Category Archives: movie

Outrageous / Bespredel (Igor Gostev, 1989)

Bespredel is a drama about life of a typical Soviet correction facility. As it usually goes, there is a complex system of power distribution: the warden and the enforcers constitute formal authority, but the only thing they actually do is allow the most hardcore criminal element to establish their own ironfisted rule – as long as the dominant role of the overseers is acknowledged, and the rest of the populus is kept under control. Kalgan is not a career criminal, but he manages to gain some authority due to his strength and relatively autonomous position; he is then presented with a choice, and caves at the hope of possible early release to become one of the foremen. But it all changes when the real powers that be decide to degrade a person (the Philatelist) who got to prison pretty much accidentally, for collecting and buying mail stamps, and who was too intelligent, too pure, to withstand actual assault. After Kalgan fails to protect him, the climate in the facility changes so drastically, it threatens to shatter the mere principles of its existence.

Bespredel as a term relates to the situation when the rulers start using violence not just as a means of management, but for the pleasure of absolute power and without taking consequences into consideration.

Except for the issue of abusive language use (it’s a common thing in reality, but not in the movie), the depiction of a russian prison and its practices is very plausible; as far as I know, it remained pretty much unchanged since the movie was conceived and realized. It is really a place that would either crush or dehumanize the absolute majority of those who get there, which is determined by the system itself, by the way it has developed over the decades of soviet rule. The film tells about the resulting situation truthfully; basically, it’s the portrayal of hell in the form of a prison, because everything about this story is horrible.

At that, there are no physiological details, so it’s not gore; all the conflicts are shown mostly from the psychological standpoint. The production wasn’t spoiled with a lot of funding, but in this particular case it’s probably a good thing, because that poorness resonates with the story setting very well. Besides, the cast is quite great, and their acting is very good quality.

It’s a powerful movie that may be hard to watch, because it not only depicts the cruelties of our times quite vividly, it also takes a glance at the absence of justice as the fundamental principle of the universe: notwithstanding the fact that the underlying conflict crosses into the open form, we understand that ultimately nothing would change. Not there, anyway.

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Thursday (Skip Woods, 1998)

Thursday is a story about a guy who tried to leave his criminal past behind, but it caught up on him when an old friend of his came for a visit, and after that people seeking money stolen from them came as well.

This film is a sort of trashy: the budget wasn’t too big, so all the special effects look cheap, and overall style of direction and photography shows inclination to snazzy, excessively ostentatious devices, used as a rule to cover up lack of actual moviemaking experience, or fool the audience into thinking that, but I don’t think the latter is the case. But, however crappy it may seem on the outside, the essence of the movie is more about the story and the characters inhabiting it.

The story is not too complex: apart from some flashbacks into the heroe’s criminal career of the past, most of the action happens in the present, it’s linear, and amounts to the succession of bright personalities entering the scene, unfolding in the process of interaction with the master of the house, and then leaving it, typically by way of a corpse. The unfolding part, of course, is the most interesting, because the personalities are all very different, all very wicked (that weirdly makes them attractive), and all certainly very interesting. And though it may seem like a weak foundation for a good movie, but it actually works pretty well.

Surely, the technical part of the implementation could’ve been better (which makes it the case appropriate for a remake), but all in all it’s quite fascinating the way it is.

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River / Reka (Aleksey Balabanov, 2002)

Reka is a complicated story of a leper colony on the river bank somewhere in Yakutia. There is love there, and betrayal, and jealousy, and constant threat of death by starvation, and cruelty, and murder, too.

The film produces an impression of a concentrate, with enough events to fill a mini-series, all squeezed into 3 quarters of an hour. The story evolves too fast; the narrative thread got lost pretty much right away, and then I just drifted with the torrent in a hope to regain some understanding along the way. Which I did, even though the characters are impossible to remember in the beginning; besides, the essence can still be caught without even the knowledge of spoken language – to a certain extent, that is.

All in all, I found the story educational (a little bit), but not very interesting. It’s hard to sympathize with a character in that kind of tempo, especially with barely established comprehension of the circumstances. Can be recommended to Balabanov’s fans; but I don’t think there is a plausible probability I would want to watch this film for the 2nd time.

