The 38th Moscow Film Festival prize “For an Outstanding Contribution to the World Cinema” is awarded to British film director Stephen Frears
Stephen Frears started his filmmaking career on British television, being primarily associated with BBC, where he often collaborated with his longtime master Lindsay Anderson. There he developed a certain approach – both detached and at the same time almost intimate - to depicting the nuances of human interactions, which he maintained throughout his further career in cinema. Having gained international acclaim in the mid-80s with the passionate dramas "My Beautiful Laundrette" (1985) and "Prick Up Your Ears" (1987), Frears seemed to be the most recent contribution to the rich tradition of British social film, which he rushed to disprove by moving to Hollywood to make a costume drama based on classic Choderlos de Laclos novel, "Dangerous Liaisons" (1988), entertain the adventures of young and scammy John Cusack with fashionably greased hair in "The Grifters" (1990), and tell the story of a "little big man" (played by Dustin Hoffman) who after accidentally becoming a hero and granting the honour for it to another person, suddenly stops being "little" and recognizes himself as truly "big" ("Hero", 1992).
The concept of seeing the story through the eyes of such a "little person" - up until the point when the said person actually becomes the center of it - is something Frears keeps coming back in his later films. In "Mary Reilly" (1995) it is the titular maid that becomes the key witness to the "strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde". In "High Fidelity" Frears casts John Cusack as a loyal enthusiast of classic pop/ rock and vinyl (for that the film was actually dubbed "Fanatic" for the official Russian release) Rob, whose rather trivial romantic misfortunes curiously outdo all those great musicians and their songs that Rob so frantically worships. Same - in "Dirty Pretty Things", where an unexpected love between two illegal immigrants surviving the realities of the social bottom of London, proves more powerful than the absurdist world that surrounds them. Like any real humanitarian, Frears has mastered the skill of pretending to be cynical; only his irony or critical eye are never a sign of patronizing or know-it-all indifference to his topics or characters - Frears definitely cares and is genuinely curious in the mechanisms that make humanity with all its interactions functioning.
This becomes abundantly clear in "The Queen" (2006), where the nuances of the etiquette stop being a non-obligatory detail and becomes the basis for the whole plot, as the film starts with freshly elected Tony Blair learning to properly address Her Majesty, and develops into the whole of British monarchy being threatened to fall apart because of the royal family's formal attitude towards the tragic death of their "former" princess. The actual plot here comes off as a formality though, while in the spotlight is the titular heroine, masterfully played by Helen Mirren, who structures her part as both a human being and a woman inside a very special family circle, and the carrier of an experience and responsibility, much greater than that of any "regular" human being. Despite his usual snarky intonation, Frears, himself, regards his heroine with obvious admiration, while Helen Mirren becomes the first in the further pantheon of fabulous grand-dames of Frears' cinema - Michelle Pfeiffer in "Chéri" (2009), Judi Dench in Philomena (2013), Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins (2016). All - "very impressive women", according to the director himself, who, "in case you make a fool of yourself, will let you know" - which, come to think of it, might be the most nuanced of all nuances of human interactions.