Special Features – The Andrei Konchalovsky Retrospective

Paul Risker on the year-long international celebration of the distinguished Russian film director Andrei Konchalovsky…

A retrospective of a distinguished Russian director may not be the first thing to come to mind if one is to stop and reflect on the year was 2012. Marvel’s The Avengers was a barnstorming success, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises concluded a trilogy to rival all trilogies. Bond in its 50th anniversary year hit back strong; delivering for some what may just be the best of the series so far with Skyfall. Meanwhile, Paul Thomas Anderson and Joaquin Phoenix made a welcome return in The Master. 2012 also saw the conclusion of The Twilight Saga, Ben Affleck confirmed his status as a serious directorial talent with Argo, and and Peter Jackson took us back to Middle-earth with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

In what was for the most part a year of moments, 2012 was also the stage for a year-long celebration of the distinguished Russian film, theatre and opera director Andrei Konchalovsky that coincided with the director’s 75th birthday year. Prior to the UK retrospective that witnessed sold out screenings in Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh, as well as at the Leeds Film Festival, the event arrived on UK shores with a truly international flavour, events and screenings previously held in: Russia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Poland, Montreal, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Madrid and Cannes. Konchalovsky was the recipient of the Zloty Glan Award for his outstanding contribution towards European and World Cinema at the 17th Forum of European Cinema “Cinergia” in Poland. Konchalovsky hosted a masterclass at the Lodz Film Forum, and several question and answer sessions at screenings in the UK retrospective tour. 

Mariola Wiktor, Director of the Lodz Film Forum commented, “Andrei is an icon and legend of Russian and American cinema. Sharing his thoughts about cinema, art and life with students during masterclass was a unique and priceless experience.”  John Gore, Head of Warwick Arts Centre, Chris Fell , Director of the Leeds Film Festival, James Rice, Head of Programming at the Edinburgh Filmhouse, and Claire Ricklef, Cultural Affairs Manager at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development also expressed their delight at Konchalovsky’s attendance at their individual events.

Both the yearlong celebration and the UK retrospective concluded at the Warwick Arts Centre on November 21 of last year, with a screening of Konchalovsky’s 1971 film Uncle Vanya. Konchalovsky’s career saw individual success, his films the recipients of numerous awards, which included his 1979 film Siberiade being awarded the Grand Prix Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. His English language titles earned his actresses both nominations and awards: Duet for One, (Best Actress Golden Globe nominee Julie Andrews, 1987), Shy People (Best Actress Award winner Barbara Hershey at the Cannes International Film Festival, 1987) and the nail-biting thriller Runaway Train, starring Jon Voight, Eric Roberts and Rebecca De Mornay, which earned three Academy Award nominations and was included in the Cannes Classics selection at 2012’s Cannes International Film Festival. He also directed Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell in 1989’s Tango and Cash, building his reputation as both an art house and mainstream director. For his work in television he received an Emmy Award as best director for The Odyssey. Meanwhile, The Lion in Winter starring Glenn Close and Patrick Stewart was the recipient of a Golden Globe Award for costume design, as well as multiple Emmy Awards and nominations.

Reflecting on the year-long celebration, Konchalovsky remarked, “It is with great pleasure that I note the serious work which has been carried out in many European countries and Russia, where different events were dedicated to my anniversary. The Jubilee retrospective in Great Britain and the effective cooperation between the A. Konchalovsky Production Center and DDA has been a particular highlight. I was thrilled to see the European retrospective of my films build up such a remarkable atmosphere – stormy discussions and open-minded dialogues always accompanied the masterclasses and created a special mood during film screenings. A heartfelt thank you to everyone for such a memorable year!”

Paul Risker is a freelance writer and contributor to Flickering Myth, Scream The Horror Magazine and The London Film Review.