Sunday, September 16, 2012

Serf's Up! - One Russian Summer (1973)

Based on the unfinished novel Vadim (1834) by Mikhail Lermontov, One Russian Summer (1973) (also known as Days of Fury) was a British-Italian production with Bulgaria standing in for the Russian steppes. It was directed by Antonio Calenda, with a script by Edward Bond (Walkabout), and an original score by Riz Ortolani.
Oliver Reed stars as Palizyn, head of a 19th Century Russian farming estate which he runs like a miniature kingdom, cages and whippings at the ready for any unruly serfs. It's one of Reed's better performances, though it does allow him to play to his strengths - quaffing ale, laughing uproariously etc. etc.
The story begins with the entry of the subversive hunchback Vadim, a great performance by John McEnery. At first apparently happy to work like a dog for his master (literally), his cynical manipulations and provocations amongst his fellow serfs lead to revolution and tragedy.
The production has an epic scale and is a splendid evocation of another time and place. The scenes between Reed and McEnery are psychologically fascinating as the relationship develops. However, as is common with European co-productions of the era, the dramatic pace and narrative cohesion leave something to be desired. Still well recommended though.
Also featuring Claudia Cardinale (Anya), Zora Velcova (Natalya), Carole André (Irene), Ray Lovelock (Yuri).

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Rise of Catherine the Great - 1934

A British-made biographical film about how a German princess in an unhappy marriage became empress of all the Russias. Starring Elizabeth Bergner as Catherine and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. as Peter III.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Mosque in Munich - Ian Johnson

This book has been popping up in our "Amazon recommended books" section for months now. We finally picked up a copy and read through it and now ready for a second read. The amount of research and documentation involved is impressive as are the numbers of characters involved. The most familiar name is Garip Sultan. There are themes in this book of Nazis and WW2, Turkic people of the soviet era and their striving for autonomy, the relationship between the West and the Muslim world, the rise of Radio Liberty, woven together by a tale of a Muslim community in West Germany, striving to build a house of worship.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lenin and Käbestä Bäleş

There is no doubt that our friend Lenin enjoyed some Cabbage Pie (Käbestä Bäleş) while attending school at Kazan University. He would have enjoyed it for a longer period if he had not been kicked out for stirring up trouble!


Eni makes great Bäleş. (Belish) There are several variations

cabbage onion and hard-cooked egg
salmon and cellophane noodles
ground beef and cellophane noodles.