Assa (USSR, 1987)
An erotic triangle among a middleaged criminal and fraudster, a young musician, and (ofc) a beautiful young woman. The film has aquired cult status as it showcased performances by some of the best bands of the Soviet rock underground scene.
Other than that it mostly explores the rebelious attitude of Soviet adolescents in the eighties: western clothes, listening to Nick Cave, using English words and constructing imaginary worlds. Anything to escape from the gloomy reality that surrounds them, and the death of social collectivities in the USSR.
This could have been a fascinating movie but the director is not up to the task. The final result feels like an accumulation of interesting but unrelated episodes.
The scene I enjoyed the most was the final one
, when Viktor Tsoi sings Changes
in front of a large crowd - a song that defined the late USSR.
Just beware, although Tsoi appears in the credits among the main participants of the film, he only plays in that final singing scene.
The Deluge (Poland, 1974)
Historical drama about Poland's war with Sweden in the 1560s.
Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, based on a 19th cent. novel (by Henryk Sienkiewicz, who also wrote Quo Vadis
),27 million viewers in Poland alone, a very expensive production that was recently lavishly remastered.
Sounds good but the result is mediocre.
Firstly, the director chose to stay as close to the original as possible. There is little reason to do that when your material is a popular but not particularly artistic historical novel. As a result the movie had too many characters and historical events, and endless dialogues where nothing happens. What's worse is its length: the original version is 315 mins long, while the remastered one is a merciful three hours.
And despite all that, the viewer gets very little sense of the social and economic conditions in Poland at the time - some historians argue that the 1560s were as destructive for Poland as World War II, yet very little of that human misery makes it to The Deluge. The action is focused on the love of the protagonist for a beautiful noble woman, and the endless intrigues of the Polish nobility, peppered with swordfighting scenes.
Secondly, the choice of the protagonist. Daniel Olbrychski is one of the most prolific Polish actors, but here he looks as if he played in a comedy even in the most dramatic moments of the film. His blonde moustache is not helping.
What makes the movie still worth watching today is the lavish battle scenes, the careful reconstruction of the era - especially the costumes, although interiors worth a mention too- and finally, the sheer fact that it shaped modern Polish cinema.