Start the decade off right Our critics name their favorite Russian movies, music, and TV of the 2010s
Our team of cultural critics has already named their favorite Russian TV, music, and movies of 2019. Now, they’ve turned their eyes and ears to the rest of the decade and summed up the result in ultra-short reviews.
The Thaw (Оттепель)
This series was enough to make us believe Russia could someday get its own Mad Men—and that Yevgeny Tsyganov is our very own Jon Hamm, and Valery Todorovsky is essentially a local Matthew Weiner. This is also the only series on a federal TV channel that features a gay character who anchors a real drama (and not a comedy).
Call DiCaprio! (Звоните ДиКаприо!)
The show that reassured us that even among global streaming platforms, Russia isn’t about to get lost in the shuffle. Only locals, and especially Zhora Khyzhovnikov, could possibly convey the lives of big Russian cities with such precision.
2011, dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia
In this film, the world’s best-known young Russian director takes a sharp turn from timeless, almost placeless parables to deceptive realism in our contemporary era. A family thriller about class inequity, housing dilemmas, and murder, this is an inverted metaphor for Russia in the Putin era.
2011, dir. Alexander Sokurov, Russia and Germany
A monumental, unexpected finale to a tetralogy about humanity and power. This unique take on the legend of Faust and Mephistopheles places at its center a temptation for power that makes even the devil himself a mere shadow of the fabled idealist scholar. A shockingly beautiful film.
2012, dir. Kira Muratova, Ukraine
A final goodbye from the wisest director in the post-Soviet space. A man and a woman meet one another again and again, the same scene repeated with different actors. Is this a set of test screenings or a Nietzschean myth? A melancholy comedy about the repetitiveness of existence and the magic of art.
Hard to Be a God
2013, dir. Alexey German, Sr., Russia
The greatest and most experimental of a great Russian director’s work. After a string of hyperrealist historical frescoes about the Stalinist era, he decided to shoot a medieval fantasy based on the eponymous novel by the Strugatsky brothers. The plot centers on the dramatic fall of an idealist determined to change the world for the better.
The Final Album (Последний альбом)
2010, Noize MC
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone more socially active and sensitive to injustice than Ivan Alexeyev. He rolled into the 2010s by refusing to let an oil magnate get away with vehicular manslaughter and rolled out of them with a philosophical, oppositionist homage to Yegor Letov’s “Vsyo Kak U Lyudey,” (“Just Like Everybody’s Got”).
2012, Ivan Dorn
For the past 10 years, Dorn has transformed from a member of the eccentric duo A Couple Normal People to the king of Ukrainian pop. In other words, he has used his superb talent to follow the singular rule for life that he himself dictated: “Don’t be shy.”
I Don’t Think Anyone’s Made Up a Word for That (Я думаю, для этого не придумали слово)
2014, The Largest Prime Number (Самое большое простое число)
Any of this band’s albums could have ended up on this list, and we mean that in a good way. All of them were created for the same purpose: Giving people cause to laugh and be happy. Nonetheless, this is the record that truly became a popular favorite.
Hardly anyone has influenced Russian rap as much as Miron Fyodorov. He’s the one who turned the game on its head and elevated rap battles to cult status, and it’s his Gogorod that became, far and away, the best-known Russian-language conceptual album of the decade.
The Exhibit (Экспонат)
Regardless of how much we pine for the good old Leningrad of the aughts, it’s impossible not to acknowledge the phenomenal success Shnur’s band has had since they stopped releasing albums and started putting out video singles. No other Russian artist has yet managed to fill a stadium with 65,000 people.
(Imaginary) People’s Favorite Songs (Любимые песни (воображаемых) людей)
Dmitry Kuznetsov hasn’t just given Russian rap a new language and a new poetic style; he’s also become an important symbol of the cultural protest movement. It feels as though his concerts were canceled by way of implicit censorship more than anybody else’s, a trend the rapper’s colleagues soon united to combat.
Coloring for Adults (Раскраски для взрослых)
The best Russian album of the social media era. The young Liza Gyrdymova of Yekaterinburg and her talented producer and arranger Vitya Isayev managed to put together every possible pop cliché and gem of slang so artfully that the end result was much like the Platonic ideal of a blog post, something you want to like and share forever.
Translated by Hilah Kohen