Monday, June 29, 2015

Hard to Be a God (2013) A Film by Aleksei German

"'God, if you exist, stop me.' This is one of the half-conscious utterances made by Don Rumata (Leonid Yarmolnik) in the latter half of Aleksei German's Hard to Be a God as he contemplates a killing spree on the morally bankrupt planet of Arkanar. As a scientist originally sent from Earth to neutrally investigate the planet's Dark Ages because its crazed inhabitants have been snuffing out their few remaining intellectuals, he's been strictly advised against any kind of physical intervention, but that matters little at this point; nothing short of a divine occurrence could halt or delay his inexorable descent into madness. What's most haunting about the phrase—delivered, like all of the film's democratized dialogue, in a tremulous grumble that barely competes with the surrounding clamor of swaying chains and leaking orifices—is its sense of reflexive submission, the underlying implication being that when exposed long enough to a civilization cast off from common decency and deep in a moral void, the loss of reason and even sanity is a definite eventuality." Full review of Kino Lorber's new Blu-Ray here.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Chagall-Malevich (2014) A Film by Aleksandr Mitta

"When treated conventionally, the artist biopic can be the domain for pedantic historical shading and subservient mise-en-scène. Veteran Russian filmmaker Aleksandr Mitta's answer to that challenge is to translate his subject's style so vehemently that the compulsion to inform and historicize becomes almost a distraction from the aesthetic acrobatics. Franco-Russian painter Marc Chagall, Chagall-Malevich's principal protagonist, was a Jewish modernist who responded to the doom and gloom of his epoch with brilliantly colored, whimsically composed canvases that blended expressionist, cubist, and abstract sensibilities. In attempting to simulate Chagall's work, Mitta whips up his own quirky jumble of techniques: conspicuously crude digital compositing, perpetual Dutch angles, sporadic animated flourishes, drastic chromatic swings, and a liberally applied cerulean vignette that surrounds the center of interest and lends those on the margins of the frame a ghastly aquarium-tank pallor." More at Slant Magazine.