Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Fool (orig. дурак) [2014]

MPAA (UR would be R)  KinoNews.Ru (6.5/10)  Fr. Dennis (4+ Stars)

IMDb listing

KinoNews.ru listing*
Kino-teatr.ru listing*

Izvestia.ru interview w. director*

The Fool (orig. дурак) [2014]  [IMDb] [KN.ru]* [KT.ru]* (written and directed by Yurij Bykov [IMDb] [KN.ru]* [KT.ru]*) flows like a Russian feet-on-the-ground bricks-and-mortar rendition of the recent Hollywood post-2008 Financial Crisis Wall Street thriller Margin Call [2011].  The film played recently at the 50th Annual Chicago International Film Festival.

The world's financial system may not be about to come down in Yurij Bykov [IMDb] [KN.ru]* [KT.ru]*'s film.  However, as in the earlier American film, it's a "young upstart" who discovers that something is deeply wrong.  Dmitri "Dimi" Nikitin (played by Artyom Bystrov [IMDb] [KN.ru]* [KT.ru]*) a young maintenance man living with his parents (played by Nina Antyuhova [IMDb] [KT.ru]* and Nikolay Bendera [IMDb] [KT.ru]*) and his nice young wife (played by Darya Moroz [IMDb] [KT.ru]*) and kid in a regional town somewhere in the vastness of Russia is called one night on a seemingly innocuous job to repair a broken steam pipe in one of the tenement buildings that he and his team service.

There had been a domestic disturbance in one of the tenement's apartments that night, and it came to an abrupt end when the steam pipe had cracked in two scalding a random drug-addicted man who had been in the process of beating-up his wife teenage daughter over ... money.  Lovely.  However, after Dimi and his coworkers arrive at the tenement building, Dimi who's been studying in "night school" to improve himself and get a degree in "structural engineering" quickly realizes that the steam pipe wasn't broken as a result of the domestic altercation.  Instead, the pipe broke because the whole building, built quickly (and shoddily) during the latter years of the Communist Era and _never, ever_ properly maintained since, was shifting.  A deep crack in the concrete supporting wall, which the pipe crossed and to which it had been attached, ran from the floor to the ceiling of the apartment to which Dimi and his coworkers had been called.  When Dimi decides to go outside to inspect the wall from there, he finds that the same crack extended from the foundation to the rooftop of the building.  Walking then around the building, he finds that another of the supporting walls of the building cracked (from foundation to rooftop) as well.  Finally, as a tram passes by, he notices that a corner of the building had already been torn from its foundation and pieces of brick falling from the detached corner of the bulding as a result of the passing tram's vibrations.

OMG, this building was in immediate danger of collapsing.  How many people lived there?  Oh, about 800.

What the heck to do?  Well Dimi knows that the head of the maintenance department of his town, Foederov (played by Boris Nevzorov [IMDb] [KN.ru]* [KT.ru]*) was a crook, having been diverting funds allocated for the maintenance of buildings such as this one for years.  His mother knew someone in the municipal central accounting office, but she had just lectured Dimi and his dad / her husband at dinner about how stupid they've been in being honest their during whole lives:  "Everyone's been stealing for the sake of their families, and YOUR HONESTY, WHAT EXACTLY HAS IT GIVEN US?"  Still, here was Dimi coming home with presumably the "poster child case" for honesty ... an entire building with 800 residents was in danger of collapsing because of the endemic (and "victimless") theft that mom had been praising at dinner.  So mom, chastened, makes the call on behalf of her son.

It turns out that the ENTIRE MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT IS OUT AT A LOCAL HOTEL CELEBRATING THE MAYOR'S 50th BIRTHDAY.  "Great," Dimi says, "At least they'll ALL BE THERE."  And Dimi heads out to "crash" the Mayor's party with this news ...

The Reader here could begin to imagine then how this is going to go ...

Dimi, comes to the banquet hall entrance, uninvited, BUT (1) this is still a reasonably small town, so there's _some_ familiarity present at the door and so Dimi isn't simply told "to get lost" right then and there, plus (2) Dimi looks the part, looking pretty damned certain of his news that he needed to report to the Mayor (played remarkably well by Natalya Surkova [IMDb] [KN.ru]* [KT.ru]*) a woman, turning, of course, 50, quite beloved actually in town and whose nickname about town was "Mat'" ("mom").

Yes, it was her birthday, but it's also her 50th, so it was "milestone" and one that most people and perhaps particularly most women would be rather ambivalent in celebrating.  So though she's "there" at her "party" and is shown both dancing and graciously thanking the various guests for their presence, she's also actually somewhat "happy" to be given an excuse "to get away" from this reminder that like everybody else, she was "getting old."