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The Serpent and the Rainbow (Wes Craven, 1988)

The Serpent and the Rainbow is a story about an anthropologist, who happens to be on Haiti this one time, and comes across the voodoo cult practitioners, as well as some of its victims. He later learns that there is a special powder that can make a person into a zombie; he joins forces with a local doctor, and together they come in contact with a sorcerer, who can produce such powder, which he wants research and maybe make medicine out of it. As it happens, the country at that time is ruled by a dictator (Baby Doc Duvalier), and his chief of secret police also considers himself a wizard of dark arts. He doesn’t like the american hanging around, and eventually applies force to drive him out.

This film is one of the most curious kinds of movies out there. On the one hand, the mystical component of the story seems quite ridiculous (even mixed with scientific approach); the story overall is a little trashy; and the special effects are rather poorly implemented (which indicates low budget).

Interestingly enough, those things do not make it a bad movie, because there are other components to this blend that are really well-done, and they successfully counterbalance the bullshit. First of all, is the aforementioned scientific approach. As the concept goes, the powder is an extremely potent drug, a mixture of highly unlikely elements, which recipe has been polished for centuries; it causes a human being to go into a death-like state, but it’s effect withers out after some time, and it’s mostly due to the fact that such person would later awake already buried, as well as to the local cultural implications, that he or she would be considered to be a zombie enslaved by the one who applied the powder, and why they would also believe that. Its effect is extremely unconventional, but ultimately there is nothing mystical about it. Of course, this idea would later be spoiled a little bit by introducing obvious magic, most of which was pretty tacky. But to me it seems very powerful, and those later additions – more like insignificant husk.

Second thing I truly liked about it is the character of Dargent Peytraud, the chief of secret police, played by Zakes Mokae. In his portrayal this character appears as a man, who was utterly corrupted by the absolute power concentrated in his hands, so much so, he started to believe he possesses supernatural abilities – and that’s on top of obvious psychopathy, which was heavily exaggerated by his position. He managed to create a very comprehensive image, one that is quite frightening, for reasons that have nothing to do with any kind of mystics. And, once again, the admixture of witchery damaged that a little, but not at all critically.

Referencing the events of the film to the events of the real history was also a nice touch. All in all, notwithstanding the ridiculousness, and flashy special effects, this is a very interesting movie with some great findings, among which is a more or less plausible concept of zombification.

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Sinister (Scott Derrickson, 2012)

Sinister is a horror about a true-crime writer, who moves with his family (wife and 2 children) to a house in a small town, where a whole family was hanged and one little girl vanished without a trace. As soon as they move in, he finds a box with old films: on one of them the said hanging is recorded, others contain other, equally brutal, murders that happened before in various parts of the US over a span of nearly 60 years. He quickly realizes that the killings are connected somehow.

Technical implementation of this movie is very good: all the visual effects, the sounds, the music, the makeup, – these aspects are just great, nothing to complain about at all. Same goes to the acting – every critical figure in the story is depicted with relevance and accuracy.

But the story is kind of stupid. It is designed with no other purpose besides scaring the audience, hence all the dead children, the ancient deity, and so on; the problem here is the lack of relatability. The idea is so far-fetched, hardly anybody could believe in its feasibility and, correspondingly, don it on oneself. And bugaboos for the sake of fear are not that hard to figure out and dismiss as a result. Also, the story is completely predictable: I knew what the ending would be the second that business with repeating addresses faced the surface, which was pretty early. Finally, the unnecessary conditionalities irritated quite a bit: for one thing, why would anybody, after hearing some noise in the middle of the night, walk around without switching lights on in every freaking room along the way? Not to mention incomprehensible decision of not addressing the police about the films – not in the beginning, not even later.

At the same time, I appreciate the fact, that the mythology of this film is not based on christian concepts; but it doesn’t really defeats the aforementioned defects. All in all, the film’s not that scary, and it’s mostly thanks to them.

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The Debt (John Madden, 2010)

The Debt is a hollywood adaptation of the Israeli movie Ha-Hov, which translates exactly the same. It’s about 3 Mossad agents, who were supposed to capture and subsequently bring to justice a nazi war criminal, a doctor who conducted experimenting on humans in one of the concentration camps. The covert operation didn’t go as planned, and they had to gun him down instead of bringing to trial, or, at least, that’s what they said to everybody. They have been praised as heroes for that doing for the next 30 something years, but then the danger of truth appeared, and so they had to act.

