Thirst for a Thriller
Former actor A.Haritonov proves, in his directorial debut, that he wants and is able to make thrillers. In Thirst for Passion Haritonov didn’t hide quotations from other films (for example, Kubrick’s The Shining), he built them precisely into the action. The story, about a phantom-twin chasing a young aristocratic lady, is taken from Valery Brusov’s prose and is told according to the rules of classic thrillers in the spirit of Hitchcock: ominous pauses, presentiments of terrible events, and a coldly erotic elegance… all giving the film a necessary style.
Surely, Haritonov is not Kubrick. He isn’t even Brian De Palma. He does have a command of his profession, though, and his actors are good. A.Vertinska is very effective in both role, real and illusory, while I.Kostolevsky, as the police commissar, can compete with the inspector in any American crime-detection TV series.
A Toy-Brick Game
Director and actor I.Okhlobystin likes to astonish the Russian public. I can’t remember the last time some cinema personality as famous as he declared an attachment to drugs. But Okhlobystin has made it several times (now he is very religious man). In his detective story The Arbiter he also spites tradition, splintering stereotypes and playing with them at the same time, as a child does with toy bricks. His characters – a freshman detective with his gray-haired colleague – chase a serial killer. The standard plot becomes the basis for cinematic hints by the director/leading man. Single shots and full episodes periodically quote or resemble the films of Alan Paker (cameraman M.Mukasey doesn’t miss a chance to play with light rays penetrating the blades of a gigantic ventilator), Hitchcock, Friedkin, Lynch and Scorsese.
These ironical quotations and hints help the director turn the film into some kind of retrospective, proving that the style of French post-modernists Luc Besson (Subway) and Leos Carax (Mauvais Sang, Boy Meets Girl) are close to the interests of modern young Russian cineastes. Not accidentally, maybe, many members of The Arbiter’s team resemble (in their creative style) famous parents in some way: actor Kirill Kosakov, composer Artem Artemiev, etc.
The Arbiter counts on aficionados. It’s hard to surprise somebody in the West with this kind of movie. American, French and British cinema, to my mind, has polished such style till it shines. In Russian, I.Okhlobystin’s work is doomed to the TV heading “Not for Everybody”.
N.Stambula’s film Operation Lucifer is made with clear intention: to add to gossip about the mysterious murder of Russian pop star Igor Talkov. Stambula offers his own version of the death of the singer, composer and poet: that neither jealous competitors, the Mafia nor racketeers are guilty, but Develish power, the same evil creatures who – in Stambula’s plot – want to kill an actor playing the role of Talkov in some movie by a gloomy director. There is a subplot about a woman who buried her husband in a suit, one of whose pockets held a lucky lottery ticket for a prestigious car (this story was printed in all Russian newspapers some time ago). The action is interrupted by erotic scenes in a pool and out of it. In a word, it’s pure speculation.
However, who knows? – if Stambula had the talent of Alan Parker, director of the 1987 mystical thriller Angel Heart, this might have been something artistic. But as it stands there is nothing going on.
Alain Delon doesn’t Drink Eau de Cologne
And this drink isn’t favored by his screen heroes either, among which are hired killers (Le Samourai by J.-P.Mellvile, Traitment de choc by R.Davis, etc.). Actor and director V.Shilovsky decided to try on one of the established Delon’s roles. In Deadline Shilovsky plays a liquidation professional making Mafia people uncomfortable. His next victim becomes respectable, and sets out to destroy the superbosses. Shilovsky’s hero kills a “client”, then wants to be out of the game, but…
All in all, the standard plot of Deadline doesn’t shine with specially dramatic passages. It’s not actually bad, though, until Shilovsky tries to give the actions of his character a psychological basis. As a child, he saw during the war how some died of hunger and others enjoyed a glut of apples and peahens. That’s when he began to hate the masters of life. Therefore, he is not an everyday hired gun, but a man with firm ideological principles – the killer-avenger. This is another Russian attempt to complicate things, to make a murderer not a murderer but some sort of victim of the social environment.
Pity, but there is none of Delon’s charm in Shilovsky’s hero. And he drinks, alas, eau de Cologne instead of bourbon and Napoleon brandy…
The plot of B.Grigoriev’s The Confession of the Mistress is simple: the Mafia kidnaps a businessman, one of the so-called New Russians, and demands money from his mistress and companion. A police detective tries to free the hostage with the woman’s help.
Most of the movie takes place in the heroine’s gorgeous apartment, where she and detective are sitting beside the phone on which criminals call her from time to time. Under these conditions only excellent directorial effort and well-developed acting could have saved the movie. But neither M.Zudina nor M.Zhigalov manages to bring life to the primitive script scheme. Their characters are monotonous and unattractive, their dialogue is boring. The action develops very slowly, and by the middle of the movie only determined perseverance keeps one from walking out for a breath of fresh air.
Belief in a Right to Kill
Kidnapping themes are as common in Russian cinema as American. The suspense movie The Nonhuman tells of the kidnapping of a 13-year-old boy whose mother had a high office in City Hall. Contrary to some other versions of such events, director Y.Ivanchuk puts the main accent not on details of investigation, chases and fights, but on the family’s moral situation. The kidnapping is presented as a harsh revenge for the mother’s sins (bribery, corruption, lying). Here the talented actress L.Gurchenko had material for creation of an interestingly complicated character. She played it, however, for half its potential, without the psychological truth she brought to The Five Nights (1979) by N.Mikhalkov and Sibiriada (1980) by A.Konchalovsky. S.Bragarnik, who performed a similar rile in V.Aristov’s drama Devil , managed to create a more convincing and interesting character.
The criminal in Devil was scarier, too. Actually, he was kind of a Raskolnikov from Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, fixated on the belief that he was superhuman, having a right to kill for some higher aims. In Devil the criminal didn’t get punished and the evil was his celebration of a devilish victory. In The Nonhuman the criminal is killed by an assassin’s bullet. Happy ending? Or evil just passing on its bloody baton?