Maria Kuvshinova

Film Critic

Voted for

Personal Shopper2016Olivier Assayas
The Wonders2014Alice Rohrwacher
Portrait of a Lady on Fire2019Céline Sciamma
Теснота (Closeness)2017Kantemir Balagov
The Talented Mr. Ripley1999Anthony Minghella
Black Widow2021Cate Shortland
4 LUNI, 3 SAPTAMINI SI 2 ZILE2007Cristian Mungiu
Carol2014Todd Haynes
Titane2020Julia Ducournau
Oldboy2003Park Chan-wook


Personal Shopper

2016 France, Germany, Czech Republic, Belgium

The main character is waiting a sign from the other world where her twin brother has gone. In this film the eternal human hope of immortality enters into symbiosis with the uncertainty of the digital present. The girl receives a sign in the form of mysterious text messages and I don’t know of any other film that shows the agency of the text in such a way, the agency of that new digital incorporeal being that arises from our projections, real correspondents and smartphone interfaces (a group of Russian independent journalists including a prominent documentary director Alexander Rastorguev was lured out to The Central African Republic by such a 'text' pretending to be a fixer and killed there in 2018). Technically, Personal Shopper is also a perfect example of showings a small screen in a space of a big screen. And in the middle of this disturbing subtraction (subtracting brother from sister, male from female, reality from communication) there is Kristen Stewart, playing not only a character but her own heightened presence.

The Wonders

2014 Italy, Switzerland, Germany

With her second movie Alice Rohrwacher opens to the world the value and the legitimacy of a female childhood. This is a new chapter of Girl studies in a form of a nostalgic dream. But instead of reviewing this movie which in some way awakened me from decades of internal misogyny, I would like to tell a story reminded me of Le meraviglie. Summer of 2022, my activist friend is helping families from destructed Mariupol to travel from the Russian deportation to Europe via the Baltic countries. The bus driver in Riga refuses to take one Mariupol family's excess luggage. My friend with her pink eyebrows and a blue furry bag warns him she'd block the road for the bus until he takes the stuff in. A seven-year old girl who recently lost her house is looking at my friend exactly the same way the girl from Le meraviglie was looking at a fairy lady played by Monica Bellucci.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

2019 France

This film is an impressive act of deconstructing the whole Western idea of art, artist and creating art. Female gaze becomes the subject and the method of this movie. Uniqueness (such is uniqueness of a female artist during pre-modern times) in history does not mean inauthenticity which opens a door for thousands of untold stories. The Muse turns out to be a co-author of an artist arguing passive role of a female body in art. Céline Sciamma creates a cinematic masterpiece per se as a combination of intellectual, visual and audial components. And of course it is also a great love story.

Теснота (Closeness)


Very few Russian movies made during the post-Soviet period will survive the recent Russian-Ukrainian war as far as almost all cultural product produced in Putin's Russia in some way infected with dehumanisation and imperialistic mindset. But some works made by the students of Alexander Sokurov from the North Caucasus (colonies conquered by Russia in 1850s) would stay as an example of a non-metropolian gaze. The touchings story of a Jewish girl in post-Soviet Nal'chick trying to save her brother kidnapped for ransom is a rare example of an untold story in Russian cinema. Family ties as a salvation and as a personal prison is a metaphor of a society lacks any working institutions. No wonder the director Kantemir Balagov along with his partner Kira Kovalenko, also a director from Sokurov's class, is in exile now after their vocal protest against the Russian aggression in Ukraine.

The Talented Mr. Ripley

1999 USA

Last Summer this movie suddenly emerged in Top 10 of Russian Netflix making me to rewatch it again for maybe tenth time. Minghella's brilliant idea to turn Highsmith's artists into jazz lovers (paintings are not looking good onscreen and the rythm of jazz improvisation corresponds with Tom Ripley's survival improvisations) makes the movie one of the best screen adaptations of a book ever. After more than twenty years after being made this film is amazingly modern in its approach of class and gender. And it's also a cinematic journey to Italy in a company of the most brilliant actors and actresses of their generation.

Black Widow

2021 USA

As many cinephiles I've never tried to approach Marvel Cinematic Universal until recently. But such a big movies being watched and criticised by millions are now much more sophisticated and revolutionary in their messages than many works by prominent auteurs. In Black Widow we can see a unique type of onscreen bound between two female characters which possible only in MCU: two doomed sisters both with their reproductive system deleted to turn them into killing machines meet up as an adults to save the world.


2007 Romania, Netherlands, France

In the 2000s the Romanian cinema did the job for the whole post-Soviet block including Russia providing the film world with an impressive reflection of an absurd and antihuman totalitarian system. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is also one of the best movies about the power and sacrifice of female friendship.


2014 United Kingdom, USA

One more perfect adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's text in my list. Starting from the interesting decision to make it with 16 mm film to the magical presence of Cate Blanchett onscreen this movie remains one of my dearest movie experiences of all times.


2020 France, Belgium

Titane for me was a proof that such and old audiovisual form as 'full-length feature film' is still able to be creative (even revolutionary) and include a significant amount of energy. Satirical, prophetic and sentimental this movie in a surprisingly creative way depicts the current transformations of love, family, gender, affection and the idea of a human body itself.


2003 Republic of Korea

After almost 20 years I can still fill the enormous amount of energy coming from the screen. I may not be very pleased with the graphic violence onscreen nowadays but the idea of captivity and revenge seem to be very modern in the context of current events.

Further remarks

As you left us to decide what is 'film', I've restricted myself to a traditional 'full-length feature audiovisual piece with the beginning, the middle and the ending between 1.5 and 3 hours long', even if I consider TV series or TikTok videos as a form of cinema.

Three years ago my partner and I started a new cinema site, (now frozen due to the war censorship), and we noticed that the 'retro' in cinema now starts in the 1990s, not in the 1920s-1960s like in our younger years. That's why there are no really old films on my list. The character of cinephilia changed a lot in recent years, but it's not very easy for a person in their 40s to give up his/her habit of reproducing the old hierarchies. In the past few years we revised many concepts, but it still took me time and some effort not to include the 'real classics' on my list, in so far as watching black-and-white classics still makes us 'real cinephiles'.

But I've ended up choosing the movies I watch and rewatch again through years: the movies that have had some impact on me and (very important) on some other people (as far as I consider cinema a form of communication in the first place). I yet don't know how we manage to not create the new hierarchies, but at least I hope they will be more fluid.

Taking part in this poll is a strange and pleasant experience for me as far as nowadays I have no opportunity to operate as a film critic. Most film studios and Netflix left Russia; mentioning 'war' in press could cost you 10 years in prison; mentioning LGBTQ+ in media soon would be punished with an enormous penalty; our website is closed after anonymous threats; my close friend, a journalist, was killed by a Russian missile in Kyiv; my other close friend, a Ukrainian producer, is waiting to be drafted to the army or killed in his house. No cinema, no sense in covering cinema, but paradoxically cinema is the only subject I talk with my friends except war. So there is still some meaning in it. Thank you for inviting me.