tue 14/07/2020

Soviet Union

The President

What’s it really like to be a dictator? Or president, if we put it more circumspectly, as Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf does in his new film of that name – though this President clearly believes he’s of the “for-life” variety, if not even a...

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The Race for the World's First Atomic Bomb, BBC Four

Haste was of the essence as the Allies hurried to create the ultimate weapon. They were fearful that Hitler’s Germany, which had been first to split the atom, would beat them to it – and they knew that the Nazis would have no compunction about using...

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Hard to Be a God

Don’t on any account be late for the first couple of minutes of the woolly mammoth that is Russian director Alexei German’s last film, Hard to Be a God, since the opening narrative voiceover gives a rare suggestion of explanatory background to a...

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Man With a Movie Camera

Dziga Vertov’s narrativeless “city symphony” Man With a Movie Camera celebrates the modernity and energy of the post-Bolshevik Revolution metropolis – a composite of Kharkov, Kiev, Moscow and Odessa filmed over three years. Propaganda for the...

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1945: The Savage Peace, BBC Two

“Enjoy the war, for the peace will be savage,” was apparently a macabre joke circulating in the German military towards the end of World War Two. Peter Molloy’s searing documentary, 1945: The Savage Peace, showed us just how prescient it would prove...

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Storyville: Masterspy of Moscow - George Blake, BBC Four

“The righteous traitor” must be as provocative a subtitle as any when the subject is espionage. Director George Carey nevertheless used it in this highly revealing film about George Blake, the “spy who got away”, which proved as much about the...

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CD: Public Service Broadcasting - The Race for Space

The 1960s media's wild excitement about the space race is now almost forgotten. The era when every boy wanted to be an astronaut is ancient history. The period is, however, a goldmine for gloriously kitsch cosmic samples, a fact electronic...

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Black Sea

Despite the presence of Jude Law as a disillusioned old underseadog, the real star of Black Sea is the 50-year-old Russian submarine on which most of the action takes place. Now called Black Widow, the vessel lives on the river Medway near Rochester...

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David Schneider Makes Stalin Laugh

When Dostoyevsky was asked why he wrote Crime and Punishment he famously replied, “To further my career and get shortlisted for book prizes.” He didn’t, of course. I made that up. But what artist/writer/actor creates a piece of art/writing/acting...

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Kim Philby: His Most Intimate Betrayal, BBC Two

History may be written by the winners, but its verdict is surely still out on Kim Philby. The presenter of Kim Philby: His Most Intimate Betrayal, Ben Macintyre, acknowledged that Philby is “the most famous double agent in history”, but though such...

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The Silent War, BBC Two

The cumulative effect of the BBC's Cold War season hasn't been to remind us that truth is stranger than fiction so much as to demonstrate how they swirled together into a miasma of delusion and uncertainty. We've seen Reds under the bed and spies in...

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The Spy Who Went Into the Cold, BBC Four

How much time does anyone want to spend in the company of Kim Philby? BBC Four’s Storyville allotted him 75 minutes, which isn’t much to tell the story of a third man with two paymasters and four wives. And yet this portrait somehow contrived to...

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