sat 05/12/2020

Russia

Christine Rice, Julius Drake, Wigmore Hall review - songs of love and death

It began as a Christmas present in the bleakest of winters. In December 1939, as war engulfed Europe, Bertolt Brecht sent a poem to the exiled Kurt Weill in New York. Weill set it as a bittersweet gift for his wife Lotte Lenya. “Nannas Lied” – the...

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The Queen's Gambit, Netflix review - chess prodigy's story makes brilliant television

It’s surprising, perhaps, that the dramatic potential of chess hasn’t been more widely exploited. There was a nail-biting tournament in From Russia with Love, while the knight’s chequerboard struggle with Death was the centrepiece of Ingmar Bergman’...

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Blu-ray: Beanpole

Kantemir Balagov’s second feature announces the arrival of a major new talent in arthouse cinema. Made by the Russian director when he was just 27, and premiered at Cannes last year, where it won in the “Un Certain Regard” strand, Beanpole...

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Storyville: Welcome to Chechnya, BBC Four review - trauma, tension and resistance

David France’s revelatory film may have been subtitled “The Gay Purge”, but from the start it was clear this wasn’t just another documentary from Russia charting the increasing pressure faced by that country’s queer community. Since “propaganda” of...

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In memoriam Dmitri Smirnov (1948-2020) - a personal tribute by Gerard McBurney

November 1979… and a small group of Soviet composers (dubbed the "Khrennikov Seven") unexpectedly found themselves the targets of a boorish public assault by that once infamous General Secretary of the Union of Soviet Composers, in a speech at the...

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A Russian Youth, MUBI review - First World War setting, contemporary orchestra

Alexander Tolotukhin’s debut film places the viewer into a microcosm of the first world war and frames the experience with a peculiar musical device. Spliced between grainy images of trenches, artillery strikes and field hospitals are shots of a...

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Why Don't You Just Die! review - Russian roulette

It’s hard to feel sympathy for a young man plotting to stove his prospective father-in-law’s head in with a hammer. But when Matvei (Aleksandr Kuznetsov) discovers his quarry is bull-necked cop Andrei (Vitaliy Khaev), this simple plan inevitably...

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The Iron Mask review - preposterous multi-national fantasy

Director Oleg Stepchenko’s follow-up to his 2014 yarn Forbidden Kingdom swaps the latter’s Transylvania for a fantastical computer-generated frolic round 18th century Russia and China, as pioneering cartographer Jonathan Green (Jason Flemyng) sets...

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Wild, Hampstead Theatre online review - timelier than anticipated

“The whole world is just tilting at the moment,” we’re told near the end of Wild, the Mike Bartlett play from summer 2016 that is available (through Sunday) online to help get us through these wild times right now. The first of three Hampstead...

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Putin: A Russian Spy Story, Channel 4 review - inside the mind of a man without a face

Director Nick Green’s new three-parter follows on the heels of his A Dangerous Dynasty: House of Assad and comparisons are sure to be made between his two subjects. Though the finer degrees of political power-play – and the sheer quantity of...

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Denis and Katya, Music Theatre Wales / Uproar, Rafferty review - disturbing the untroubled monotony of South Wales music

Once upon a time writing an opera was first and foremost a question of choosing a good story. But times move on, and today – as Nicholas Till reminds us in a fascinating programme note for Philip Venables’s and Ted Huffman’s new chamber opera – the...

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Sophy Roberts: The Lost Pianos of Siberia review - a distant musical journey

For travellers, “music is a passport, especially in Russia…” Borrowing an adage from the British diplomat Thomas Preston, Sophy Roberts could be speaking about the eccentric quest that lies behind The Lost Pianos of Siberia. Preston, as consul in...

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