The sophomore edition of this underheralded film fest proves that just because we’re commonly unable to hear the falling tree of new Russian movies, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of noise. Virtually all U.S. premieres, the films are led by Pavel (Taxi Blues) Lounguine’s Cannes-awarded The Wedding, a sardonic small-town vision of big-family nuptials gone horribly wrong, and Alexander Proshkin’s Captain’s Daughter, a Lean-esque adaptation of Pushkin’s czarist-era, war-torn romance. Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears’ Vladimir Menshov returns with Envy of Gods, an equally intimate tale of midlife crisis, Andrei Konchalovsky’s son Egor makes his debut with the portent-loaded May-September drama The Recluse, and Alexander Uchitel wins kudos for his biopic of Ivan A. Bunin, His Wife’s Diary, in which the Bolshevik-exiled novelist endures his wife’s indiscretion with the dashing young writer who shows up with news of Bunin’s Nobel Prize.
There are scads more (including a doc about silent-screen actor Ivan Mosjoukine), but the centerpiece is a miniretro of the surprisingly prolific Alexander Sokurov, the country’s last standing visionary. Again, it’s predominated by U.S. premieres. Dolce, a dreamy 1999 doc about Miho Shimao, the semi-sane widow of writer Toshio Shimao, is upstaged by Oriental Elegy, a ravishing trance of foggy Japanese landscapes and confessions, shot via Sokurov’s trademark convex mirrors and dusky shadows. (The man seems to control the weather; Dolce credits an “ambient recordist/meteorologist.”) Moscow Elegy, a portrait of Tarkovsky, and Sad Numbness, a misty meditation on Shaw’s Heartbreak House, are brand-new to us too, but the ringer might be 1988’s Days of Eclipse, a legendary postapocalyptic epic (authored by the same brothers who wrote Stalker) that was unavailable for review.