25 April 2015 | tony_le_stephanois
No moral in portrait of St. Petersburg
A charcoal burner, ex-soldier in Afghanistan, writes stories about "bad people". Meanwhile, he gets the occasional visit from his daughter, who sometimes asks for money, and gangsters, who use his ovens.
I am a fan of the work of Balabanov and I liked this film too, despite reading negative reactions everywhere. But this is how I like to see cinema: full dry, dark humor. There are also virtually no clichés in this portrait of St. Petersburg in the nineties. It is a portrait of amazement of someone who was there (in fact, Balabanov's Brat was filmed in 1997 in St. Peterburg). Remarkable characters probably symbolize this period, like the free-spirited daughter; the ever silent 'Bizon'; the charcoal-burner; the rude Masha; the sergeant who likes prose.
Too bad that the story as flat as a dime but I'll take that happily in exchange for the artistry. Balabanov is a really a film artist (actually was, unfortunately, he died two years ago). It's in everything, in a creaky elevator, the constantly sounding music (sometimes right through dialogues), the heaters, the theatrical way of talking, the walks through the snow.
Despite his artistry, he is always wonderfully unpretentious about the 'meaning' of his films. The heaters have no symbolic value, he explained. They are only there because "Every film should have its own style." This film is also not specifically about Yakuts but actor Mikhail Skryabin was one by coincidence so Balabanov used that theme. It is a cinematic portrait of a bizarre period, without opinions, so therefore it lacks a moral.
Probably not everyone's cup of tea, but it certainly is mine. It really is a shame that this artist will never make a new film anymore.