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Fledgling Russian cinema festival attracts crowds with music, song and the 1917 Revolution

By Rosslyn Hyams

The 3rd Festival of Russian Film in Paris challenges film buffs to take in an almost 100-year panorama of Russian and Soviet cinema through 30 features and six short films in just nine days. The festival organisers say that five thousand spectators attended in total, up from 3,400 last year.

This year's winners were Pavel Lungin's 2016 The Queen of Spades in the feature category and Soul Sister won the short film prize which takes the director Pavla Stratoulat on an expenses paid trip to France's main short-film meet in Clermont Ferrand.

Professor Jean Radvanyi and the team concocted an attractive mix for anyone who is curious about films, film history, Soviet and more recent Russian history, as well as those simply curious about what tickles Russians at the cinema. Among the musicals they chose was a popular film made in 1956 called Carnaval Night, directed by Eldar Riazanov. Some of the other films are not musicals as such, either Hollywood-inspired or with a stronger local flavour, but songs or music are a part of their plot. Like Pavel Lungin's 2016 The Queen of Spades, after Pushkin's story and the Tchaikovsky opera of the same name. Also the 1962 film Cheremushki by Vienna-born Herbert Rappaport, whose musical score is the work of Dimitri Shostakovich.

As it is the centenary of the Russian revolution which spawned the Soviet Union, one of the cinema halls, the Christine 21, offered a seven-film focus on the 1917 Revolutions. It was a retrospective starting with Sergei Eisenstein's The Strike, made in 1924, and following up with several films made in the 1960s, and one film, The Admiral by Andrey Kravchuk, which was made in 2008, a generation after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

The screenings were often sold out a day before the show. Silver Lion for Best Director at the 73rd Venice Film Festival, La Mostra last year, Andrei Konchalovsky's Paradis drama was one of the films in competition. It was shown at La Grande Action cinema and attracted Paris-based Russians avid for a chance to see new or recent films in their own language and to catch a glimpse of the veteran Soviet and Russian writer and director whose career spans 50 years.

For the first time, the festival -- which is sponsored by French and Russian private and public interests -- ran competitions for best feature whose prize, donated by Russian energy giant Gazprom, goes to assisting the winning film's distribution in cinema halls and best short film.

 

 

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