The original film I’ve seen around 5 years ago; it was pretty great in general, although lacking quality in minor things (like supporting cast acting). This version retells the story more or less in the same way, albeit with a few differences. Relationship between the 3 is given much more attention, and prolonged in time; the finale is a little different; and the Berlin operation is shown in more detail, specifically where the attempt to move the prisoner our of the city had failed. All of it sums up to a more thrilling story, which is also more emotional, maybe a little too much; it has that hollywood gloss of technical indefectibility; and the overall level of acting is higher.

Ultimately, though, the necessity to make another movie based on the same exact plot escapes me – moneymaking aside, that is. Also, there some minor, albeit irritating holes in this implementation: for one thing, young versions of the male characters looking deceptively alike; another example would be: if the timing in the final scenes was so tense, where did Rachel find time to write a whole letter for the reporter?

All in all, the story tries to be captivating, and sometimes succeeds in doing so, but there is nothing unique about it.

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Maigret Sets a Trap (Ashley Pearce, 2016)

Maigret Sets a Trap is a screen adaptation of one of Georges Simenon’s detective novels about Jules Maigret, chief inspector of the Paris police. The story is about a series of murders of dark-haired women in vicinity of Montmartre. Because there’s little to no evidence to find the killer, and the tension in the community is growing as the time goes by, Maigret has to take a risk by setting a trap.

This is a good movie: it’s very carefully executed on every level, most of all – on the directorial one; the acting is rather amazing, especially that of Rowan Atkinson, who is much more interesting as a dramatic actor than a comedian (at least, to me); and, I think, the depiction of Paris is very authentic, even though it’s the Englishmen who did it, and all the characters are talking in English as well. All in all, it’s a subtle, quiet work, very much within the limits of the genre, which is probably its biggest flaw, but seeing that it comes from the literary basis, it’s inherent and therefore is a part of the deal. Personally, I enjoyed the movie, it was quite entertaining, and I think that the work done by the film production crew is fascinating, but its exceptional affiliation with the genre makes it not interesting enough for me.

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Curve (Tim Egan, 2016)

Curve is a short horror movie about a girl who is stuck on a curvy surface above what seems to be the abyss.

A perfectly minimalistic film: one actress, one location, masterful play with sound and light – it appears nothing else is required for a quality horror. It is really scary, even though there are no hints whatsoever at how the situation might have emerged, i.e. it has no evident ties to the reality. But the universe is full of endless possibilities, so why not a one like this? Laws of physics seem to be in place; the development of the initial setting is logical; the acting is great. For proper effect, better watch it with darkness outside:

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For a Few Dollars More / Per qualche dollaro in più (Sergio Leone, 1965)

Per qualche dollaro in più is the 2nd Leone’s work in the genre of western. It tells a story of 2 bounty killers hunting a very dangerous criminal called El Indio, who just recently escaped from prison and is now planning, with his gang, to rob a well-fortified bank. The bounty killers are in it for the money, obviously: El Indio alone would bring them $10,000, and his gang, in sum, – even more than that. But there’s too many bandits for any of them to handle (even though they both are extremely skilled shooters), so they decide to join forces. Clint Eastwood’s character is supposed to infiltrate the gang and hit it from the inside, while Lee Van Cleef’s hero would strike from the outside. Needless to say, things didn’t go just as planned…

This is an interesting work, because it signifies Leone’s progress as the director: unlike Per un pugno di dollari, it has a more complex story and heroes driven by normal human incentives, like revenge and greed, instead of insurmountable nobility of spirit, but it’s not quite as perfect as Once Upon a Time in The West, although pretty close to it.

There is a lot of truly great stuff about this film, including Morricone’s wonderful music, great acting (including secondary characters, like that of Klaus Kinski), and that little twist in the end that puts everything in a slightly different perspective. But, as charismatic as he is, Gian Maria Volontè, who played El Indio, sometimes tried to hard, which is especially evident in his laughter. It’s not that important for the big picture of things, but it does spoil the impression a little bit.

Nevertheless, this is a fascinating movie, really one of Leone’s best works, and a wonderful example of a genre film that is not any less art than a traditional drama.

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Spirit of a Denture (Alan Shelley, 2012)

Spirit of a Denture is a part of the Jameson First Shot marketing campaign. It tells about a dentist who gets a real pirate as a client, with all the teeth problems pirates usually had.

