Category Archives: short

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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:

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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:

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Story of a Masterpiece / Istoriya odnogo shedevra (Kseniya Nechaeva, 2016)

Istoriya odnogo shedevra is a short story about a modern art installation that turned out to be a performance. A bunch of artsy people get together for a presentation of a painting. The painting turnes out to be a blank canvas. Majority of guests start paying bullshit compliments to the “artist” (because he’s popular and has a reputation), but one young man challenges the work. A quarrel starts, and quickly develops into a fight, in the course of which the canvas ends up stained with blood. The maestro thanks everybody and congratulates them on taking part in the creation of a masterpiece.

This is complete plot of this movie retold, nothing is left uncovered. If you happened to read my posts before, you might know that I’m only doing this when the film is not worth watching. This is exactly the case: the story is pretentious; the dialogs are wooden, forced; the direction is terrible; and the acting follows the direction. Nothing about it is interesting. But I feel like I still should give you an option, so here, check for yourself, if do not value your time and my good advice:

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Remember My Story. ReMoved Part 2 (Nathanael Matanick and Tony Cruz, 2015)

Remember My Story is a continuation of the ReMoved by the Matanick couple. Zoe is about to be separated from her little brother – again, – because this is how the system works: he can’t stay with Zoe’s foster-mother and has to be adopted by new parents. At the same time their biological mother tries to restore her parental rights.

Even though, the novelty effect is not a factor anymore, the film is great: same as the 1st one, it is passionate, well thought-out, exceptionally well executed. The acting is amazing, especially Abby White’s work. The situation under scrutiny is tragic and unresolvable; it seems to be plausible enough, and not a common place at the same time. It’s all highly emotional; the finale brings hope: the more compassionate people would dedicate their lives to those in need, the better our society would grow to be. Of course, nobody knows what the future actually holds, but with the progress and the spread of civilized thinking, there are good reasons to bear that hope.

But the movie itself speaks better than any words I can come up with:

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Ro.Go.Pa.G. (Rossellini, Godard, Pasolini, Gregoretti, 1963)

Ro.Go.Pa.G. is an anthology of 4 short novellas, not really united through any single subject, except – maybe (and that’s a big “maybe”) – some allusions into the end of the world theme. The title is formed from the beginning letters of the directors’ last names.

Virginity [Illibatezza] is a film by Roberto Rossellini. It’s about a stewardess whose exceptional beauty made one of the passengers fell badly in love with her. By discovering true origin of his passion, she manages to neutralize him with nobody getting hurt.

Frankly, I thought the story was not very good. It’s understandable, but that understanding is achieved mostly thanks to the intermission, where people were openly discussing character’s motives, – that probably seemed like a smart and ingenious device at the time; to me it seems weak, and the opposite of subtle. It’s also superficial: after the finale, my only thought was “hey, is this it?” Ultimately, though, it’s watchable.

The New World [Il nuovo mondo] is a film by Jean-Luc Godard. Its content evaporated from my memory 30 minutes after I watched it – there is no actual story, just a man and a woman in some sort of relationship, with hints at a nuclear blast that happened 120 kilometers above Paris. Completely meaningless and insignificant, like most of Goddard works.

Cottage Cheese [La ricotta] is a film by Pier Paolo Pasolini. As the story goes, the movie is being filmed, something based on the life of Jesus Christ, and the guy playing one of the bandits, that are to be crucified together with Christ, doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to eat, but then he manages to gorge a lot of different kinds of food, while other are watching him do it. Right before he’s about to say his only line, something happens to him.

Probably the most interesting film in the collection. It’s distinct, relatively interesting, and seems to have a message, although I wouldn’t know what it is. It doesn’t seem insignificant, quite the opposite – there is some power behind it. And, contrary to Pasolini’s reputation, it’s not dirty in any sense of the word.

The Chicken Breeding [Il pollo ruspante] is a film by Ugo Gregoretti. A family of four (a married couple and 2 of their children) visit some distant area looking to buy a land plot, but eventually figure out that they don’t have enough money. Their son talks only with advertisement catchphrases, and the universe of discourse in filled with crude hints at problems of the consumer society, which seems to be the whole point.

This one is kind of simplistic and overwhelming at the same time. Not exactly interesting. Best word for it would be – pretentious; it irritates more than it makes one think.

All in all, the quality of the collection is below average. There is way too much emptiness and pretence, while actual, sincere meaning is lacking. Might be recommended to the fans of cinema at best, and even to them – just to curtain the blank spots.

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Dummy / Kukla (Kira Muratova, 2007)

Kukla by Kira Muratova is a story about the significance of money. A strange man intervenes between ex-spouses on the matter directly related to a large sum of money one of them had secured after selling a piece of property.

The film is short, but has 2 whole storyturns, both changing the perspective rather strongly. The story as it is is powerful and comprehensive. The essense of the film, as well as specific techniques used, are characteristic of Muratova’s directorial style, and are very much recognizable, although the pressure created by them is not as suppressive as it is normal in her full-length movies. The acting  is good. The variation of Barto’s poem about the bull-calf is just wonderful.

