Dir. Mikhail Barshinsky. Russia. 2003. 70mins.
A former film critic, who also moonlighted as a Siberian train conductor, a Turkish restaurant waiter and a DJ on Bourbon Street New Orleans, Mikhail Barshinsky's directorial debut promises that he intends to be as eccentric in his new career as he has been in his choice of the previous ones. A high-octane bombardment of digitally shot, over-treated, relentless images, purporting to deliver an impressionistic portrait of modern life in Moscow, it will divide audiences into dazed admirers and terrorised viewers, both shaken by the explosive energy of the images and deafening level of the sound. Festivals will fall prey to its freakish drive - already this year it has played at Berlin, in the Forum sidebar, and Rotterdam- while clubs might project it to pump up the spirits of their customers; however, normal distribution seems no more than a remote possibility.
Those who do stay the course, however, will discover a promising new talent, Viktoria Tolstoganova, as a blonde bombshell lawyer, who has the necessary screen presence to become a star.
The first of the two vaguely related stories has a fiercely independent young female attorney, who carries the same despondent passion in making love, scuba-diving and beating opponents in court, is in possession of secret evidence that might clear her client and implicate others. Despite warnings, she uses the evidence, pays dearly for it and is taken out of the film.
The second part features a handsome young gay man who meets her briefly. As a result he dumps his boyfriend, tries to run away but is beaten up by the police, returns home and proceeds to systematically destroy his flat in a fit of impotent rage that takes hold of him for reasons he himself seems unclear about. Rid of his frustration, he announces that he intends to find the attorney, no matter how long it takes. Both characters remain nameless throughout the film.
Not much of a handle to open the door to this film - but then, asking for logical plots and motivations here is out of place. The main thing is to identify with the terrible rage, the self-destructive orgy and the hyperactive fury that pulsates through the blood of the young Muscovite generation as they drive themselves to death by trying to be smarter, stronger, shrewder and more confident than the next person.
Shot with a handheld camera that refuses to stay still even for a fraction of a second, usually stuck just a few inches away from its subject, the images are digitally doctored to nightmarish hues and then rushed on the screen at breakneck speed. Boosting the nervous level even further, the crazy pace of the editing constantly shakes the audience out of kilter in an endurance test to be survived only by those who accept the film as a sensory experience and do not expect any type of literal interpretations.
Prod co: Non-Stop Pictures, Art Pictures Group
Int'l sales: Non-Stop Pictures
Prod: Yelena Yatsoura
Scr: Brashinsky, Konstantin Murzenko
Cinematography: Oleg Dobronravov
Ed: Brashinsky, Ivan Lebedev
Prod des: Vladimir Kartashov
Main cast: Viktoria Tolstoganova, Ylia Shakunov, Konstantin Yushkevich, Genadi Chulkov, Alexander Lyrchikov, Maxim Kurochkin, Sergei Ivanov, Alexander Sharikov, Artemy Smola