For most of his works in cinema Viktor Andrienko drew inspiration from classical films. “There’s a gazillion of films that have inspired me. Every single movie I’ve mentioned is connected in my mind with a certain event in my life. Let’s say I mention a certain film and it automatically brings memories of another one. So all of these things are interconnected”, Viktor Andrienko said.
Treasure Island (1971) by Yevgeniy Fridman
In my fifth or sixth grade I went to Yalta. Fridman was filming his Treasure Island there at the time. I remember watching “the pirates” driving a UAZ vehicle (also known as the “Bobik”) to the set. I recall the actors and stuntmen in front of a tavern setting… I was mesmerized by all of it.
Shortly afterwards I came across The Adventures of Ben Gunn (a companion novel to Stevenson’s Treasure Island). It was not available as a book. Instead it was published in serial format in Vokrug Sveta (literally: “Around the World”) magazine. So I cut out all the chapters, bound them together and made my own book. I even designed my own cover for it. Years later, when we were filming our own version of Treasure Island (a film directed by David Cherkasky and released in 1988), I gave this handmade book as a present to David. Later Cherkasky said he had incorporated many portions of the text and storylines into our film, which would eventually become very popular with the audience.
While working on his new project Mad Macaroni, Cherkasky showed us Robert Zemeckis’ film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and then its making-of featurette. So, in the film we had been working on at the time, we incorporated the same baldly experimental technique of combining live action and animation.
Later I found out that Zemeckis had worked six years at The Walt Disney Studios as animator. That’s how he came up with the idea for this film. In general, no matter what Zemeckis is up to, he always does it in the best possible way.
Sugata Sanshirō (1965) by Seiichirō Uchikawa
I couldn’t possibly have missed this film in my teens since I was the best judoka in town and placed first among juniors. Later I learnt that it was Akira Kurosawa who wrote the screenplay and produced the film. Kurosawa also directed films Seven Samurai and Rashomon, which were my favorite ones in those years. Kurosawa himself said that he was a descendant of a samurai family. So making this kind of films was his way of apologizing to his ancestors for not becoming a samurai. Also, those films introduced me to Toshiro Mifune, who is one of my favorite actors.
Over time I saw Dodes’ka-den – Kurosawa’s first color film. Sadly, it was released here in black-and-white. Besides, the Soviet audience only saw a shortened version of it, which is a pity really, since Kurosawa worked really hard on the color palette and gave each character his own unique flavor.
A similar fate befell Bumbarash directed by Abram Naroditsky and Nikolai Rasheyev and released in 1972. Only years later, while working on a documentary program about Roman Adamovich (who was the art director of the movie) did I discover that Bumbarash was a color film. Adamovich told me, that each scene had its own color palette depending on the mood it was to convey. And sometimes there were mishaps. For instance, the scene where Bumbarash meets with the commissar was to be filmed with green grass in the background, but at the time of shooting it – autumn already came. That’s why they painted the grass green. And after the scene was shot, some cows went out into the field. I can’t imagine how shocked the milkmaids must have been, when the cows returned with their udders tainted with green paint.
Hamlet (1964) and King Lear (1970) by Grigori Kozintsev
To me, these two films make a single whole. I saw them in my school days. And I was so impressed, that I started reading Shakespeare like crazy. Some 20 years later I was lucky to interview Regimantas Adomaitis, who plays Edmund in King Lear. So he told me in person, that in his film Kozintsev shifted the emphasis on Edmund and made him the main character. And he’s a good character, not a bad one. He’s revolutionary in his beliefs – he’s trying to change the world by means that were available in the Middle Ages, and those are slaughter, treason and conspiracy. That’s his way of fighting for the future.
Flights in Dreams and in Reality (1982) by Roman Balayan
You know, there’s so much you can learn from talking to great actors. When I was working on a documentary about Oleg Yankovsky, he told me he had been offered the lead role in Balayan’s film “by accident”, as he usually refused to work with the Dovzhenko Film Studios out of principle. He didn’t explain why. However, something happened one day that changed everything. When Yankovsky was heading to the set of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: The Hound of the Baskervilles, directed by Igor Maslennikov, he said to Nikita Mikhalkov: “Someone named Balayan is offering me a role in his movie, which is being filmed at the Dovzhenko Film Studios”. To that Mikhalkov replied: “Oleg, are you mad? There are only two directors you must ever work with: it’s me and Balayan”.
