Feb 11, 2018

REVIEW: Loveless (dir. Zvyagintsev)

'It’s a forbidding but commanding film,  ostensibly  a missing-child procedural that plumes like ink in water into a corrosive critique on the beautiful monster that is Putin’s Russia, strange land of religious orthodoxy, tech companies, jaded bureaucracies, selfies and bikini waxes.  “The stats are on your side”  one lugubrious detective says to Boris, ceding responsibility for the search to a resourceful volunteer group, led by a coordinator (Alexey Fateev) who is the closest the movie has to a moral centre. Traditionally in a film like this, the search would bring the parents closer together, but as the orange-vested team combs the neighbourhood putting up flyers, the title instead expands panoramically to include a whole society in which cruelties are passed around, from mother to child, from husband to wife, alike. From Russia Without Love. Shoot the same thing east of the Volga — in Luxembourg, say, or Croydon — and all you have is a movie about a bad marriage with selfies. Zvyagintsev has pulled off something similar before. In 2014, he electrified Cannes with his 2014 film, Leviathan, a family drama that grew into a Hobbesian portrait of the boozy, corrupt provincial life.  The new movie is even more pitiless, if that were possible, but also more beautiful, shot with pristine dismay by  director of photography Mikhail Krichman, who photographs the characters through car windshields and tower block windows in which the Russian winter is always reflected, and creeps like a prowler through tower blocks, frozen forests, and, best of all, a ruined complex with crumbling conference rooms, movie theater, and basketball court that looks as if it has been rotting there since the days of Tarkovsky’s Stalker. If, as the camera pushes through those decrepit corridors, you find yourself pulling back in your seat, Zvyagintsev has you exactly where he wants you: your fears for the worst just out-paced by your desire for the truth... He isn’t the only thing that’s missing, we surmise by the end of the movie —  an extended shot of Zhenya running on a treadmill, the word “Russia” printed on her sweatshirt. Is she trying to avoid the TV reports of the war in the Ukraine? Outrun some inner restlessness? Or follow in the footsteps of her son? Maybe he had the best idea, all along.' —from my Sunday Times review

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