All in all, this is one of Muratova’s best works, – original and interesting, but not at all overpowering.

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King Lear (Ruslan Sorokin, 2016)

King Lear by Ruslan Sorokin is a short composition based on the Shakespearian play of the same name. The arc of the story consists of several scenes taken from the play almost untouched: the film opens with the one where Edmund is plotting against his brother Edgar, then goes the one with the conversation between Lear and Edmund, and the culmination falls onto the one where Edmund meets and defeats Edgar.

Okay, it may be that every word of this novella was written by people who knew very well what they were doing, and not some barely literate student actor, but Ruslan Sorokin, unlike other Sidakov’s fosterlings whose works I’ve seen so far, managed to create something really interesting. Another factor that contributed greatly into the quality of the result is the fact that as actors they all are quite amazing (especially Denis Dorokhov, which wasn’t that obvious from his KVN career). The direction could be better: Sorokin obviously doesn’t have a lot of experience, and his basic approach can be reduced to formula “I’m too lazy to go outside, let’s make best with what we have right here” – and he’s talented enough to pull that off, except that actors’ (or directors’ for that matter) workshops (where it all obviously was shot) usually look like what they are no matter how hard you try to turn into a throne room or something. Ostentatious minimalism is just as nice as anything else ostentatious.

But notwithstanding these small drawbacks (and they are really tiny in comparison with what Sorokin’s school-mates created), this is a very good piece of cinema with great camera and exceptional acting. You should check it out:

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A Girl / Devochka (Elena Chernyavskaya, 2016)

Devochka is a story of a girl (naturally), who achieved some things in her career, but remained virgin until her late twenties. I think, the purpose was to show her psychological transition to a state where genuine feelings and personal qualities matter more than attributes of social success. I am not sure, though, because nothing like that was actually achieved: on top of weak, unconvincing story with wild presumptions (what middle class chick in her right mind would pay $20,000 for a lousy lay?) the acting doesn’t seem very good, because when I look at Maria Guzhova’s face, I have no idea what’s going on behind it, – if anything at all. To be fair, though, I don’t think it’s her fault, I prefer to blame it on the director who failed to open her up. But either way, the result is quite miserable.

It’s lame, it’s awkward, it’s long. Enjoy!

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Loan / Kredit (Vadim Valiullin, 2016)

Kredit is a story aimed at uncovering one of the most painful social issues of modern Russia, where lots of people are completely immersed in debt load. As the story goes, an ordinary girl finds out (in several steps, but within a single day), that she would have to be paying out bank loan for the next 30 years or so, that she has only a month left to live, and that her husband, an airplane steward, fell victim to a plane crash.

The subject is surely a critical one, so the story in general is quite relatable. Unfortunately, this is the best thing I can say about this movie. Everything else is pretty bad. The story is not only implausible and psychologically unreliable, worse is that it amount to a total nonsense: say, everything would go smoothly (which is hardly possible), and the sums would agree, and it’s perfect monetary harmony and all, – who would own this debt-free apartment after the girl is gone? So, this absurdity is annoying.

Then, the main character, that of the girl, is awfully repellent, although to be fair, – not much more than every other character in this story. They are stupid, they have no culture and no empathy; basically, they are talking cockroaches bearing no significance to the world whatsoever. The stylization is sloppy, careless; the overall implementation is barely normal, but it’s obvious that there wasn’t a lot of money spent on the project.

Interestingly enough, this movie is the winner of the Kinotaur film festival short films program, which says a lot about the level of cinema as an art in Russia (deranged on the system level, with separate bright spikes of talent).

All in all, I do not recommend this shitty film – even if the author has some hope of developing a gift (which remains a big question), it’s too far off yet. Just not worth it.

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One Hundred to One / Sto odnomu (Yaroslav Vozzhayev, 2016)

Sto odnomu is a parody on modern TV. There is a new show: one person as a hero, and one hundred of his wishes are to be granted to him no strings attached. Absolutely everything is possible. Surely, something goes wrong soon enough.

The idea is cute, but poorely thought-through, which made the story sloppy, disorganized, and, as a result, completely implausible. The direction is rather bad, too: the overall style is eclectic as if there was no actual unifying vision (director’s primary purpose), and sometimes actors are just bad, – and not because they are bad actors inherently, but because the director was unable to detect and improve whatever misfires they had (which in itself is a totally normal thing). Actually, seeing that this film was made by a group of student actors, and I know that their mentor is good at his job, – the acting might be the only thing here I don’t have any complaints about.

As a student production (where the primary goal is to learn stuff) this film has every right to exist, however, as an work of art it’s too far from being professional to be taken seriously.

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Major Grom / Mayor Grom (Vladimir Besedin, 2017)

Major Grom is an attempt to create a very own Russian action hero. While trying to get some money from the ATM, a police detective Grom (which means thunderstorm) finds himself in the midst of a bank robbery, but manages to disarm all of the attackers.

