Hidden Gem: Talitha Piggott

On this day in 1868, Alexei Maximovich Peshkov, know as Maxim Gorky, was born.

Programming Director Talitha Piggott celebrates the anniversary of Maxim Gorky’s birthday by choosing her favourite films from Gorky Studios in our collection.

Tatyana Lioznova directing her blockbuster espionage series 17 Moments of Spring at Gorky Film Studios

While Mosfilm was batting out massively popular crowd-pleasers, and Lenfilm was following an avant-garde path, Gorky Studios occupied a unique place in the Russian studio ecosystem.

Sharing neither the ambition of Mosfilm for blockbuster content or the art-house sensibility of St Petersburg, Gorky Studios was a welcoming home for literary adaptation and some of Soviet Russia’s most well-respected directors. Tatiana Lioznova directed the famed series Seventeen Moments of Spring at Gorky Studios; Vasili Shukshin directed all his films under the studio moniker.

The studio was finally given the title of Maxim Gorky in 1948, after many a renaming. By the end of the Soviet Union, Gorky Film Studios had produced more than 1,000 films. So, here are three of my favourite Gorky Film Studio’s films on Klassiki:

‘Rationally I know as a person you’re nothing special, yet I try to disregard it…. Everyone needs to be in love, with someone or something.’ We'll Live 'Til Monday (1968)

We’ll Live ‘Til Monday (1968), Stanoslav Rostotsky

This beautiful and melancholic film dives deep into the complexity of the human condition. Set in a typical Soviet high school, we see this take shape in Ilya, a former soldier who attempts to find joy in his work as a teacher. While the tragedy of World War II hangs heavy, Ilya must also avoid the affections of a former pupil turned colleague. And so the misunderstandings of a generational divide are exasperated by a postwar generation.

Little Vera (1988), Vasili Pichul

Famous for being the first Soviet film to show frontal nudity, Little Vera, played by Nataliya Negoda, is a small-town girl trapped in a provincial port town.

Vera is trying to escape her dysfunctional family, and her desperation leads her to lie to handsome student Sergei. Notorious for its sexuality and brutal dialogue, Little Vera characterises the preoccupations of perestroika and the decline of faith across the Soviet Union in the late 1980s.

Happy-Go-Lucky (1972), Vasily Shukshin

Vasily Shukshin delivers probably his most arresting film in this story of a Siberian tractor driver and his wife who travel to the South for the first time. The rural couple collides with various urban archetypes, including a linguistics professor and a con artist, but beyond these humorous interactions lingers a quiet melancholy, a fitting cross-section of life in the USSR and the struggle for belonging.

‘Well, that’s the end guys’. Happy Go Lucky (1972)