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Alexandra Review


Excellent
Nothing much happens in the Russian art-drama Alexandra. A grandmother (legendary opera diva Galina Vishnevskaya) gets on a train to Chechnya to visit her grandson Denis (Vasily Shevtsov), a soldier living on a makeshift base. Once she arrives, she sees her grandson for a bit, talks to some of the other soldiers, goes to a local market, and makes friends with some elderly marketplace traders. Again, it doesn't look like much, but those familiar with the work of Russian auteur Aleksandr Sokurov know that the man doesn't need much when creating his specialized brand of cinematic enigmas.

Like the bright balloon of Hou Hsiao-hsien's upcoming Flight of the Red Balloon, Alexandra serves as an allegory for several things, but, as political as it might be, Sokurov's film comes off as a metaphor. Vishnevskaya, in a bold, hypnotic performance, is at once Mother Russia, the grandmother of every man on the base, the ghost of humanity, the regiment's inner compass and, yes, even herself. The soldiers are at times equally mesmerized and frustrated by her very existence, mostly as she complains about the overwhelming heat. Though the war between Chechnya and Russia in the early 1990s is felt, Sokurov's film feels oddly undated, and when the grandmother fires a gun, remarking on how easy it is, it sounds like the universal history of conflict psychology delivered in a thick, Leningrad accent.

Continue reading: Alexandra Review

The Sun Review


Excellent
How do you like your tyrant? You have so many choices these days that it's hard to figure out what's best. Take Hitler for example. If you want him stone cold and terrifying, go for Oliver Hirchbiegal's Downfall, in which Bruno Ganz gave one of the most intense performances of the year as the Fuhrer. Want it weak and sorta awkward? Noah Taylor's turn as Adolf in Menno Meyjes' halfhearted Max should be your ticket. But for outright strangeness and surrealism, you've got to stand and marvel at Aleksandr Sokurov's Moloch, about a day in the life of Hitler with his mistress, Eva Braun, and some other close friends. It's not any easy watch by any stretch of the imagination, which explains why most of his films don't get U.S. distribution: One has to track down these films in DVD or at film festivals. Don't expect his latest, The Sun, to be any sort of exception.

While Moloch dealt with Adolf Hitler and 2001's Taurus dealt with Lenin, The Sun takes on Emperor Hirohito (Issei Ogata) during his August 1954 meetings with General Douglas MacArthur. Under any other director, a film like this would be a political thriller with crisp tension and lots of shouting about pride. Sokurov isn't interested in that stuff, thank God. Instead, Sokurov uses his entrancing, methodical style to search inside the Emperor and look at the character in relation to his use of power and the stress it puts on him. His meetings with General MacArthur (Robert Dawson) are straight-laced and hushed, like two lovers lying in bed in the dead of winter. Even when Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor come up, it's a solemn and sacred speech that they don't want to soil with such emotions as anger and resentment.

Continue reading: The Sun Review

The Sun Review


Excellent
How do you like your tyrant? You have so many choices these days that it's hard to figure out what's best. Take Hitler for example. If you want him stone cold and terrifying, go for Oliver Hirchbiegal's Downfall, in which Bruno Ganz gave one of the most intense performances of the year as the Fuhrer. Want it weak and sorta awkward? Noah Taylor's turn as Adolf in Menno Meyjes' halfhearted Max should be your ticket. But for outright strangeness and surrealism, you've got to stand and marvel at Aleksandr Sokurov's Moloch, about a day in the life of Hitler with his mistress, Eva Braun, and some other close friends. It's not any easy watch by any stretch of the imagination, which explains why most of his films don't get U.S. distribution: One has to track down these films in DVD or at film festivals. Don't expect his latest, The Sun, to be any sort of exception.

While Moloch dealt with Adolf Hitler and 2001's Taurus dealt with Lenin, The Sun takes on Emperor Hirohito (Issei Ogata) during his August 1954 meetings with General Douglas MacArthur. Under any other director, a film like this would be a political thriller with crisp tension and lots of shouting about pride. Sokurov isn't interested in that stuff, thank God. Instead, Sokurov uses his entrancing, methodical style to search inside the Emperor and look at the character in relation to his use of power and the stress it puts on him. His meetings with General MacArthur (Robert Dawson) are straight-laced and hushed, like two lovers lying in bed in the dead of winter. Even when Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor come up, it's a solemn and sacred speech that they don't want to soil with such emotions as anger and resentment.

Continue reading: The Sun Review

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