The film is sort of funny, and Spacey, of course, is always a strong argument in its favour; also, everything is implemented on a decent professional level. But, ultimately, this is not a story, but merely an anecdote, too silly to be taken seriously. Still, it’s a nice entertainment, so you might wanna check it out:

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Othello (Alexandr Gryazin, 2015)

Othello by Alexandr Gryazin is a short film based on an episode from the tragedy by William Shakespear.

Action period is transferred into some resemblance of modern times: some rebels are sitting in a bunker with prisoners whom they are torturing to get information, and talk between each other. Most of their conversations seems utterly meaningless – that is, they are obviously not meaningless, because they are Shakespearian verses, but the discrepancy with the situation at hand is so deep, it becomes excruciatingly hard to tie the 2 together. It’s like action is one thing, and the blah-blah is another, completely unrelated thing. This, combined with poor direction in terms of work with actors, as well as of depiction of violent behaviour, makes the film uncomfortable and ultimately ludicrous. Feel free to check for yourself:

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The Great Feast / La grande bouffe (Marco Ferreri, 1973)

La grande bouffe is a story about 4 friends who decided to get away from their respective families and friends, and have a major feast together. They ordered enough food and drinks to feed a small village for half a year and secluded themselves in a mansion nobody knew about. Quite soon they realized that female company would be a nice addition, and so one of them brought in 3 hookers, and then they met a young plump junior school teacher who was having a lesson nearby and invited her to join. For several days in a row all they were doing is eating nicely cooked food (one of the friends was a chef) and have sex; and not until the first of them passed away it started to become clear what this whole thing is really about.

Kind of a strange story, if you think about it: we don’t know what drove the friends to the decision they made, not in the beginning, nor when it’s over; all we see is the process, which is quite fascinating, of course. The atmosphere of the movie contains not even a hint of death, even after first corpses occupied their rightful places behind the glass. And it would seem that a hope of happiness would stop the madness, but no, the feast went on and on, till the bitter end. And the affection that blossomed right in the middle of it is probably the most uncanny thing about the whole ordeal. I would still have to comprehend this story, which might require another viewing or two, but I feel like it would be worth it.

In terms of technical implementation, I can only think of one thing I don’t quite trust: in real life preparation of all those courses would’ve required a lot of staff and a lot of work while in the movie it seemed more like they appeared out of thin air; but, of course, for the sake of the idea, it couldn’t have been done any other way. The acting is wonderful, same as the direction and everything else: there is nothing there that would interfere with the viewer’s process. All in all, this film is definitely something else, – something totally worth checking out. A very curious page in the european cinema.

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Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller, 2014)

Foxcatcher is a story about olympic champions brothers Dave and Mark Schultz who became the central force of the US wrestling team organized and sponsored by the heir of one of the wealthiest american family of pre-Internet era John E. du Pont. What started off as an exciting opportunity for both of the sportsmen and the magnate alike, quite soon got spoiled by du Pont’s psychological instability and lack of proper self-judgement, and eventually unravelled into a tragedy. The film is based on real events. Foxcatcher is the name of the du Pont’s farm (more like estate), and, correspondingly, of the training facility and the team.

This here is a powerful story executed on a very high professional level of every major aspect. Unless you know the story behind the screenplay, you won’t be able to foretell how it’s going to end, although there would always be a certain unease connected to the character of John du Pont; the construction of the dramaturgy is subtle that way. Miller’s directorial style might be lacking in brightness, but he surely knows what he’s doing, and he’s doing it flawlessly. Three leading parts are played amazingly good: if with Mark Ruffalo it doesn’t come as a surprise, I never perceived Channing Tatum as a serious actor, but he was completely on a par with everybody else, and so deserves utmost respect for this work. Carell’s transformation for the role of the millionaire du Pont, the last of his clan, is totally mind-boggling: I even doubted it was him at first – from afar he doesn’t look all that different, but his face shown in close up, that frozen forever expressionlessness, is so terrifyingly different, I hesitated for real. And, of course, it’s not just the appearance; his whole manner of behaviour, the way he talks, – utter disfunctionality shows through his image, not all the time, but when it does, it strikes even stronger.

All in all, this is a great drama, with little to no drawbacks, quite authentic and captivating.

