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Andrei Konchalovsky: 'Art is not an athletic competition'

September 23, 2016, 20:35 UTC+3

The renowned Russian director has told TASS he thinks journalistic concept of fighting for the awards "sticks of vulgarity"

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© Vyacheslav Prokofiev/TASS

Andrei Konchalovsky’s film "Paradise" has been nominated for an Oscar by Russia, the same Oscar that two years ago, Konchalovsky called “an award, extremely overvalued by a certain portion of filmmakers.” After the Moscow premiere of the film, the director told TASS why this time he is not against the Oscar nomination, when the work on the next film will begin and also shared his thoughts on the state of Russian film industry.

- Please, tell us about your Paradise. You said that the film is about the nature of evil. Why did that peak your interest?

- What can I tell you about Paradise. There is nothing to talk about yet. Go see the film. What can a director say about a film that has been finished? Now it’s up to the critics to talk.

- In 2014, you refused to give over your film The Postman’s White Nights to the Russian Oscar committee, so that it can be nominated for the award. You said that you didn’t want to fight for an Oscar, but now you are not against a nomination for Paradise.

- For starters, I don’t fight for anything. That is an absolutely wrong journalistic concept, that sticks of vulgarity. It’s vulgar, because you can’t tie receiving an award with a victory of “one” over the “other.” Art is not an athletic competition.

There is no and cannot be a criteria for all. It’s impossible, like in sports, to jump higher than others, to lift more.

An artist, if he is sincerely trying to understand the nature of a human being and the meaning of life, can be great, without receiving any recognition, for the greatness of an artist is not in a victory, but in the depth of the way he looks at life.

It is even possible that a defeat for an artist is worth more than any victory

I am reminded of a sarcastic remark by Jean-Luc Godard - “If a great film is successful, it means the public misunderstood it.” A director makes a film and it is accepted at a festival - that’s great. The jury watches it, judges it. But what is there to fight for? How can Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa beat Michaelangelo’s David? Isn’t that nonsense?

- Let me rephrase that. How did you take the news of your nomination?

- Honestly, I’m not that concerned with the Oscar, what I am concerned with is that in the last two years the Western movie-goer has been told that there is nothing  worse and more dangerous  in the world than Russia. That, I am concerned about. And I want people to see my film, to see the Russian character that functions under specific  circumstances. That, I am concerned about. And the cliche - the film will fight, or the film has won,  simplifies it. I agreed, because over the last two years there has been a lot of mudslinging towards Russia - Putin is a tyrant, the people are stupid, there is no culture, and it was the Americans that won WWII. And I, as a Russian person, and as a Russian artist would like to convey my art to the swindled viewer.

We have to use every opportunity to show that the great Russian culture is alive, and Russian films exist and they are not necessarily made using Hollywood templates

- About the anti-Russian mood. In Venice no anti-Russian mood affected the jury’s decision that presented you with the Silver Lion.

- You were asking me about why I refused to put up for the Oscar in 2014, but agreed to in 2016? I just told you, that because right now it makes sense to convey Russian culture to the international viewer, who has been brainwashed with lies and absolutely tendentious propaganda, I would go as far as to say Goebbels style propaganda. I nearly want to go and slam my shoe on the podium, like Nikita Khrushchev.

- If your film will be included in the so-called Oscar shortlist, will you attend the ceremony?

- I don’t know. I don’t have my work schedule yet. Recently, I don’t really like flying over the Atlantic.

- Overall, how do see the Russian film industry? Do you like what’s going on, do you follow it?

- I think that we have a very interesting and lively process. Of course, the desire to outdo Hollywood is still very strong, to fill the movie theaters with viewers that chew popcorn, but there is a portion of artists that make independent  national films.

- What about your film Michelangelo? When do you plan to start, next year?

- When I find the money. I’ll start when I’ll find the money. Right now, I am looking in different places, because it will doubtfully be a commercial project. People have to understand that we are going in an unknown direction.

- Do you think you might have problems finding the money?

- Of course. It is always problematic. You have to find the people that believe until the end, you understand? It is very important. And what’s more important, the people that are willing to lose money. These people like to see the meaning in of their contribution to create a work of art.

- In 2015 you offered to create a studio of budget-less film, where directors could make movies without money. What stage is that project on?

- Right now, young directors got the opportunity to work in our studio. They are trying to figure out what they are capable of. And to convince us of it. I think that there are promising directors there. We are not trying to make some sort of a blockbuster, we are trying to do some work with the least amount of money, want to give the creators an opportunity to express themselves. That is a luxury now, right? For them and for us.

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