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The fashion for blockbusters has swept Russia
Now it is up to audiences, with 80% of them under 30, to decide whether they meet Western standards. Today's cinemagoers were brought up in an era when US films totally dominated and therefore have quite a good idea of Western film standards. Yegor Konchalovsky, 38, and Timur Bekmambetov, 43, have earned their reputations as Russian blockbuster directors. Their "big films" originated from TV advertisements, as both of them were successful commercial directors. Everything they did in the movie industry before they shot their blockbusters gave them a good grounding for their future hits. And then came the turning point: Konchalovsky released his Anti-Killer in 2002, and then Anti-Killer-2 a year later. Both action films, which follow the confrontation between policeman Filipp Korenev (performed by the super star of many recent films and TV presenter, Gosha Kutsenko) first with the mafia and then terrorists, were hits with young people looking for extreme sensations. But they were attracted to the cinemas by the unprecedented, stunning advertising campaign. The producers used all the tools at their disposal, from billboards to the Internet. There is even a computer game called Anti-Killer. The elderly were shocked when experienced middle-aged actors agreed to participate in Yegor Konchalovsky's experiment that was made in the style of a TV commercial and with little food for thought. In 2004, Timur Bekmambetov's blockbuster, Night Watch, based on Sergei Lukyanenko's novel, became the hit of the season. The United States has already purchased the rights to screen "the Russian miracle." The film, which was shot in the fashionable science-fiction genre and describes events in modern Moscow, but involves a mythological battle between good and evil, set Russian box office records tumbling. It even beat the record of the Oscar-winning, The Lord of the Rings, by earning $16 million. The secret of its success is the same as Konchalovsky's: an entire constellation of superstars, suspense, stylish music and production design, and a large-scale advertising campaign. Inspired by the laurels of Konchalovsky and Bekmambetov, their colleagues Alexei Sidorov, 36, and Nikolai Lebedev, 38, have also decided to shoot blockbusters. In the final count, this is what the Russian market demands and this is something capable of competing with Western films. All the above mentioned are directors from the younger generation who understand the importance of good marketing - the screening destiny of their pictures, box office takings and the relevance of the film to the public sentiments. Nikolai Lebedev's picture, Star, managed to partially satisfy society's long-standing thirst for patriotism. This film depicts the exploits of a reconnaissance detachment operating behind enemy lines during WWII. The feature was even awarded a State Prize in 2003 and attracted not only youngsters but also the older generation. However, now, Lebedev has decided to pay tribute to the science fiction trend. His new project, Wolfhound, is scheduled for release no earlier than next December. This is all that the public knows about the film, other than it was shot in Russia, Slovakia and Malta. Alexei Sidorov, the director of the scandalously successful Brigada series (which romanticised criminal friends, provoked a few juvenile delinquencies and encouraged debates about the moral mission of art), is shooting a film called Battle With a Shadow. Its protagonist is a boxer seeking fame, whose main battle takes place outside the arena - he has to fight the criminal world. The movie will hit the screens next March. In 2005, Anti-Killer-3 will come out too, but The Escape by Yegor Konchalovsky is expected to be of more interest. The director obviously has taken his inspiration from Hollywood's 1993 film, The Fugitive, which starredHarrison Ford. The new project will involve a few Anti-Killer stars. The older people are fairly sceptical about these young directors' works. Andrei Konchalovsky, 67, a film master with Western experience and Yegor Konchalovsky's father, says: "Feature films have become pure entertainment. They have lost their role of masters of thought. Today, people do not need films that attempt to unravel the mystery of man. They need entertainment, fast food, McDonald's. "Films were an art form when there were no such words as 'marketing' or 'superstar'. In Fellini's era, there were no superstars but simply stars. And when 'super' begins, it means the end of the art of filmmaking," Andrei Konchalovsky concludes nostalgically.
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