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Scope of Practice (Brandyn T. Williams, 2014)

Scope of Practice is a short story about a guy who just started as a paramedic, and discovered on his very first day an unpleasant truth about a local celebrity who was beating his wife and getting away with it. The conflict between his sense of justice and the social pressure torments him, and then becomes a reason of a tragedy.

The story is quite simple, which is fine for a short novella; the dialogs are pretty decent. From the standpoint of technical implementation, it looks great; plus, the actors are all professionals trying to do their best. But all of that falls apart due to extremely poor direction. This is especially evident  on the example of acting: even though actors work really hard, and some of them even manage to deliver a proper result, the main part (as well as a number of others) is a complete failure, because the director can’t tell good from bad, and so it all looks like a student theater. Depiction of fighting, and of paramedic actual work, looks quite pathetic, too.

This is a good example of how just one spoiled component can ruin the whole thing, even if everything else is good. Brandyn T. Williams simply should have trusted to execute what he has written to somebody with directorial skill he lacks so badly himself, but apparently self-assertion got the best of him. Too bad. If you still want to waste a half hour of your life, there you go:

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Country Strong (Shana Feste, 2010)

Country Strong is a story about a successuful country singer, Kelly Canter, who just had enough of it. Having just recovered after her infamous breakdown, she goes on a new tour, along with rising stars Beau Hatton and Chiles Stanton, in a hope to repair her crumbling career and find some stability in life. These three and Kelly’s husband James, who is also her manager, are engaged in a complicated emotional relationship, and sometimes let the feelings get the best of them, which eventually leads to a painful resolution.

This film surpassed my expactations by turning out quite unsimple. The story is not at all stereotypical: all the primary characters are interesting, complex personalities, and relationship between them is far from being a banal love quadrangle as one would expect from a movie almost entirely dedicated to country music. The story of Kelly, who got lost after achieving fame and success, and failed to find a proper way out, is not only touching, but truthful and completely unhackneyed; it is designed and implemented in the most sutle manner. The affection that grows eventually between Beau and Chiles (where do they get those names, by the way?) looks natural to me; there are no signes of any forcing, it just blooms like, it seems, would’ve in life.

The finale is a little predictable, that might be true, but all in all, it’s a decent and powerful story implemented on a very high professional level, with lots of great music, and healthy emotional charge. It was enjoyable experience; the kind I would gladly recommend to anyone.

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The Ventriloquist (Benjamin Leavitt, 2012)

The Ventriloquist is a short story created within the framework of a Jameson marketing campaign, but with no direct references to their product. It is about a ventriloquist (naturally), who is unsuccessful in general, and whose dummy may or may not be a living thing.

The film looks very good: technical side of the implementation is pretty much flawless, and Kevin Spacey does not require glorification as his acting mastery speaks for itself. The story’s preconditions, as well as their development, seem interesting and mysterious, in a sense that the nature of the relationship between the hero and his dummy is unclear but fascinating. But then it kind of stops. The dummy vanishes, the hero finds himself on a bench, probably realizing his freedom, and that’s it. When the credits started, the only thought in my head was – “is this it?.. really?” which is probably not very good for a storyteller. It’s still worth a viewing, and maybe you’ll get a better idea of what the hell it was, in which case do not hesitate to leave a comment here:

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Full Body Massage (Nicolas Roeg, 1995)

Full Body Massage by Nicolas Roeg tells a story about a woman, whose usual massage therapist couldn’t make it and sent a colleague to fill in for him. Even though it came as a surprise to her, the séance still happened, and in the course of it two of them engaged into a conversation that proves to be meaningful and comprehensive for them both.

It’s almost entirely a chamber film: most of the screen time is dedicated to the therapy session and the conversation, with occasional flashbacks into both of the characters’ past. It all seems quite boring at first, but as the dialog goes on, the heroes become more and more three-dimensional, and the magic happening between them – more and more palpable; at later stages of the movie I began to like it, in a sense. At some point, though, the new-age bullshit about science being just a belief system kind of threw me off balance a little, but thankfully they got over that part rather quickly; still I felt like Roeg believed that crap himself, otherwise it wouldn’t be in there.

Either way, the film in general is slow, and faded, and has a grain of sincerity in it. Not the greatest entertainment, but rather something for a susceptive mood with a touch of sentimentality. Nevertheless, I doubt I’ll ever watch it again.

