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Andrey Zvyagintsev (#110 of 4)

BFI London Film Festival 2017 Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless

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BFI London Film Festival 2017: Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless

Sony Pictures Classics

BFI London Film Festival 2017: Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless

We tend to think of the family as a space for love and the child as representative of the new. Loveless exposes families to be, instead, havens of hatred and the child as nothing but a fresh container for an ancient history of gloom. Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin), soon to be divorced but still living under the same roof, repeat the same emotional indifference that was passed on to them by their parents. But their son, Alyosha (Matvey Novikov), stages an intervention in their genealogical tree of horrors by fleeing their home. No one seems to have ever wanted him—and it's only when he goes missing that he seems to merit parental attention. Not that he ceases to be a nuisance ready to be shipped to a boarding school followed by a military career, which is what Zhenya desires, but because now the adults have to respond to societal demands of his whereabouts.

Oscar 2015 Winner Predictions: Foreign Language

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Oscar 2015 Winner Predictions: Foreign Language
Oscar 2015 Winner Predictions: Foreign Language

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks, Timbuktu’s lucid depiction of innocents rightfully, righteously fighting fundamentalism from within feels especially eye-opening. But given how its Brechtian dramaturgical sensibility stands in such sharp contrast to Birdman’s razzle-dazzling variety, its presence here is immediately surprising. Worse, Abderrahmane Sissako’s Cannes winner, only the second film from sub-Saharan Africa to be nominated in this category, made news last week when the mayor of a Parisian suburb tried to ban the film from a local cinema after deeming it, sight unseen, as “an apology for terrorism,” suggesting that its anti-jihadist message may not be unambiguous enough for the Academy’s peanut gallery.

Toronto International Film Festival 2014 Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan

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Toronto International Film Festival 2014: Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan
Toronto International Film Festival 2014: Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan

In its original religious context, Leviathan is a sea monster mentioned by God in the Book of Job to demonstrate, and for the umpteenth time, his power over even the most fearsome parts of nature. By now, though, we’re familiar with Leviathan as a secular symbol, whether representing the magnitude of nature that, with no powerful god to subjugate it, still threatens to overwhelm humanity, or, following the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, a mighty head of state that brings order to anarchic human society.

Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan starts as a story about political corruption in a Northern Russian town before extending into a full-blown reimagining of the Book of Job, which might make you think that it’s harkening back to the original notion of its eponymous monster. Zvyagintsev’s intents, however, are more difficult to ascertain. As the film’s scope expands, the meaning of Leviathan in the film becomes a moving target, the ultimate joke being on those who think any single interpretation is the final and correct one.

Cannes Film Festival 2011: Sprinting to the Finish Line

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Cannes Film Festival 2011: Sprinting to the Finish Line
Cannes Film Festival 2011: Sprinting to the Finish Line

Cannes 2011 comes to an end today with a flurry of recycled Competition screenings and the impending awards presentation, a cumulative finale if there ever was one. Tomorrow, the festival bubble bursts, our own special kind of Rapture. I can’t believe the hectic, invigorating, and transcendent experience is already over.

My last critical hurrah from Cannes will cover the few films I didn’t include in previous dispatches, the ones that either fell prey to more pressing matters or necessitated a bit more afterthought. Some were just plain awful and I’ve dreaded spending any space on them at all.

In the Main Competition field, I failed at the holy grail of completism by one film, missing Markus Schleinzer’s Michael, which screened as a one-off premiere/press screening last week. I was supposed to see Schleinzer’s child-molester character study during the complete reprise of Competition films, but it conflicted with Naomi Kawase’s Hanezu, the only other competition film I hadn’t seen as of today (I had a feeling this would happen). Choosing Kawase’s film was easy since it probably won’t open in the states. But honestly, another grim film about pedophilia/rape/child abuse sounds about as fun as a kick in the groin after a festival brimming with such fare. More wind in the trees please.