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Vol 3, No 6
12 February 2001
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Sergei Eisenstein
Eisenstein: One of many Russian
directors soon to be restored
The Russians Are Coming!
Michael Brooke

No, this isn't some Cold War paranoia fantasy to mark the election of George W Bush—but an announcement of what must be one of the most ambitious DVD projects yet conceived, not to mention one of the most potentially exciting.

For those who aren't convinced that the cinema revolves entirely around Hollywood, the last year or so has offered an embarrassment of riches: already, huge chunks of the output of the Hong Kong and Indian film industries are available to anyone with a DVD player and a sense of adventure—and hopefully this is just the tip of the iceberg as more national cinemas wake up to the unprecedented potential of the format.

Rare treasures

The Russian Cinema Council has embarked on a massive project to restore 120 films, representing a cross-section of the whole of Russian cinema history—not only covering the vast majority of the films that Western audiences will be familiar with but also a great many films that, for all their qualities, have never been screened outside their native country.

The collection is subdivided into five categories.

  • Director: 49 DVDs representing the work of the most important Russian directors, including Eisenstein, Tarkovsky, Paradjanov, Mikhalkov, Konchalovsky, Shengelaya, Medvedkin and many others—including Akira Kurosawa's Russian co-production Dersu Uzala.
  • War: Five DVDs about the traumatic Russian experience of World War II, including the much-acclaimed masterpieces Ballad of a Soldier and The Cranes Are Flying.
  • History: Russian history as seen through 14 of its films, including Elem Klimov's Rasputin biopic Agony, Alexander Askoldov's The Commissar and Grigori Chukhrai's The Forty-First.
  • Original Story By: 22 Adaptations of great literature, mostly Russian (Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Chekhov, Bulgakov, Turgenev and Tolstoy—including Sergei Bondarchuk's legendary War and Peace) but also Western (Cervantes, Robert Louis Stevenson and Shakespeare—the latter represented by Grigori Kozintsev's riveting Hamlet and King Lear).
  • Fairy Tales: Russian cinema has always thrived on adaptations of classic fairytales, and this selection of 30 DVDs presents some of the best known titles from the 1940s to the 1980s.

[See below for the full list]

The DVDs have been mastered from the finest available materials, given anamorphic transfers where necessary, and remixed Dolby Digital 5.1
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soundtracks. All films feature the original Russian soundtrack plus English and French dubs, plus a whole raft of subtitle options (obviously including English). Each disc has a choice of Russian, English or French animated menus—and copious extras will also be included: programme notes, biographies and trailers as a minimum, rare archive footage and interviews where available. To maximise the audience, the discs will not be region coded

The Russian Cinema Council were kind enough to send me a sampler containing various clips of both films and extras—and both print and transfer quality were very impressive: on this evidence, we're very much talking the Criterion end of the market.

The first DVDs should be out this month, and the Russian Cinema Council will be offering a subscription deal via their website in a few weeks' time, although it currently contains nothing more than their logo. The discs will apparently also be distributed in Europe and the US.

Michael Brooke, 13 February 2001

This article is an edited version of one that originally appeared in DVD Times, a journal which promises to carry reviews of a cross-selection of the Russian DVDs as they appear.

Moving on:

The complete list:


  • Sergei Eisenstein: Alexander Nevsky, Battleship Potemkin, Ivan the Terrible, October
  • Andrei Tarkovsky: Andrei Rublev, Ivan's Childhood, Mirror, Solaris, Stalker
  • Tenghiz Abuladze: Repentance, The Supplication, The Wishing Tree, Lurdja Magdani
  • Teimuraz Babluani: The Sun of the Sleepless
  • Boris Buneyev: The Evil Spirit of Yambuy
  • Grigory Chukhrai: The Clear Sky
  • Georgy Daniela: Autumn Marathon, Mimino
  • Boris Durov: Pirates of the 20th Century
  • Vladimir Fetin: Operation 'Tiger'
  • Leonid Gaidal: The Diamond Arm
  • Samvel Gasparov: Coordinates of Death
  • Edmond Keosayan: Elusive Avengers, Crown of the Russian Empire, The New Adventures of the Elusive Avengers
  • Akira Kurosawa: Dersu Uzala
  • Irakly Kvirikadze: The Swimmer
  • Emil Lotyano: The Gypsy Camp Vanishes into the Blue, My Tender and Affectionate Animal
  • Alexander Medvedkin: Happiness
  • Vladimir Menshov: Moscow Doesn't Believe In Tears
  • Nikita Mikhalkov: At Home Among Strangers, A Stranger Among His Own People, Slave of Love
  • Andrei Konchalovsky: Siberiade
  • Alexander Mitta: Air Crew, The White Sun of the Desert
  • Gleb Panfilov: The Beginning
  • Sergei Paradjanov: Ashik Kerib, The Legend of the Suram Fortress
  • Alexander Rekhviashvili: A Step
  • Mikhail Romm: Nine Days of One Year
  • Stanislav Rostotsky: White Bim The Black Ear
  • Eldar Ryazanov: A Cruel Romance, A Station For Two
  • Victor Sergeyev: The Genius
  • Eldar Shengelaya: Blue Mountains, Stepmother
  • Georgy Shengelaya: Melodies of the Veryski Quarter, Pirosmani


