until Soviet industrial expansion into the area in the 1980's, searching for oil.

This may be a bit slow and unsophisticated for some western audiences, moving like spring ice melting on the tundra, but there are beautiful scenes of a culture we'll never see: a wind-driven ice sled skating over the frozen river and disappearing into the winter whiteout (how did they ever find their way anywhere and back?, fur-covered Siberian peasants with the weather etched in their faces, audacious swamplands when thawed (called the "Devil's Mane" by the locals), as one Russian official puts in from an airplane "a useless area three times the size of France; we might as well dam it up for hydropower and create the world's largest man-made reservoir". This is truly a Soviet-style, industrial strength epic film, unlike anything from the west.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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