Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 4:50 pm 
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Another dark and bitter view of contemporary Russia

The Fool isn't as grand a Russian film as Zvyagintsev's recent Leviathan. But it's more openly bitter and vituperative, full of indignation. With its long night sequence and glitering dark urban landscapes and its moral passion it reminds on of Krzysztof Kieślowski. The plot hinges on the discovery bya Dima (Artyom Bystrov) -- a young man, a zealous plumber, engineering student, and future building inspector -- of big ground-to-roof fault lines on two sides of a "dormitory," a project-like building outside a town. It's also leaning over 10%, and he predicts its collapse is imminent. It's occupied by 820 people, and they have to be evacuated immediately. Many of the occupants are poor and out of work, with deadbeats and dissolute youths around the edge. But Dima cares about them just the same, whatever his family or the local city officials think.

When Dima brings his bad news to a big, drunken late-night birthday party for the lady mayor, Nina Galaganova (Natalya Surkova), the various bureaucrats' siphoning-off and general corruption begin to be so enthusiastically exposed, it looks for a while as if Bykov is going to turn the rest of the film into a lecture. But though there is plenty of talk, the delay for it rachets up the tension level, and down to the end the action also remains exciting. And bitterly ironic down to the very dark and visually powerful finale.

Reviewing for Hollywood Reporter, Boyd van Hoeij called The Fool "Extremely bleak and depressing even by Russian standards," but suggested that "the third film of writer director Yury Bykov. . .is also his best" and "will undoubtedly be [his] biggest hit to date." It's a stunning effort, and should put Bykov on the international cinematic map.

Directed, written, edited by Yury Bykov. Camera (color, widescreen), Kirill Klepalov; music, Bykov; production designer, Stanislav Novak; costume designer, Olga Pogodina; sound (Dolby Digital), Arkady Noskov.

The Fool/Durak, 116 mins., debuted at Locarno August 2014, where it won four awards; showing at over a dozen other festivals thereafter. Screened for this review as part of the March 2015 FSLC-MoMA series New Directors/New Films. See Peter Debruge's admiring review for Variety.

US theatrical release begins Wed., 16 September 2015 (Film Forum, NYC).

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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