Later Yankovsky found out that Balayan had offered this role to Mikhalkov first. But shortly afterwards Balayan saw Yankovsky in My, nizhepodpisavshiyesya (“We the undersigned”), where his character is cutting a lemon with a blunt knife. After watching that scene he immediately asked Yankovskiy to play in his film.
Once the interview was over, I gave Yankovsky nine film reels of Flights in Dreams and in Reality as a sign of respect. When he, in gratitude, asked if he could be of any help, I replied: “For our documentary about you, we’d like to use an episode from Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia, in which you starred. Help me find this film”.
Yankovsky gave me a copy of Tarkovsky’s film and said: “This tape is a keepsake of my friend. If you don’t hand it back to me in three days, I’ll take it as a personal insult”.
Recorded on the tape, besides Nostalghia, was Tarkovsky’s final interview for an Italian television network. Naturally, I returned the tape in time, but unfortunately my program has not survived the toll of time.
Later Roman Balayan, to my surprise, asked if I could host a concert, commemorating his jubilee, at the October Palace in Kyiv. He also insisted that I addressed the audience in Surzhyk. I objected to it by saying: “It’s either Ukrainian or Russian”. To that Balayan responded: “Listen! There are nationalists in this hall! And there are chauvinists on stage. And Andrienko and Balayan are in between. Everyone should understand what you are saying”.
Ultimately, because of this concert, they denied me the title of Honorable Artist and said: “Andrienko must first learn to speak Ukrainian, and only then ask for an honorary title”, to which I replied that I speak Ukrainian better than such People’s Artists of Ukraine as Baskov and Kirkorov!
Solaris (1972) by Andrei Tarkovsky
My first acquaintance with Solaris was when I heard a radio play, and later I watched a television play. Then I read Stanislaw Lem’s novel. And only after that did I see Tarkovsky’s film. Don’t ask me how many times I’ve seen it since. I also watched Andrei Rublev a dozen of times, and his other works too. It’s only The Mirror that I’ve watched once! I’m not really into this kind of movies. Speaking of Stalker, my son called it the most genius film of all times and peoples”.
In my teens I also enjoyed watching comedy films by Leonid Gaidai and Georgiy Daneliya. At the same time I mostly refused to watch mediocre films or mainstream Soviet movies.
I saw The Diamond Arm and Kidnapping, Caucasian Style at a later point in my life. The first film by Gaidai that I saw was Strictly Business (1962). I watched it for the first time while sitting up a tree above a summer cinema at a railroader park. I always remember where and when I saw my all-time favorite movies.
Top Secret! (1984) by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker
I first watched this film without sound at Ilya Noyabriov’s old flat, as his television set had some issues. But in spite of this, I kept falling off my chair laughing. Imagine how much I laughed when I watched this film with proper sound on. Then I understood that spoken lines in cinema are often secondary. The most important thing is precise use of the visual language. I really like all films directed by the Zucker brothers.
People need something positive! There’s too much negativity around anyway – you don’t need to look for it: just turn on your TV or go to the Internet.
La Grande Vadrouille (1966) by Gérard Oury
I know this film by heart. Don’t even ask me how many times I’ve watched it. Louis de Funès is an extraordinary actor. I once got to make a parody of him in Big Difference (a Russian parody TV show). And I believe it was quite an impudent thing to do… I think I played a nod to Louis de Funès while portraying Sherlock Holmes in my Snook Show.
I love all films starring the grandpa “Fufu” (as he is called in France), as well as Charlie Chaplin or Igor Ilyinsky’s works. The hardest thing to accomplish both in cinema and theatre is to create a comical character. Bringing the viewer to tears is much easier.
