I kept the otherwise superfluous “27th Annual” in the title to evoke visions of the great 1979 inaugural fest, likely blessed by a doddering Brezhnev and teeming with Estonian, Chinese, and Cuban films (comrades in two hemispheres!). Things have obviously changed, but with sidebar presentations commemorating the Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War and the East German director Konrad Wolf, not to mention the packs of military officers that inspect press passes at the gape of every room, there’s also some continuity. Of the 17 films in the main competition, 5 have been screened, I’ve seen 4 (I missed the Chilean entry because it lacked English subtitles – unannounced, of course, before I miraculously arrived in time for the 9:30 am screening), and they’ve all been well-polished, lifeless turds. Thankfully there are many many other films being screened in the supporting programs, the best being a “Russian Alternative” at the vanguard Cine-Fantom club near Gorky Park. On Saturday night they showed 4, a festival hit at Rotterdam that has no planned release date for Russia, ostensibly due to its needling of the ruling administration and its harsh, stomach-churning vision of contemporary Russia. The film, directed by Ilya Khrzhanovsky and penned by enfant terrible Vladimir Sorokin, is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen: savage and human, blunt and considered, elaborate and spare, there’s no way to summarize or do it justice here. It’s the most profane, and possibly the best Russian film I’ve seen since Alexsei German’s Khrustalyov, My Car! Thanks to curator Andrey Plakhov, who also screened Russia’s first identifiably gay film, You I Love, on Sunday night, local cinephiles can finally see it for themselves, albeit for one night only.
Screening tomorrow is Thomas Vinterberg’s Von Trier-scripted Dear Wendy, in competition, and thus an early front-runner. Assuming the militsia let me in, and the promised English subtitles actually appear, I’ll have more to tell in the coming days.