Just a quick note, for those that might be interested. The Sundance Channel is showing the 2004 documentary "The Moscow Skyscraper" by Pavel Lounguine (Павел Лунгин). The film is about the Kotelnicheskaya Naberezhnaya (Котельническая набережная).
Documentary filmmaker Pavel Lounguine casts a critical eye on Russian society and history by focusing on the story of a monumental apartment building designed to house Stalin’s KBG officers and the Moscow elite. Built by prisoners of war and Gulag detainees, the massive neo-gothic high-rise still houses descendants of Stalin’s inner circle, who now prize their prime Moscow real estate. Focusing on the skyscraper’s current inhabitants, Louguine paints an ironic and revealing profile of a country still riven by the dark shadows of its past.The documentary will be shown at 16:30 and 22:30 today and at 5:45 and 13:30 on October 24th. Katja and I will be watching this in about an hour with an eye towards writing a short review.
A filmography of Pavel Lounguine includes:
- The Island (2006)
- The Moscow Skyscraper (2004)
- Tycoon: A New Russian (Oligarkh) (2002)
- The Wedding (Svadba) (2000)
- Line of Life (Liniya Zhizni) (1996)
- Luna Park (1992)
- Eastern Romance (Vostochnyy Roman) (1992)
- Taxi Blues (Taksi-Blyuz) (1990)
- The Christians (Khristiane) (1987)
- Poputchik (1986)
- Nepobedimyy (1983)
- Everything's the Wrong Way (Vsyo Naoborot) (1981)
- Konets Imperatora Taygi (1978)
- Vsyo Delo v Brate (1976)
Very interesting documentary, mixing old footage of Soviet and Stalin times and the construction of the Seven Sisters, most particularly the Kotelnicheskaya Naberezhnaya (Котельническая набережная). It discusses both Russians admiration and fear of Stalin and how these mixed during those years and their echoes of today. The people in the film all inhabit the skyscraper and have ties to its history and construction, being children of people who designed, constructed, worked, and lived within the walls. There is even a seamstress shop where the same women have worked for over 50 years making uniforms for Russian soldiers ("and after 51 years, still I get no respect!" jokes one of the women). The stories are a mixture of happiness and sadness, as one might expect of Russian stories.
The most interesting thing that I took from this film was how normal people felt their lives were under Stalin, even as they knew that terrible acts were happening to people for being caught saying or doing the "wrong" thing. As an American, I have always been struck by this dichotomy. As one elder educated occupant of the tower says to his wife "Don't exaggerate - on the whole life was normal."
Overall, two thumbs up - Katja found it to be quite good also.
Some documentary quotes:
Referring to work crews inside the building - "Something of the old Soviet way remains: real work is never done and doing nothing is always done together ... Real work is always done clandestinely ... I had to get a permit to film this crew working."
"I saw a brilliant commercial on television that said 'Life is not only about washing' - They are right, after washing comes ironing - they forgot about that part!"
"I think as an architect, he had no talent whatsoever. God granted him no talent at all. But he knew which way the political winds blow"
About this new Soviet consumerist state to come after the war - "You could order a sausage by phone and eat it on TV! For telling this joke, you might end up in prison for 10 years."
"There is no unifying idea, like orthodoxy. It looks like for our generation, the unifying idea is consumerism. We were fighting for this idea of democracy and now we all have full stomachs, but we have nothing else to show for it with this system."
"The brilliance of Stalin is that he understood - that the grateful or happy should never be without fear - and the fearful should always having something for which to be grateful ..."
I wish I could have caught more of the movies quotes. If I am off a little on the words, forgive the paraphrasing. I have a friend with a DVR and hope to record this and catch more of the quotes to add here later.