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Rakka (Neill Blomkamp, 2017)

Rakka is a short story about the alien invasion that happened successfully. Using their superior technology the aliens pretty much suppressed any resistance except for a small group of people who managed to regroup and adapt, and who still try and fight back. A better glimpse of hope appears when it becomes clear that a minor fraction of humans subjected to alien experimenting somehow survived.

It seems like Rakka is only the first novel from a planned series, and not just from the YouTube video title, but also from the tempo of the story development and, of course, the final cliffhanger. All in all, it looks very promising, in terms of the plot at least, and it also looks very expensive: the cast includes some rather famous names, the scenery, the makeup, and the special effects look absolutely stunning; obviously, that kind of quality requires a lot of work, and hence – a lot of money. Which brings me to a concern about this project’s future; there are other examples of large-scale endeavours not unlike this one that were halted due to discrepancy between their budget and the size of audience they managed to acquire. I do hope for the best, of course. If you haven’t seen it yet, here, check it out:

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The Sunset Limited (Tommy Lee Jones, 2011)

The Sunset Limited is the apotheosis of chamber cinema. It’s literally 2 people sitting in one room and talking to each other. One of them just saved the other from a suicide attempt, and now is genuinely trying to help him figure it out.

Any chamber movie is a challenge, – for the director first and foremost, because he is very limited with instruments and resources and still has to make things interesting for the viewer. This one might the most minimalistic I’ve seen so far: all we have is a room, furnished in a simple, shabby manner, two people interacting with each other, directly and by instrumentality of the said room, and that’s it. All that means is that acting becomes the primary source of tension that connects the story to the audience. Of course, the screenplay is amazing – it wouldn’t have worked otherwise, – but it also wouldn’t have worked if not for the actors who perform those words flawlessly. Jones and Jackson both create comprehensive and deep images, but more importantly, they click with each other, – basically, it’s all about their mutual interaction, and it works really well.

The story of this accidental connection is astonishing, truths that characters reveal about themselves are incredibly powerful, fascinating even. I love how it all develops, in a natural manner completely devoid of any unnecessary forcing; and I adore the finale, which is not exactly predictable, not at all happy, but truthful and compelling and shattering.

The film is absolute perfection, albeit dark and unsettling, but that’s how I like it. All in all, it was a divine pleasure.

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The Stray White and The Speckled / Chuzhaya belaya i ryaboy (Sergey Solovyev, 1986)

Chuzhaya belaya i ryaboy is the last film of Sergey Solovyov’s soviet period. Its story takes place in the steppes of Kazakhstan soon after the ending of WWII, and tells about people living in a shithole of a town, where there’s nothing to do, so breeding of doves becomes everybody’s hobby and passion, on which ground some real tragedies are bound happen. A teenage boy, whose doves collection leaves much to be desired, once notices a stray white female dove, so slender and elegant, it soon becomes everybody’s business to have her in their possession. He, however, manages to get her first, through luck and great effort, only to be cheated out this great happiness almost immediately. Alongside this storyline, his father, a shell-shocked veteran of war, relives his own tragedy, one closely tied to a woman, an ex-actress, he once had stong feelings for.

Naturally, I watched this movie before, long time ago, that is, and from that time I remembered my impression quite vividly. That impression was highly positive, I considered this film to be my Solovyov’s favourite. Now, that I’ve seen it again, I can reconfirm that status.

It is truly a wonderful work, – strong, dark, and weirdly captivating. I say weirdly, because I don’t really get people’s fascination with doves, – but I can sense the sincerity and honesty in depicting one’s life, and I can appreciate it, too. By the way, the film is an adaptation of Boris Ryakhovskiy’s autobiographical novel, who played a small part here himself (not any of the main characters).

The construction of the story, the dialogs, the scenery, the acting, – every element of this film aids in achieving the great result it gradually becomes. I don’t think there’s anything sour or spoiled here – not that I noticed, anyway. Sure, it’s not an easy entertainment, but good things rarely are. I love it, you might love it too.

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Trapped (Brian Reed, 2016)

Title of this film on YouTube says that it’s a short film about teen unplanned pregnancy, and that’s exactly what it is about, no more and no less.

