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Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Yuri Mamin

Today's 'Novaya Gazeta' has an interview with Yuri Mamin- one of Russia's leading satirical filmmakers. Mamin was fairly prolific at the end of the perestroika and early post-Soviet period and made a number of forceful satirical films on various aspects of Russian life and with plentiful caricatures of Russian national types. His international hit was 'A Window on Paris' where he imagined a hidden window in a collective apartment in St Petersburg which looks out onto Paris. The inhabitants can come and go from St Petersburg to Paris and back. The film is a reflection on Western and Russian cultures and realities as well as caricaturing these stereotypes. His earlier film 'Fountain' is an image of a building and its inhabitants - an image and a reality which becomes ever more absurd as the film progresses. Mamin talked about how he tried to use all sorts of genres and how each of these genres would flow into the others. He stated that "it begins as a comedy of situations and ends as grotesque". Another film that he made was 'Sideburns' which took on the subject of the rise of neo-fascist movements imagining a gang of Pushkinists attired in nineteenth century dress with mutton chop sideburns who terrorise rivals. This film was apparently purchased by persons unknown who then refused to show or distribute the film. A prolonged silence was interrupted by his film 'Gorko!' in 1998 and only again by last years 'Don't think about the white monkeys'. This film completely recited in verse had a discrete showing in Moscow's cinemas. The balance that Mamin achieves between social satire and the use of absurdity and grotesque is masterful and has a manneristic feel to it. A review in Kino Kultura has this to say about it:

It’s the sort of highly stylized, absurdist, mannered filmmaking that is now so rare. It possesses the gorging visceral qualities of La Grande Bouffe (Ferreri 1973), the tactile sumptuousness of Peter Greenaway’s 1980-90s films such as The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and A Zed & Two Noughts, and the trippy surrealism of Terry Gilliam. It is stylized and mannered in a way that few films these days dare. It is most pleasing when it junks reality, confuses points of view, or descends into the grotesque

( - for the full review).

In today's interview Mamin talks about the difficulties of being a satirical director in todays Russia (but wasn't it ever thus?), and develops into the common explanation of how difficult it is to finance films like his. He also talks about making a remake of Window on Paris. This looks like a film to watch out for. In any case one can only rejoice at the fact that Mamin seems to be making a comeback after the last decade and a half of near absence from the large screen.

Here is the link to the Novaya interview:

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