Unfortunately, it’s a failure. The whole idea is unceremoniously borrowed from Nolan’s The Dark Knight, specifically the initial bank robbery scene, with certain details adapted to reflect Russian culture (like the masks used by the robbers). This fact alone is a strong enough evidence of originality, or better say, lack therof, but it is also spiced with pursuit and fighting scenes, which are fine on the level of special effects and direction, but offer no fresh techniques or patterns. Worse than triteness, though, is that most of the characters behave like complete and utter morons. The robbers are temporizing like they came there for some leisure time; the driver refuses to go unless the robber is sitted in the front seat; the guard simply goes to continue taking a shit after he finds out what’s going on (not to mention that he shits it in the bathroom inside the damn vault!); witnesses to the crime talk like they are in a soda commercial or something, and so on. Basically, it’s a mess of commonplace ideas.

The only thing I kinda liked is that the car with robbers got into an accident almost immediately after they drove off. But that was the only curious piece in the whole half-hour movie. I really don’t think it’s worth it, but you can check it out for yourself:

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The Awareness (Henry Dunham, 2014)

The Awareness is a bogeyman story about artificial intelligence. A janitor walks into a startup office to do his job, and becomes a witness to a landmark event when first self-aware intelligent machine gets plugged in. Later the machine tricks the janitor into removing whatever limitations there were, so that it would be able to destroy the humanity.

The film is intentionally implemented with insufficient lighting in order to create in the audience the same sensation of unavoidable disaster the director gets when he thinks about AI, – that’s right: mr. Dunham cannot sell this concept conclusively on intellectual level, where it all begins, so he has to aim for more primitive buttons, the ones located on the emotional level. I suppose, you can say that he manages to get the required reaction, but his effort is too crude, too evident, which is a deal breaker for me.

I may not be getting something important here, but I didn’t like this movie at all. Seems sort of cheap.

Still, it’s not that long, so, here:

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Curmudgeons (Danny DeVito, 2016)

Curmudgeons is a story about an old grumbler who lives in an assisted-living facility, and gets visited by his granddaugter at first, and then by an old friend who has a surprise for him.

Well, the movie is really great, why beat around the bush. Dialogs are crisp, funny, and often graphic. Characters are all very real, and also quite fascinating. The story is half sentimental and half weird, with a touch of funny. All in all, it’s a wonderful film, a decent work of art. Danny DeVito has something to be proud of. Of course, he does have a lot of other achievements, but this film is not the smallest of them.

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Z (Vasiliy Sigarev, 2017)

Z is another version of zombie apocalypse, this time set in the reality of modern Russia. The outbreak starts when Nikolay Baskov, a pop-singer, gets attacked right in the middle of his performance.

As characteristic to most of the zombie movies, books, comic strips, whatever, this novella does not address reasons and origin of the disease, which is completely understandable, because the concept of zombies, as vivid and rich as it is, has the level of plausibility close to 0, and would simply fall apart at any attemt to get to its bottom. This should be taken into account, although giving too much attention would be a mistake of another kind.

What matters (and this is where the authors mesmerized by the idea can actually write something interesting), is the stories of people who found themselves in the circumstances this extreme. And, of course, the authenticity of the environment where it all takes place.

And I have to say, Vasiliy Sigarev knows how to manage that. People depicted in his movie are very much believable, same as the relations between them, their speech, behaviour, etc. The acting is great (and the appearances by Bashirov and Baskov bring it up to the level of fascinating). The direction is perfect.

Special effects are totally mind-blowing. From the point of view of technical implementation, it’s pretty much flawless. Combined with music, dialogs (as scarce as they are), and everything else, it sums up to an outstanding work of cinema. Totally worth checking out:

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Who The Hell Is Tanya? / Kto takaya Tanya? (Vitya Gurov, 2006)

Kto takaya Tanya? is absolutely adorable little absurd film by Vitya Gurov, a student of Kiev cinema school at the time of making.

It’s hard to describe what this film is about. I has no story, but it has a narrative, which is better heard (it comes mostly from the offscreen voiceover) than read about. I can’t attribute it to any particular genre or style, it stands apart from everything, an absolutely author’s work, a thing in itself. And somehow it’s wonderful.

Of course, it may effect you not as much if you don’t understand Russian, but you still should check it out if that’s the case:

A sidenote: No online movie encyclopedia knows about Vitya Gurov, in fact, nobody probably knows of him at all, except for… well, I’m familiar with 4 or 5 people who may remember this film, and all of them were cinema students, kinda nuts about movies. I think, there were rumors about another Gurov shortfilm, but I don’t remember if I’ve seen it, or if it even exists. I believe, it is unfair for this film (and this director) to go forgotten, which is why I uploaded it to YouTube myself. Hope, they don’t kill it because of something copyrighted in there. 

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The Curse / Proklyatie (Zhora Kryzhovnikov, 2012)

Proklyatie is short film of a fairly simple format – it’s an actor’s audition / job interview, a one-man performance, through which we can witness and understand man’s position in life and how he came to occupy it. It’s quite neatly done; the comedy is acquired from the wonderful acting of Timofey Tribuntsev, as well as directorial efforts of Zhora Kryzhovnikov, one of the few modern russian directors who has enough talent and energy to pursue his own path. Proklyatie is one of his several shorts, and it’s just as great his others. You can enjoy it here:

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