Category Archives: russian

Documentary: Red Army

A week or so ago, Slava Fetisov was interviewed in the pre-game or intermission of a Red Wings game; I can’t recall if it was an NHLN broadcast game or NBCSN.  It was to promote the documentary, Red Army.  I missed the full interview, mostly because I tend to tune out during pre-game and intermission bloviating.  (Seriously, Mike Milbury, Don Cherry, and others need to stop talking.)  But I was reminded this past weekend as I checked out listings at my local independent theater.  Still showing Oscar Shorts and Birdman – nope – but also Red Army.

The title probably gives a hint about the material, yes?  It’s the name of the Soviet Army but was also the name of the army’s elite hockey team.  The documentary centers around Viacheslav (Slava) Fetisov, defenseman and captain of the Red Army hockey team.  It also covers the development of hockey in the Soviet Union, competition with the NHL, and the transition of Russian hockey players to the NHL following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In some ways, the film is heavy-handed and unoriginal:  do viewers need to be spoon-fed tales of how hard life was in the Soviet Union post World War II?  Possibly not, especially in the way the director/narrator did the voice-over as he talks to Fetisov.  On the other hand, there is a lot of Russian hockey history packed into the documentary that I was unaware of.  I’m looking for books on Anatoly Tarasov now.  And, dear godlings, the skating of the Russian team was gorgeous.  (I love beautiful skate work and passing, and would be happy if fighting and boarding disappeared from NHL hockey forever.)

Fetisov is an interesting interview/subject; he more or less ignores the interviewer, busy on his phone, until he wants to talk, and then he talks around some uncomfortable things.  By the end, the Minister of Sport appointment and photo opportunities with Putin kind of explain how he responded sometimes.  Of course, he was open about some really uncomfortable topics, like how betrayed he felt by his defense partner, Kasatonov, when he quit because the Ministry would not let him play in the US after promising publicly that they would let him.

The interviewees include Victor Tretiak, as well as Kasatonov, Krutov, and others.  Borrowed footage shows up from a variety of sources, with some amazing clips of kids being trained in hockey camps, etc.  Young(er) Lou Lamoriello has a brief appearance, and the announcing of Doc Emrick can be heard at one point 🙂  And once again the pronunciation of Russian last names and the mangling by North American announcers pains me.  Really, is it that hard to get the emphasis right?  Fet-EE-sov, not FET-i-sov.

All in all, I’d say that Red Army is worth seeing if you are a fan of ice hockey or if you are interested in mid-to-late 20th century politics and history in general.

From a purely personal perspective, I found the selection of the few recent Russian draftees odd:  Ilya Kovalchuk, first overall pick in 2001, but currently retired from the NHL and playing in the KHL; Alex Ovechkin, another first pick who is shown negatively in the documentary in terms of PR; and Nail Yakupov, another first pick who is really struggling in the NHL.  No mention of Pavel Datsyuk, who has ridiculous hands and speed, two Stanley Cup rings, and a boat-load of awards.  No mention of Evgeni Malkin, second overall pick behind Ovechkin, with a Stanley Cup ring to go with the Conn Smythe, Calder, Hart, Art Ross, and Ted Lindsay awards.  But then again, maybe the point being made was that perhaps Russian players would be better off playing in Russia, where they’d be more respected?  I don’t know.

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Filed under Read or seen, russian

I shouldn’t listen

I am a bad woman. Last night at dinner, two young men came in to the restaurant and asked for job applications. While they were filling them out a few seats over, one of the waitresses came up and chatted with them…in Russian. I could catch phrases and pieces of their conversation. My Russian is nearly gone, but I could still figure out some of it, basic stuff about where they were living and how long they’d been here and where they’d worked.

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The Syrian Bride

I watched a very good movie last night, The Syrian Bride. Set in the Golan Heights, it follows the fictional wedding day of a Druze woman who is marrying by arrangement a Syrian cousin. Once she crosses into Syria, though, she will never be permitted to return.

The small scale dramas are all about her family: her sister Amal, who is trapped in an unhappy arranged marriage; her brother Marwan, a very slick guy engaged in “business” (I assume smuggling or something black/grey market); her brother Hattem, who married a Russian woman and was disowned; and her father Hammed, a political dissent recently released from prison, who is caught between the political/religious elders, Israeli security, and his family.

The larger issues are political, of course. Israeli bureaucrats create a special stamp just for Mona’s passport, which the Syrian border guards cannot by law accept because of the dispute about the ownership/nationality of the Golan. The UN person is utterly frustrated by the attempt to be an intermediary between the two, ultimately abandoning the situation in order to catch her flight home to France. So Mona is left sitting in no man’s land, not permitted to go back home (her passport had been stamped with the exit stamp already, you see) but not allowed to enter Syria.

The dialogue varied between Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, English and French. Sadly, I grasped much more of the scant Russian dialogue with my defunct Russian than I did of the Arabic. Most of the Arabic I caught was numbers, greetings, nouns and verbs; just words, random shards of dialogue.

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Filed under arabic, movies, russian

Speak less Russian?

Well, the idea seems to be not about speaking less Russian, but about speaking more of the indigenous language that was suppressed by the official use of Russian during the Soviet-era. Estonia is promoting the speaking and learning of Estonian, as are other former satellites.

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Lots of things going on

I received an email from one of my college Russian profs — my favorite instructor, Alla Aleksandrovna Bluykher — is retiring, and I’m invited to her retirement celebration. Alla specifically asked for me, which is flattering (it’s been 10 years!) and a bit guilt-inducing (since I’ve let my Russian lapse so badly). But I’m off to Red Square at the Belvedere one evening this week to celebrate her 25 years of teaching Russian to bumbling English speakers.

The Jerusalem Fund is offering a workshop on the art of Arabic calligraphy later this month. I just signed up, along with a couple of my classmates.

And I’m back from Cleveland, where I went to attend “trAnsfoRmaTionS,” a conference on Arts Education. According to Drew Carey, Cleveland Rocks! I’m not sure I would go that far, but the conference was excellent.

Food note: had most excellent meat loaf at Pickwick & Frolic’s, a restaurant near the hotel that seems to have a history as some sort of burlesque venue. The meat load was angus beef mixed with chorizo. Mmmm. Accompanied by garlic mashed and a glorious corn pudding.

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Filed under arabic, food, russian, yamd