From the standpoint of social benefit, this movie is pretty important as it aims at reducing the amount of fear and other negative emotions surrounding such event as unplanned teenage pregnancy, which is rather common. It doesn’t directly take a stand on the pro-life vs. pro-choice dilemma, although the finale suggests that Brian Reed has indeed a personal attitude to this question.

But I’m more concerned with the quality of this work from the viewpoint of art. On the technical level everything is pretty cool; also the acting gives nothing to complain about; – all in all, the development of events, reactions, behaviour, etc. look plausible, and are implemented on a good level. But, on the other hand, the music is overly exessive (it almost never shuts up), and truth be told, the fact that the situation under scrutiny is common makes it uninteresting. Sure, only a psychopath won’t empathize with the heroine, but my belief is that a movie shoud be a harmonious combination of emotional, intellectual, and couple of other things, of which Trapped has only emotions. It’s still an alright one-time viewing, though, so check it out:

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Staff Party / Korporativ (Yaroslav Vozzhaev, 2016)

Korporativ is a short adaptation of Shakespear’s Macbeth: a monologue and a little bit of dialog superimposed on a modern situation of a staff party in the form of a paintball game.

The idea is cute, but there is a discrepancy between the words and the action: Shakespear’s verses are very serious, as they relate to serious events (murders, betrayals, and all that), but in this case they are applied to simple cheating in a meaningless game, which made me feel disappointed in the end. If, on the other hand, the game would have been used by the hero to hide a real crime, that might have been really cool. But this isn’t the case, unfortunately, so the film is just okay. Here it is:

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The Tuner / Nastroyshchik (Kira Muratova, 2004)

Nastroyshchik is a story about young man, a piano player and tuner, who fell in love with a girl from a rich family, and in order to sustain her desired lifestyle became a long-con artist, to which he showed an astonishing disposition. The plot of the movie tells about his very first job, when he met an elderly, sophisticated widow and her friend, and managed to wriggle himself into their favour.

This film is from a later Muratova period, one where her characteristic style is very much evident, but the amount of grey noise1 is reduces to barely noticeable level and doesn’t really harm the viewer’s perception. The story told in this movie is clear, there is nothing superfluous in it, and its every element works for the final result in quite a harmony. There are several storylines, some of which may seem like unnecessary in the beginning, but eventually all of them come together wonderfully. And no piece of this tribute to traditional cinema feels like a betrayal by the director of whatever it is that makes her stand out, – quite the contrary, her uniqueness is more obvious than before, now that it can be compared against the stories of human beings inhabiting this particular universe of discourse.

The acting is great, albeit a little weird, but that’s what one should expect from Muratova. The music is very good, as well as the photography. All in all, this is surely one of the greatest her works, and a great example of unconventional, yet interesting cinema.

1Grey noise: the abundance of incidental fluctuations in the fabric of everyday life stated in form of random phrases, actions, people who have nothing to do with the story itself, but impact the perception.

Names and figures

Humans. Beasts / Ludi. Zveri (Ruslan Sorokin, 2016)

Ludi. Zveri is a short story about a group of children’s entertainers, two of whom are a couple in the middle of breaking up.

Not much to say: this novella is absolutely brilliant. Great story – simple, but comprehensive; great dialogs; wonderful acting; very fitting music. Ruslan Sorokin (who also made King Lear) is definitely a name I’d be following in the future; he’s an amazing directorial gift.

Discovering such works, barely known yet carrying a touch of genius, might be one of my favourite things in the world.

There you go, enjoy:

Names and figures

Judy (Ariel Gardner, Alex Kavutskiy, 2016)

Judy is a short story exploiting the subject of human-like androids, that are still future, but such a close one, it’s almost present. A guy gets a lifelike robot (codename Judy) as a sort of random selection test run. He doesn’t really know what to do with it, so he fucks her several times. Soon after that she malfunctions, which is when he calls tech support, only to find out that things are not quite what they seem.

I tried to avoid giving away the story turn, even though it’s pretty much obvious from the moment the hero opens the box. At first I thought, it’s due to poor acting, but then it turned out it’s actually supposed to look like that, so I don’t really know what to think of  it now. On the one hand, it’s a nice glance at human psychotic deviations and their ties with progress and technology, on the other… well, it’s just a little weird, is all. But it’s well made, and the acting is quite good, so go on, judge for yourself:

Names and figures

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