  • At Dawn It's Quiet Here (Stanislav Rostotsky)
  • Ballad of a Soldier (Grigory Chukhrai)
  • The Cranes Are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov)
  • Father of the Soldier (Rezo Chkeidze)
  • Torpedo Bombers (Semyon Aranovich)


  • Agony (Elem Klimov)
  • The Captivating Star of Happiness (Vladimir Motyl)
  • Chermen (Nikolai Sanishvili)
  • The Cold Summer of 1953 (Alexander Proshkin)
  • The Commissar (Alexander Askoldov)
  • Dauria (Victor Tregubovich)
  • The Forty First (Grigory Chukhrai)
  • The Mameluke (David Rondeli)
  • Quiet Flows The Don (Sergei Gerasimov)
  • Shine On, My Star (Alexander Mitta)
  • Tchaikovsky (Igor Talankin)
  • There Were Two Comrades In The Army (Yevgheny Karelov)
  • A Travel Beyond The Three Seas (Vassily Pronin, Khoja Ahmed Abbas)
  • Yaroslavna, The Queen of France (Igor Maslennikov)

Original Story By

  • Chinghiz Aitmatov: Djamilya (Irina Poplavskaya)
  • Alexander Belyaev: Amphibian Man (Gennady Kazansky, Vladimir Chebotaryov)
  • Alexander Belyaev: Professor Dowell's Testament (Leonid Menaker)
  • Mikhail Bulgakov: The Flight (Alexander Alov, Vladimir Naumov)
  • Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quixote (Grigory Kozintsev)
  • Anton Chekhov: Lady with a Dog (Iosif Heifits)
  • Anton Chekhov: Unfinished Piece for the Player Piano (Nikita Mikhalkov)
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Crime and Punishment (Lev Kulidzhanov)
  • Nodar Dumbadze: Cucaracha (Semyon & Keti Dolidze)
  • Nikolai Gogol: Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka (Alexander Row)
  • Nikolai Gogol: Viy, or Spirit of Evil (Konstantin Yershov, Georgy Kropachyov)
  • Ivan Goncharov: Several Days from the Life of I I Oblomov (Nikita Mikhalkov)
  • Alexander Grin: Crimson Sails (Alexander Ptushko)
  • Mayne Reid: The Headless Horseman (Vladimir Vainshtok)
  • William Shakespeare: Hamlet (Grigory Kozintsev)
  • William Shakespeare: King Lear (Grigory Kozintsev)
  • Mikhail Sholokhov: Destiny of a Man (Sergei Bondarchuk)
  • Mikhail Sholokhov: The Don Story (Vladimir Fetin)
  • Robert Louis Stevenson: Treasure Island (Yevgheny Fridman)
  • Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina (Alezander Zarkhi)
  • Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace (Sergei Bondarchuk)
  • Ivan Turgenev: Nest of the Gentry (Andrei Konchalovsky)

Fairy Tales

  • Aladdin's Magic Lamp
  • Barbara The Fair with the Silken Hair
  • The Blue Bird
  • The Donkey's Hide
  • Father Frost
  • Finist The Bright Falcon
  • The Golden Horns
  • How Ivan the Simpleton went for a Wander
  • Ilya Muromets
  • Kashchei the Immortal
  • The Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors
  • The Little Mermaid
  • Maria The Wonderful Weaver
  • Masha and the Beasts
  • Old Hottabych
  • An Old, Old Tale
  • The Princess and the Pea
  • Ruslan and Ludmila
  • Sadko
  • The Scarlet Flower
  • The Snow Maiden
  • The Snow Queen
  • The Stone Flower
  • The Tale of Time Lost
  • The Tale of Tsar Saltan
  • The Three Fat Men
  • Through Fire, Water and... Brass Pipes
  • The Twelve Months
  • Vassilisa the Beautiful
  • Vassily Buslayev


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