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A self-assured and lone former racing car driver, having crossed all Europe on a brand new FIAT Tempra, arrives to Russia. He picks up a pregnant hitch-hiker who has lost her bus, but he is chased by her husband, a biker who has just won a prize for his driving skill. The woman will give birth before getting to the hospital in a chilling night in the midst of woods, helped by the two men and by the Tempra flexibility, a perfect “car for preg- nant women”.
Mikhalkov well knows how to act in a made-to-order movie putting the programmed didacticism inside a drama pattern fully consistent with his own poetics foundations: the relationship between man and “Mother Russia” wide spaces.
The journey of Tempra turns into a descend toward the repressed content of the main character’s life; gradually, while the kilometres are rising, the space-time coordinates change into emotional involvement. At the same time the suspense, coming from the “emergency state” where the two Mikhalkov’s heroes are forced to act (facing up a delivery amidst the snowy steppe), is worked out with images of great figurative intensity.
A son of the poet Sergei Mikhalkov and the writer Natalya Konchalovskaya, Nikita Mikhalkov was born in Mosca in 1945. Very young, he makes his début as actor, and gets his first great success in the leading role in a comedy by the Georgian writer Georgi Danelija, Ia sagaju pa Moski (Io passeggio per Mosca) in 1963. Before turning to filmmaking we find him in L’armata a cavallo by Miklos Jancso (1967), Dvorijanskoije gniezdo by his brother Andreij Konchalovsky (1969), La tenda rossa by Michail Kalatozov (1971). In 1973 he makes his first film Svoj sredi chuzhikh, chuzhoj sredi svoikh(At Home Among Strangers, A Stranger At Home), a creative version of the civil war between “reds” and “whites”, read like a western. The two following movies give him a prompt international fame: Raba liubvj (Slave of Love,1976), masterly interpreted by Yelena Soloveij in the role of an actress of the silent films in love with a director who covertly helps the Bolshevik revolution; and the Cechovian portray of the Russian fin de siècle middle class in Neokonchennaya pyesa dlya mekhanichesgoko (Unfinished Piece for Player Piano, 1977). Some hints of “crepuscolare” and Cechovian can also be seen in Pyat vecherov (Five Evenings, 1979), where Mikhalkov sets a structure we will find in the following works, that is, the ability to intertwine daily lives in the background of great historical events. In the same year he directs a magnificent version of one of the greatest masterpiece of the Russian literature, Oblomov by Ivan Gonçarov(A Few Days in the Life of I.I. Oblomov) , and then Rodnja (1981), Bez svideteleij (Without Witnesses, 1983) and, above all, Oci Ciornie (Dark Eyes, 1987), shot in Italy and interpreted by Silvana Mangano and Marcello Mastroianni. In 1991 he wins the Golden Lion Award at Venice Festival with Urga( Urga: Territory of Love, a.k.a. Close to Eden) where he constructs a real landscape drama to set the meeting between a Russian truck driver, stranded by sheer accident in the centre of Siberian steppe and a Mongolian shepherd completely unacquainted with any other culture. In 1994 the Academy awards Utomlyonne solntsem (Burnt by the Sun), set in 1936 during the Stalinist purges, where Mikhalkov, who plays the leading role, masterly alternate idyll and tragedy. His last film is Sibirskij tsiryulnik (Barber of Siberia, 1999), set during the reign of tsar Alexander III, with Richard Harris playing the American tycoon trying to sell a steam engine to cut down wild Siberian woods, while his assistant, Julia Ormond is falling in love with a Russian cadet deported to Siberia for his political ideas.
Retrospettiva La celluloide e l'acciaio - Immagini del Cinefiat 1909-2003
Italy , 1990, 52'