Vera), a hard-hitting, realistic exposé of working-class life in the Soviet Union and the failed promises of Communism for its youth. Vera herself, a tough, wise-cracking, yet touchingly vulnerable teenager, outstandingly played by the newcomer Natalia Negoda, is the most memorable and strongest female character in all of recent cinema. (The film was scripted by Pichul's wife Maria Khmelik.) Fifty million Soviets saw the film, most of them lured by the first sex scene in Soviet cinema.
However, many of these contemporary social melodramas did not abandon Socialist Realism, but simply turned it on its head. They were still formulaic 'message' films trying to tell people how or how not to live, and are full of new clichés: dirty, communal apartments instead of shiny, clean ones, social outcasts instead of heroes of labour, and a requisite unhappy ending instead of a happy one.
Since 1991, film-makers have moved into a post-per- estroika phase. After much self-exploration, and stylistic and thematic experimentation in film, directors are attempting to make more commercially viable films. Light comedies and modest, feelgood films are making a comeback, after a flood of depressing dark films, pejoratively labelled chernukha (black), bytovukha (grungy, everyday life), and pornukha (porno). Vyacheslav Krishtofovich's Adam's Rib(Rebro Adama, 1991) typifies this new type of film. It is a warm story, both humorous and touching, of how three generations of women cope and survive in these difficult times. The director relies on excellent acting (the film stars the incomparable Inna Churikova) to help create real characters the audience can identify with. Yuri Mamin 's A Window to Paris(Okno v Parizh, 1993) is a slapstick tale of the improbable adventures of some simple Russians who find a miraculous window to Paris in their run-down apartment house in St Petersburg.
The mostly young 'new wave' film-makers reject all vestiges of Socialist Realism, or of socially redeeming cinema with an educational or ideological message. They are a diverse group: some embrace western cinema, the classics of Hollywood as well as of Europe, the French New Wave, for example, and the newer post-modern cinema of Peter Greenaway and David Lynch. The guiding force of this group is Sergei Soloviev, an established film-maker, teacher, the director of his own studio (first at Mosfilm, now independent). He is the mentor of the talented Rashid Nugmanov , whose 1988 film The Needle (Igla) began the Kazakh 'new wave' and will surely become a post-modern cult classic, along with Soloviev's own Assa ( 1988). Other directors are creating their own 'retro' films, ironic and often nostalgic remakes of films from the Thaw or even earlier Stalinist periods. Still others are trying to abandon dialogue altogether in their rediscovery of silent, black and white film.
It is impossible to describe in brief the variety and vitality of the cinema since the beginning of glasnost, despite regular complaints from critics that there are no any good films. The abolition of censorship was clearly beneficial, although at first it did confound older directors who were used to fighting for their ideas. While financing and production are shaky in this period of transition to capitalism, films are being made and film-makers are slowly adapting to a new western cost-consciousness. The unsolved problem remains distribution-how to get at least a few of the best films to the screen. In the mean time there is not a little nostalgia for the days of Goskino and the state-subsidized, state-run film industry.
Anninsky, Lev ( 1991), Shestidesyatniki i my ('The generation of the sixties and me').
Horton, Andrew, and Brashinsky, Michael ( 1992), The Zero Hour: Glasnost and Soviet Cinema in Transition.
Lawton, Anna ( 1992), Kinoglasnost: Soviet Cinema in our Time.
Liehm, Mira, and Liehm, Antonin J. ( 1977), The Most Important Art: Soviet and Eastern European Film after 1945.
Shlapentokh, Dmitry, and Shlapentokh, Vladimir ( 1993), Soviet Cinematography 1918-1991.
Zorkaya, Neya ( 1991), The Illustrated History of Soviet Cinema.
---- ( 1993), Konets stoletiya: predvaritelnye itogi ('The end of the century: tentative conclusions').
For the studios of the southern republics, as in the rest of the USSR, the Thaw that followed Stalin's death signified a double rebirth. First, there was a noticeable return to film-making after the 'era of few films 'when only Stalinist masterpieces could be produced. It had been a particularly dark period for these small studios: of just less than 290 full-length films produced in the USSR between 1945 and 1955, the five central Asian republics only produced nineteen and the three Trans-Caucasian republics only produced twenty-two, twelve of which were from the relatively favoured republic of Georgia. This renewal of production assumed particular importance in two republics: