While President Reagan and Soviet leader Gorbachev are cautiously trying to find a common ground on arms control, director Andrei Konchalovsky is preparing to take the next step in movie business de'tente. Konchalovsky, the director of "Runaway Train" and the new "Shy People," left Russia a decade ago but is still a Soviet citizen, and he plans to shoot his next project in his homeland.
A film biography of Rachmaninoff, the movie will be, in his words, "an American film, with Russian services, about a great Russian composer. Even now, it's hard for me to believe that it's possible to do that. For a long time they rejected my existence, because they wanted me to be either in Moscow or abroad." He went abroad, while his brother, Nikita Mikhalov, stayed in Russia and made his own movies ("Dark Eyes," with Marcello Mastroianni, is his latest). Now, Konchalovsky says, things have changed dramatically: "When I was in Russia, I made a film about Russian peasantry which was banned. And now, even the film that was banned 20 years ago is about to be released."
Konchalovsky's new film, "Shy People," is not explicitly about politics: It's the story of a sophisticated woman, Jill Clayburgh, encountering the wildness and superstition of the Louisiana bayou. But the director says he got the idea for "Shy People" a decade ago when he was shooting "Siberia" in the Soviet Union -- and when he wrote the original script shortly after leaving Russia, it dealt with the culture shock felt by a Swedish family in Turkey or Sicily.
Even though it's now set within different cultures in the United States, he says he was thinking about broader issues: "It's not a picture about America, in a sense. It's about two different mentalities: One is based on appreciation of personal liberties, and the other is based on an appreciation of tradition. It can be a picture about the relationship between East and West, if you want."
Speaking of culture shock: "The Deceivers," currently shooting in India, has run into considerable flak from local political factions that dislike the idea of a film focusing on the Thuggee cult, a 19th-century group that attacked Western tourists. Small acts of sabotage have been frequently reported from the set in Jaipur, India -- and the latest reports say that producer Ismail Merchant and coproducer Tim van Rellim have been charged with obscenity. The two men, who are no longer in India, labeled the accusation "ridiculous."
NAACP's Image Awards
For the third time in the history of the Image Awards, the NAACP has failed to nominate anyone in the Best Actress category, and the organization has bemoaned the state of movie roles for the 1,600 black women in the Screen Actors Guild. "Roles for black women do not seem to exist beyond the realm of comedic feature films," said awards chairwoman Sandra Evers-Manly. (The NAACP could almost have filled a slate of nominees with all of Whoopi Goldberg's female Eddie Murphy acts: "Jumping Jack Flash," "Fatal Beauty" ...) In the categories that were filled, four films dominated: "Hollywood Shuffle," "Lethal Weapon," " 'Round Midnight" and "Beverly Hills Cop II."
"Fatal Attraction," still No. 1 on the box office charts, recently passed "The Secret of My Success" to become the third biggest grossing film of 1987. That means Paramount Pictures, the leading studio for the past couple of years, has released the three biggest movies of the year: "Beverly Hills Cop II," "The Untouchables" and "Fatal Attraction" ... Anthony Perkins' first film as a director was "Psycho III," a relative disappointment commercially. His second film will also be macabre, though "Mr. Christmas Dinner" sounds designed to play down the scares in favor of laughs. It's about an obese man who's overjoyed when a beautiful woman invites him to her backwoods home for Christmas dinner -- only to find that he's there not as her date, but as the main course.