Some time ago Valeriy Chigliaev and I were on tour in Poltava. And one day we came across a movie theatre, which was doing a re-run of Fantômas starring Louis de Funès. Naturally, we immediately rushed to buy tickers. A cashier said there’d be a 9 a.m. showing. But we wanted to see it later in the day. So, when we asked for tickets for a midday showing, the cashier mysteriously averted her eyes and said: “Go to the 9 a.m. showing. The 12 p.m. one has been cancelled”. “Why can’t we go to the 12 p.m. showing?” we asked. “Well… There just won’t be any…” she muttered and looked away once again.
And after we walked out of the movie theatre, we learnt of yet another death of the Secretary General: this time it was Chernenko who had passed away. A mourning period was declared, and as a result all recreational events were cancelled. Because of that, we weren’t paid our salaries once again. By the way, that was the last time I’ve seen Fantômas in a movie theater.
Time, Forward! (1965) by Mikhail Schweitzer
This is one of my favorite movies. I must say I love all Schweitzer’s films. He won me over with his film adaptations of Gogol, Tolstoy, Pushkin and Chekhov’s works… I remember how impressed I was when I first watched his film The Golden Calf (1968). It was shown at a Railway Workers’ House of Culture in Zaporizhia. Unfortunately, after its premiere, Schweitzer was subjected to criticism. “This movie doesn’t do Ilf and Petrov justice”, the critics yelped. But in a few years’ time Gaidai’s The Twelve Chairs came out, and everyone began to say the opposite: “The Golden Calf was the real thing, unlike The Twelve Chairs, which is a pitiful parody of Schweitzer’s film”.
Mikhail Schweitzer is one of the few film directors who managed to adapt Gogol’s prose to film. Speaking of other successful movies of this kind, Aleksei Batalov’s The Overcoat comes to mind. It stars Rolan Bykov. The way he portrayed his character there – is beyond masterful acting. The only film that probably supersedes it – is Yuriy Norstein’s animated feature film The Overcoat, which, sadly, remains unfinished to this day.
The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) by Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson has been obsessed with The Lord of The Rings trilogy since he was ten years old, and it took him a lot of time and effort to earn the right to make his film. When he read Tolkien’s trilogy, he was absolutely convinced the events in the novel took place in his native New Zealand.
After watching this trilogy, I saw a six hour documentary on the filming process. I recommend every aspiring director to watch it. Basically, it’s a beginner’s guide on how to make a good fantasy film. On top of that, it makes you realize how much knowledge you must gain in order to deal with historical material.
It helped me when I was working on Strong Ivan. I teamed up with a wonderful art director Igor Filippov, who created a very authentic image of the early 20-th century life. At the same time, some of the costume designers I worked with were quite mediocre. I kept barking at them trying to explain that at the turn of the 20-th century shirts wouldn’t have a chest pocket attached to the left side. The director must be very conscious about details when trying to recreate a certain historic period on screen.
“If a director signs his name under a film, he is responsible for every tiny detail in it”, an American director Mark Hammond once told me.
Back to the The Lord of the Rings, this film trilogy created a whole new universe for me, unlike The Hobbit, which is nothing more than a good fairy tale.
Léon: The Professional (1994) by Luc Besson
At first, Luc Besson wanted to make The Fifth Element with Jean Reno in the leading role. But Hollywood producers didn’t want Reno in their film, and insisted on casting Bruce Willis, as they assumed he’d be most suitable for the role. But at the time Willis had already been signed for the next Die Hard film. So Besson and his crew had to wait.
Subsequently, Besson decided to make Léon: The Professional just to keep himself busy. He enlisted the talent of Jean Reno and entrusted him to play the leading role. Thanks to Léon: The Professional, the whole world got to know this talented actor. Although, I must admit, Bruce Willis also did a fantastic job in The Fifth Element.
Besson filmed both Léon: The Professional and Angel-A for his own pleasure. There’s something sincere about these movies. One can feel the director was filming on his own accord and not under someone’s pressure, since quite often producers, in their blind pursuit of financial gain, ruin not only a wonderful concept, but the movie itself.