have to experience its darker side of gulags and purges. To be truly effective, James Joyce observed, the artist requires three things: silence, exile and cunning. Another soldier carries his house keys, convinced that as long as he has them his home in Minsk is safe. The film may eventually gross around 15 million euros, something of a disappointment, but more troubling is that Russian critics castigated the film for sticking too closely to the Kremlin's approved version of World War II and for its promotion of orthodox Christianity. This has hardly hurt other productions: from Fyodor Bondarchuk's 2006 blockbuster 9th Company, to Vladimir Khotinenko's 2007 costume epic 1612: A Chronicle of the Time of Troubles (financed by the oligarch. Meanwhile, other film-makers in lockstep with power, flattering power's vision of itself have been forgotten. And while cunning is almost a genetic necessity in the world of film-making, the pursuit of exile will see you consigned, like Ovid, to the farthest reaches of empire. Unsurprising, then, that much of his recent work has been prone to grandiloquent celebrations of Russian nationalism; most notoriously, there was the queasy moment in 1998's The Barber of Siberia when he halted the film for a few minutes to depict a lavish military parade. As Luke Harding noted this week, there appears to be a perception in Russia that Mikhalkov, these days, is less a film-maker than an apparatchik, an instrument of the state. Well, it's always good to have an audience wanting more, right? The film hews closer in tone. The ending, when it comes, has been well and long foreseen.
But the question of the film-maker's own relationship to authority is more problematic. Baara, which opened last September's Venice film festival but remains, so far, without UK distribution. The film does get off to an awkward start with a fantasy sequence in which a pasty-faced actor plays Stalin, who winds up with his face in a birthday cake. Their politics runs second to their art. Under the communists, a fortunate few eastern bloc film-makers enjoyed the privileges of state support: big budgets (by the standard of the day ready resources. Yet "Burnt by the Sun" was not the best of the nominated foreign films Before the Rain" deserved to win and is not even the Synposis of the Movie The End of Days very original. But now "the Russian Spielberg" (as his IMDb biography claims) has come a cropper.