RusFilm-2003 Program Notes


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France and Russia, CDP, Arte France Cinema, France 2 Cinema, Gimages Films, Network Movie, ZDF, Arte, Magnat, Kominter, STW co-production, 2002, 128 min. Color.
Director: Pavel Lungine.
Script: Yuli Dubov and Aleksandr Borodianskii.
Cinematography: Oleg Dobronavov and Aleksei Fiodorov.
Music: Leonid Desiatnikov.
With Vladimir Mashkov.
Nominated for best screenplay in the 16th Annual Nika Awards

The ideological systems of the Cold War, Soviet socialism and American capitalism, come to blows again in the post-Soviet era. However, the conflict no longer ensues across national borders, but, rather, is waged within Russia. Pavel Lungine's Tycoon traces the rise and fall of Russia's most successful capitalist, Platon Makovsky, one of several industry oligarchs, who not only controls commercial industry (e.g., the Russian automobile market), but also televised media and local politics. In the film's opening scene, people dressed in traditional Russian folk costumes protest the economic inequity caused by the capitalist enterprise. While the protesters' national costumes and red banners are reminiscent of a Soviet demonstration, Makovsky, who unemotionally responds to the demonstration saying, "I simply try to live like a free man," conveys an American sensibility. Unfortunately for Makovsky, post-Soviet Russia continues not to tolerate the greed, individual success, and Machiavellian tactics associated with capitalism.

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Loosely based on Yuli Dubov's novel The Big Slice (Bol'shaia paika) about a Russian car dealer-cum-industry oligarch, Lungine's film focuses on the criminal roots of post-Soviet capitalism, clearly a popular topic in contemporary Russia: Tycoon grossed 11.17 million rubles ($US 353,000) during its premiere weekend in Russia — the most successful box-office debut ever by a Russian movie. Though both author Dubov and director Lungine deny rumors that the main character of either the novel or the film is based on the Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, the similarities between the film's main character, Platon Makovsky (played by Vladimir Mashkov), and Berezovsky are striking. Both begin as brilliant young academics, members of the Jewish intelligentsia, who quickly abandon their non-lucrative careers for the promising opportunities offered by the unorganized world of post-Soviet capitalism. Profiting from the breakdown of the system, Makovsky, like his real-life counterpart, becomes Russia's richest man, lives a flamboyantly expensive life, escapes murder attempts made on his life, and eventually chooses self-imposed exile.

Pavel Lungine

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Pavel Lungin was born in Moscow in 1949. After studying math and linguistics at Moscow State University, he turned to film in 1976. A second-generation screenwriter, Lungin had scripted a half-dozen Soviet films by the time he began directing at age 40. He enjoyed immediate success, winning the Best Director prize at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival for Taxi Blues. Lungin has directed four feature films since his debut, including The Wedding (2000), which was a competition film at Cannes, and Tycoon, a nominee for best screenplay at the 16th annual Nika Awards.

1990 Taxi Blues
1992 Luna Park
1996 Line of Life
2000 The Wedding
2002 Tycoon