Near the end of shooting “Leto,” his followup to breakout drama “The Student,” Russian filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov was arrested, charged with embezzling $2 million in state funds from a Moscow-area avant-garde theater he runs, and ultimately placed under house arrest pending trial. Serebrennikov still finished the film, which was then accepted into Cannes’ Competition section, where it screened last May without its filmmaker in attendance.
That Serebrennikov’s arrest — he was just freed mere weeks ago, and is pushing for a full acquittal — came at the hands of a government that isn’t too hip to his outspoken anti-Kremlin views should give anyone pause as to its motivations, as should the content of the film he was making when the hammer came down on him. As with much of Serebrennikov’s work, it’s a film that makes plenty of veiled jabs at modern Russian life under Vladimir Putin’s rule, but still manages to do it within an intensely fun framework.
Per the film’s intriguing official synopsis: “Leningrad, in the summer, early eighties. Smuggling LP’s by Lou Reed and David Bowie, the underground rock scene is boiling ahead of Perestroika. Mike and his beautiful wife Natasha meet with young Viktor Tsoï. Together with friends, they will change the trajectory of rock n’roll music in the Soviet Union.” “Leto” stars Teo Yoo, Irina Starshenbaum, and Roman Bilyk.
In his IndieWire review out of last year’s Cannes, David Ehrlich wrote that the raucous rock musical “keeps a respectful distance from its characters; a film that allows them to just sort of be. Their happiness is magical but unextraordinary — it’s gone now, but it could return at any time we’re ready to receive it. It could be ours. That’s what makes it beautiful. For all of its candied sketchiness, ‘Leto’ nails the feeling — or the memory — of finding yourself in a world that isn’t afraid of who you might become. It’s a messy reverie for modern Russia, a gentle plea for kids to hear the silence Viktor sings about and fill it with some noise of their own.”
Gunpowder & Sky will release the film in Los Angeles on May 31 and in New York City on June 7. Check out IndieWire’s exclusive first trailer and poster for “Leto” below.