Russian filmmaker Aleksandr Sokurov (FATHER AND SON/’03, RUSSIAN ARK/’02) splits his commercial & experimental modes in combining two of his favored themes, Men-at-War & Mother Love. Make that Grandmother Love. Galina Vishnevskaya, the great Russian soprano of the ‘50s & ‘60s (she’s also the widow of ‘cellist Mstislav Rostropovich) is magnificent as a stubborn Mother Russian who visits her G’son at his military camp on the outskirts of a ruined Chechnya city only to find shards of humanity everywhere she goes. Verbally spare, the film is both visually sophisticated and as plain as a plate of buckwheat kasha, showing how political realities can trump instinctual human commonalities; juxtaposing manly domination against feminine sisterhood; and revealing the scary extremes of scale between men & their artillery. In the hands of Sokurov, there’s a terrible beauty in hopelessness, but the emphasis is on terrible.
READ ALL ABOUT IT: Few opera divas have led lives as book-worthy as Vishnevskaya, and in GALINA she settles scores with Soviet authorities in the worlds of music, theater & politics who did her & Rostropovich wrong. It’s hair-rasing, often heroic stuff. And then get her recordings of EUGENE ONEGIN (the early one with Boris Khaikin conducting) & LADY MACBETH OF MTSENSK under Rostropovich.