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    Alexei German, Russian film director critical of Stalin

    ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Alexei German, a Russian film director best known for his works offering a bitter view of life in the Soviet Union under dictator Josef Stalin, died Thursday at 74, his son said.

    Mr. German died of heart failure at a hospital in his hometown, St. Petersburg, his son, Alexei German Jr., said.

    Mr. German came to prominence internationally for his 1983 production ‘‘My Friend Ivan Lapshin’’ about a police investigator battling a criminal gang. Censors blocked the film’s release for two years because of its realistic depiction of Soviet life in the wake of the Stalinist terror of the late 1930s.


    The film’s release heralded the era of reforms launched by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and was aired on Soviet television in 1986 to much clamor and public debate.

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    The production of ‘‘Khrustalyov, My Car,’’ a grotesque narrative centered on Stalin’s final days, endured multiple delays because of Russia’s post-Soviet economic meltdown. It received a hostile reception at its Cannes premiere in 1998 but later attained cult status.

    In a 2012 article, critic Anton Dolin said ‘‘to many Russian critics, cinephiles, and viewers, Mr. German is their national cinema’s foremost figure after [Andrei] Tarkovsky.’’

    ‘‘Others insist that, in fact, he is more important and more original,’’ Dolin wrote.

    Mr. German’s output was starkly shot and marked in its emphasis on mood and oppressive atmosphere over traditional linear narrative.


    His first solo work, ‘‘Trial on The Road’’ — made in 1971 but barred from release until 1986 — was based on a war story by his father, and told the story of an escaped prisoner of war compelled to win back the trust of his comrades.