In May 1986, the V Congress of the Union of Filmmakers of the USSR applied the provisions of the Central Committee of the CPSU in the field of cinema. Thus began that radical upheaval of the economic, political and social fabric of the USSR, initiated by the XXVII Congress (February 1986) – known as perestrojka (“reconstruction” or “renewal”) – which marked a profound cultural turning point in the former country of Soviet. On the basis of the new political line inaugurated by Gorbachev, the Soviet film bureaucracy adopted the fundamental principle of activating the human factor, of enhancing the creative potential already present in the country, both by restoring confidence in directors who are no longer young and still active, and by finding new talents among the new generations. On the other hand, fly and that of Tashkent, as well as to the withered and apathetic criticism, which by now limited itself to carrying out a prudent and chancery documentary activity from the newspapers of the two main cinema magazines: “Iskusstvo Kino” (The art of cinema) and “Sovetskij Ekran “(The Soviet screen). That phase of profound self-criticism led at first to the ‘thawing’ of some films that had remained for years, sometimes for decades, to become dusty on the shelves of the Gosfil′mofond (State cinematographic fund), because they incurred the inhibitory sanctions of censorship. Thus it was that the spectators were finally able to see some masterpieces such as Korotkie vstreči (1968, The short meetings) and Dolgie provody (1971, The long goodbyes) by Kira Muratova, which anticipated, for sensitivity and finesse, the research of Aleksej Ju. German; Donkey sčast′e (The happiness of Asja), also titled Istorija Asi Kljačinoj, kotoraja ljubila, da ne vyšla zamuž (Story of Asja Kljačina whom she loved without getting married), shot in 1966 and not distributed until 1988, by Andrej Michalkov Končalovskij; Rodina električestva (1967, The homeland of electricity) by Larisa E. Šepit′ko and Angel (1968, L’angelo) by Andrej S. Smirnov, the latter two inspired by the magnificent prose of Andrei P. Platonov, and many others. Among the most delicate issues finally resolved in the smell of glasnost ′, the defrosting of a film that has been blocked for twenty years, Komissar (1968; La commissaria) by Aleksandr Ja, deserves particular attention. Askol′dov, the director’s debut film and then remained the only one of his career. Finally, the processing and circulation of the films of Aleksandr N. Sokurov, who were stopped due to censorship ostracism; thus the Russian public was able to discover that young talent, considered by many to be the heir of Andrei A. Tarkovskij, through his films Odinokij golos čeloveka (1978, but released in 1987, The solitary voice of man), Elegija (1986, Elegia), up to the most recent, including Moloch (1999). From that moment Sokurov started a brilliant and lasting career, which led him, after many successes, to receive prestigious awards (see below). The initial enthusiasm, which arose from the Gorbačëvian turnaround, was however destined to run aground on the shallows of the very serious economic crisis following the start of the liberalization process of the national market. If the seventies were characterized by the maturation of great directors such as the Georgians El′dar N. and Georgij N. Šengelaja, Gleb A. Panfilov, Elem G. Klimov, Nikita S. Michalkov, the Kyrgyz Tolomuš Okeev, Bolotbek Šamšiev, the Turkmen Chodžakuli (or Chodža Durdy) Narliev, the Eighties opened instead with a deep stagnation in every field of cinema: in dramaturgy as in directing, in technique as in acting. With the exception of films made by some talented directors such as eg. Pokajanie (1986; Pentimento) by Georgian Tengiz E. Abuladze – a profound and problematic film, unthinkable in an earlier era, which attempts to exorcise the Stalinist past -, or the revelation film by Vasilij V. Pičul, Malen′kaja Vera (1988; La piccola Vera) – a film poor in means but highly effective, Goskino who, despite having the slow gestures of excessive bureaucracy, guaranteed, with a positive balance, a capillary diffusion of annual production throughout the Soviet territory. At the same time, private film studios germinated explosively, causing, between 1990 and 1992, a dizzying growth in production. However, the persistent coexistence of giants like Mosfil′me and Lenfil′m – transformed into associations and film centers – with a myriad of small production studios, ended up creating an imbalance to the detriment of the latter.
At the beginning of the nineties, the large institutions, still supported by state funding, albeit drastically curtailed, actually held a monopoly on production, having the entire technical base existing in the country and significantly influencing costs. In order to survive, the administrators of the state studios absorbed far more funds than they actually needed to make the films and, however, many projects were interrupted for lack of investment opportunities. On the other hand, the much desired autonomy had only served to procure sponsorships from abroad, as they continued to look to the European market as the only outlet for placing national film production. Consequently, taken as they were by the sale to foreign televisions, the neo-industrialists of the cinema did not exert any political pressure on the government to urge the development of legislation capable of regulating the relations between production and distribution, or, in general, issues concerning copyright. The statistics relating to the early 1990s outlined an abnormal situation for an economy that was intended to be ‘market’: incredibly, production remained one of the richest in Europe (350 films were produced in 1988 and 178 in 1992 against 150 films produced for example in France in the same period), but the influx of audiences to cinemas was decreasing alarmingly (during the last six months of 1993, the influx of audiences to cinemas recorded a decline of 40%). The Russian public deserted the halls, he was already tired of American cinema which, sold off on the domestic market at a price 5 to 10 times lower than any Russian film, accounted for 75% of the distribution. In Russia, however, huge sums were invested to produce films never released in the distribution circuit of the 2757 cinemas existing in the country, and barely endowed with a certain contractual autonomy. Investments in that cinema never seen before were often the result of the entrepreneurial approximation of real adventurers of the show, but more often they corresponded to a system of money laundering managed by the local mafia and completely devoid of any other purpose. The salvation of Russian cinema could only depend on Western capital and the European public, who was anxiously waiting to rediscover a cinema that had been dormant for some time. Expectations were partly met by some of the most successful co-productions of the late 1980s, which opened a window on the decadence of post-Communist Russia, conquering Europe’s festival audience: Sokurov’s Dni zatmenija (1988, Days of the Eclipse), Posetitel ′ muzeja (1989, The visitor to the museum) by Konstantin S. Lopušanskij, Zamri-umri-voskresni! (1989; Stay still, die and resurrect) by Vitalij E. Kanevskij, Caméra d’or in Cannes in 1990, Taksi bljuz (1990) known under the title Taxi blues by Pavel S, Lungin, Palma for directing in Cannes, and SER (1989; Freedom is Heaven) by Sergej V. Bodrov awarded at the Berlin Film Festival as part of the 1990 Youth Film Forum. However, many Russian directors ended up being reluctant to the conditions dictated by foreign productions, and the magnificent formula of hybridization with Western money proved difficult to implement and not always happy. Proof of this are the subsequent works by Kanevsky, Lungin and Bodrov themselves, respectively Samostojatel′naja žizn ′ (1991; An independent life), Luna Park and Belyj korol ′, krasnaja koroleva (The white king, the red queen), both of 1992, which reuse images and themes already present in previous films. Bodrov himself in 1996 made one of the most interesting films of the period, Kavkazskij plennik (The Prisoner of the Caucasus), co-produced by Russia and Kazakhstan, which confirms the young man’s desire to create a cinema that goes beyond national barriers. Of course, the co-productions with The West continued, especially promoted by French producers, who, as in the days of pre-revolutionary cinema, showed a particular affinity with Russia; films made with foreign capital often reflect the spirit of cooperation that inspired their creation: Okno v Pariž (1993; Russian salad) by Jurij B. Mamin, and Utomlënnye solncem (1994; Sun deceiver) by NS Michalkov, with which the director won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and in 1995 the Oscar for best foreign film, are significant examples.