Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Long and Happy Life (orig. Долгая счастливая жизнь) [2013]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13) (1/10) (8/10) (4/5)  Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* listing* listing* (R. Kulanin) review* (S. Stepnova) review*

CineVue (P. Gamble) review
Variety (L. Felperin) review

A Long and Happy Life (orig. Долгая счастливая жизнь) [2013] [IMDb] []* []*[]*(directed and cowritten by Boris Khlebnikov [IMDb] []* []* []* along with Alexander Rodionov [IMDb] []* []*) is the kind of Soviet, err Russian, movie that tends to find its way to the United States / the West.

Indeed, the film dutifully played and won a "special mention" (an award with a rather "ambiguous" to "polyvalent" meaning to say the least ...) at the 2013 Chicago International Film Festival.  For my part, after reading the plot summary offered by organizers of said 2013 Chicago International Film Festival promising a "somber socialist realist" film, I dutifully MADE IT A POINT then OF AVOIDING THE FILM preferring to screen something (really almost anything ...) that promised to be less ideological / bombastic ... ;-).

But the film did play among happier / more interesting Russian films at the 2013 New York Russian Film Week whose films I've decided to try to find and review now.  So in the interest of providing here _an honest survey_ of contemporary Russian film, I decided to view and review this film now.  (I would note here that as of my writing of this review, the film got exactly ONE VOTE on the Russian youth oriented website and that ONE VOTE gave it a 1/10 ;-).  Thus to even young Russian viewers, this film "Guardians of the Galaxy" was not ;-).

To be fair, this was _not_ an _awful movie_.  Indeed, much of its thematics could be seen as similar to a classic 1940s-1950s era American Western: A lone young man, Alexander Sergeivich or Sasha (played quite well by Aleksandr Yatsenko [IMDb] []* []*) in a small "frontier town" (apparently several hundred miles East of St. Petersburg nestled on the banks of a lovely Siberian River amidst rolling hills covered by lovely leaves-gently-turning-yellow (it's early autumn...) birch and evergreen forest) decides (with encouragement from his workers at a local cooperative if no longer collective farm) to try to face-down a shadowy cabal of corrupt local public officials fronting for unnamed and even shadowier "Bysness" interests.  [In a typical American Western, a lone young man, often a cowboy, would stand-up to face-down a cabal of corrupt local officials / "law"men paid-off by / fronting for one-or-another powerful railroad, mining interest or rancher...].   

But since this was a Russian movie as opposed to an American one, things could not possibly go well.  Egged on to take this rather brave stand arguably against his own interests -- he didn't know what / who exactly he was up against, but could certainly sense that he was probably going to lose, AND said "bysness interests" were at least _initially_ happy to just "pay him off" so that he would just leave without making a fuss -- his worker friends ALL INITIALLY "standing behind him" PEAL-OFF one after another: One takes the farm's tractor as "compensation" for his "investment" in the "cooperative."  Another, the loudest, most militant of the bunch, "listens to his wife" whose brother finds him a nice/safe "lumber job up in Karelia."

SO IN THE END, it's basically him, with a not exactly "air tight" legal claim to the land that the "bysness interests" want to take away from him, against not just said "bysness interests" but also the full force of the "local authorities" (already presumably long paid-off by the "bysness interests").

So does one keep "standing tall" or is this "Russian Ruby Ridge" scenario just gonna end up like a "Russian Alamo" ... and would there be ANYONE who would care ...?

Sigh, this is a film in which Russian old-style Stalinists come-out looking like American "Stars and Bars" survivalists ...

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

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