Dimi comes with his urgent news, and asks the Mayor to quickly get the various municipal engineering and as well as first responder officials together in a room.  "Why?"  asks the Mayor "You'll all certainly find out," Dimi tells her again with a determination that makes her sense that he's deathly serious.  (This scene and the one that follows again very much resembles the "emergency meeting" scenes in the above mentioned film Margin Call [2011] even if "decorum" was more-easily preserved in the "statelier" Wall Street "epic").

The officials, most quite drunk, are plucked from the party and gathered together in a next-door conference room.  There Dimi reports to them who he is (a maintenance man for the city), where he's been (at one of the city's tenement parks) and what he's reporting (that at least one of the buildings in the tenement park is in IMMEDIATE DANGER of collapsing -- that two of the building's loadbearing walls were cracked straight through from the foundation to the rooftop, that one of the corners of the building seemed completely detached from the foundation and the building was clearly tilting in that direction beyond anything that would be remotely considered safe).  He advises an IMMEDIATE EVACUATION.

"Whoa?  Who the heck are you?" asks Dimi's drunk (and corrupt) superior, "Evacuate 800 people in the dead of night, without a even an inspection?"
      "There's no time to bring in 'inspectors.'  Besides, you of all people know that they're corrupt.  They'll tell you whatever they're paid to report."
      "Even if you're right," asks the Mayor, "Where are we going to evacuate 800 people to, in the middle of the night, in winter?"
      "That's why I called all of you together," responds Dimi, "But I'm telling you even the most cursory inspection will tell ANYONE that the building is coming down."

What immediately follows is an absolutely hilarious (in a simultaneously weary and yet sordid sort of way) "round table discussion" where all present go through a litany of how much each and everyone one of them had stolen from the "public troth" over the years making this "dead-of-night reckoning" possible (and indeed perhaps inevitable).  But be all that as it probably was, a response to Dimi's horrific news had to be made.  So ...

The decision is made for Dimi, his superior and the fire chief to go to the tenement building to make sure it's as Dimi says that it is, while the the rest, mostly the first responders and the mayor remained to figure out what to do if an immediate evacuation was indeed necessary.

To Dimi's superior's horror, he immediately recognizes that Dimi was right.  The building was in immediate danger of collapsing.  But what now?

The Mayor tries to find _fairly long-term lodgings_ for 800 (!!) people.  She makes a visitto  a "contractor" who the city's given various permits over the years to build LUXURY HOUSING in another part of the city.  Could HE at least temporarily help?  He laughs at her (THE MAYOR) telling her that his "investors" WOULD KILL HIM.  Who's one of his investors?  THE MAYOR'S OWN HUSBAND (played in marvelous, soft-spoken but nobody would have any doubt what he means, mafia-like fashion by Yuri Tsurilo [IMDb] [KN.ru]* [KT.ru]*).  He explains to HIS WIFE (THE MAYOR) that, yes, she is HIS WIFE, but that HE (and THOSE BEHIND HIM) "made her" and that HE has "Others" BEHIND HIM who HE has to "answer to."  (This image of the Mayor truly "in bed" with the Mob is just stunningly presented here).

So immediate evacuation of the falling tenement building is _out of the question_ but NOT because there would be no place to put the residents.  Rather, the Mob would get upset if THE CITY used THEIR LODGINGS TO SAVE THE POTENTIAL VICTIMS...  Another plan has to be cobbled together.

Describing this "other plan" gets into SPOILER TERRITORY.  So Readers who plan to see (or have hope of seeing) this movie, DON'T read on.

 However, since this is a "Festival Film" that _probably_ won't be easy to find, I continue ... (SPOILER ALERT) The plan that the Mayor ("mom") and her (mafia-connected) husband come-up with is: (1) eliminate the guilty -- Dimi's corrupt supervisor and a couple of other "super corrupt" officials, (2) shut-up the "whistle blower" (a stronger term is used in the film) -- telling Dimi to get his family together, IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT, and hastily "leave town..." and (3) take their chances about the building standing or falling.  If there's time, perhaps fix it.  If the building falls, at least they could report that "the guilty" have been "dealt with ..." (with proverbial bullets in their heads ...)

This is one heck of a film, right? ;-)

The film, while apparently "released" in Russia (presumably at Moscow's International Film Festival in June) has been on the (outside) "Festival Circuit" since, where it has (more or less obviously) won recognition and awards.

It's scheduled to be released for general distribution in Russia in late November [KN.ru].*  However, _already_ the director has had to dutifully explain in an interview in the Russian daily Izvestia (link above)* that "He wouldn't want the West to think that his film is only about Russia," that it's "about corruption in general," and that he is, of course, "a patriot who loves his country." 

A great (and BRAVE) movie here Yurij Bykov [IMDb] [KN.ru]* [KT.ru]*.  But honestly welcome to "Oliver Stone" JFK [1991] territory [IMDb] [Amnesty International - if unfortunately it becomes necessary]

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.

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