Movie recommendations:

On previous trips to Europe, I saw (and later recommended) Bella Martha (released here as Mostly Martha) and Pani e tulipani (released here as Bread and Tulips). (Query: Go together like mint and juleps?) Sadly, Vaya con Dios — a road trip movie about monks (in modern times) and the redeeming power of a cappella — doesn't seem to have been released here, nor is it available on Netflix. Watch out for it, though. (See my previous posts about some of these movies here and here.)

New recommendations, from my recent trip to Moscow: Izobrazhaia zhertvu (Playing the Victim), which is basically Donnie Darko meets Hamlet. The title comes from the main character's occupation — he's a twenty-something slacker who makes a living playing the victim in police reenactments of crimes. The second movie I liked is Mne ne bol'no (It Doesn't Hurt), which is tough to describe. (Buddy movie with kids in St. Petersburg trying to make it as architects; romance with an eccentric girl; also a bit part by Nikita Mikhalkov.) In particular, I liked the song "Pozovi menia nebo" by Vadim Samoilov of the band Agata Kristi. At least It Doesn't Hurt has an English working title on IMDB, which may mean it might travel?

While I'm on the subject of Russian movies, here are some older Russian (Soviet-era) movies, both available on Netflix. Vokzal dlia dvoikh (Railway Station for Two) is excellent, and has a brief appearance by a young Nikita Mikhalkov. I think the star, Liudmila Gurchenko, looks a bit like Felicity Huffman. My mother was once confused with Gurchenko when she was in Moscow, so it all connects. Moskva slezam ne verit (Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears) is also pretty good. I enjoyed the title song, sung by Sergei and Tatiana Nikitin to words by the well-known Russian bard Yuri Vizbor (and which, having gotten it on CD, I've been singing over and over):

Alexandra, Alexandra, this city is yours and mine;
We've become its destiny — just look into its face!
Whatever there was at the beginning, it will ease all your sorrows;
And that's how the Moscow ring road became our engagement ring.
And moving on to non-Russian films, you have all got to see Wait Until Dark, the 1967 thriller starring Audrey Hepburn and also featuring Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. Audrey Hepburn plays a blind woman who has to match wits against crooks who are trying to con her and later terrorize her in her apartment. Not only is it legitimately suspenseful — which I didn't expect of an Old Movie — but the blindness/self-reliance theme also makes this a very good Objectivist movie, similar to Million Dollar Baby. (My theory, by the way, is that Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience is also excellent for Objectivists on aesthetic theory.) On a different note, those who like Jane Austen, rather than watching the awful Keira Knightley movie, should try out the Indian movie Bride and Prejudice.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Movie recommendations:
  2. Dispatch from Moscow:
M (mail):
Among modestly recent Russian films that one can get in the US my favorite is "The Return". It's quite beautiful and haunting. Of the older films, in addition to the great slap-stick commedy of the 60's and 70's, I liked "Sibiriada", directed by Andrei Konchalovsky and with acting (but not, thank god, directing) by his half brother Nikita Mikhalkov. To my mind it's the best film to show the "mysterious Russian soul" and also has some great music.
8.24.2006 10:41am
Anderson (mail) (www):
but the blindness/self-reliance theme also makes this a very good Objectivist movie

Wow, wotta way to stifle interest ....

Stephen King praises the final minutes of Wait Until Dark in Danse Macabre, and I've always wanted to see it. I *think* I still do now ....
8.24.2006 10:43am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Google wisdom:

Your search - "objectivist guide to literature" - did not match any documents.

Ditto "film" and "cinema." Get to work, Objectivists!
8.24.2006 11:02am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
The Wonders of the Modern Age...

So IMDB claimed that Vaya Con Dios is not out anywhere on DVD.

Not to give up, I switch to, search for Vay Con Dios and there it is.

Click, click, click and it's bought and paid for via PayPal. About $25 with shipping.
8.24.2006 1:42pm
Cheburashka (mail):
Did you make it to the Swedish joint on Tverskaya while you were there?
8.24.2006 3:29pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
No, sorry, I missed that.
8.24.2006 4:22pm
liberty (mail) (www):
I did not realize that Million Dollar Baby was Objectivist. Nor, I suspect, do many people. I liked Hillary Swank in Boys Don't Cry; talk about a tear jerker.
8.24.2006 4:38pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
I consider it Objectivist because of (1) at the beginning, Swank's character's single-minded dedication to her craft, determination to get ahead, and obliviousness to what anyone else thinks of her prospects; (2) her refusal to feel sorry for herself after her injury; (3) her rejection of her moocher family; (4) what she does at the end (won't give it away too much); (5) and how Eastwood's character doesn't listen to his priest in agreeing with Swank's character as to what's the right course.

Of course, (1), (2), and (5) can be generic (though Objectivists would like it), but I think (3) is especially Objectivist -- how many movies would depict it as heroic to refuse to help your family and tell them off the way they deserve? -- and actually I think showing (4) as moral is good too.
8.24.2006 4:57pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Here's what she says to her family (from IMDB):

Momma, you take Mardell and JD and get home 'fore I tell that lawyer there that you were so worried about your welfare you never signed those house papers like you were supposed to. So anytime I feel like it I can sell that house from under your fat, lazy, hillbilly ass. And if you ever come back, that's exactly what I'll do.

8.24.2006 5:02pm
liberty (mail) (www):
Quotesh Sasha: "but I think (3) is especially Objectivist -- how many movies would depict it as heroic to refuse to help your family and tell them off the way they deserve? -- and actually I think showing (4) as moral is good too."

Objectivist == Good, eh? I thought you did not subscribe.
8.24.2006 5:03pm
liberty (mail) (www):
oops, "Quotesh" should read "Quoteth", not that its any more gramatically correct.
8.24.2006 5:04pm
liberty (mail) (www):
"Quoth" would have made more sense.
8.24.2006 5:07pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
There's Objectivism the logical system, and there's Objectivism the attitude (i.e., an individualism that can get in your face, scorn toward moochers, the desire to destroy what you value rather than let bad people get it, etc.). I don't subscribe to the former, but I enjoy the latter (which can be supported separately from the former) and find it valuable.
8.24.2006 5:51pm
liberty (mail) (www):
Fair enough.

Also, I liked Bend It Like Beckham, but Bride and Prejudice looks excellent.
8.24.2006 9:35pm
Speaking of Nikita, it ain't Russian, but the Russkies and French were tight: La Femme Nikita

There was a US remake with Bridget Fonda that was supposed to be pretty bad.

Affirmation to the excellence of Wait Until Dark.
8.24.2006 11:53pm
Syd (mail):
Bride and Prejudice is excellent. I'm glad Sasha mentioned Bread and Tulips again, which is one of my favorite movies from the last few years.

Sasha, have you seen Monsoon Wedding?
8.25.2006 1:09am
Lagaan - a musical about love, taxes, and cricket
8.25.2006 3:15am
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Yes, I saw and enjoyed Monsoon Wedding. I've also added Lagaan to my Netflix queue, but it might take a while to get there, as I have a lot of Russian movies (mainly cartoons) to watch.
8.25.2006 10:20am