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Criminal Russia: A full-length debut of a new generation director

FIPRESCI Warsaw Critics Project 2019 2019-10-17
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Petr Levchenko is a 27-year-old Russian director and a graduate of the main state university of cinematography. His film The Curator is on the actual political agenda regarding the corruption in Russia. As an experienced surgeon, Levchenko explores the insides of his native country without embarrassment. He uses cinematography as a sharp scalpel, and penetrates deep into the open wound.

The plot is inspired by the real story that took place in the small town Krasnogorsk, near Moscow, four years ago. For all Russian filmmakers, this city isn't a place where a notorious crime was committed, but a place where one of the main archives of film and photo documents is located. It's a mysterious connection between the real and the cinematic worlds. 

Whether the story is true or not, it doesn't matter. Levchenko shows one of the typical episodes of the new Russia. This could happen anywhere and at any time. As current President Vladimir Putin likes to say, "Russia is a country of opportunity".

The Curator starts with the murder of the mayor of the town. One of his guards (Yuri Tsurilo) must find the killer before the police do it. In fact, the mission doesn't take him much time, but requires care and caution. Gradually, the story reveals the tangled structure of the world's power players, where close relationships exist between criminal authorities, government officials and major businessmen. The main character is a cicerone, who skillfully resolves conflicts and maintains the balance of the system.

Criminal proceedings, corruption, and issues related to the everyday evil of Russian politics are a topic that concerns young contemporary Russian directors (The Bull, a comedy series House arrest, The Fool). And Levchenko's film just continues this list. The director immerses us in the viscous and cloudy atmosphere. The suburbs, where the action takes place, are filled with filth. Unfortunately, it is not only the characters who sink in this mud, but also the audience. The dramaturgical structure is too complicated, the characters are grey and it's hard to understand what is going on. It's useless to resist, it is only necessary to plunge into a frowziness, without any hope of salvation.

Tsurilo's character becomes the embodiment of everyday evil. The actor played a similar character in Khrustalyov, My Car! (1998) by Alexei German, and in the social drama also devoted to corruption and indifference of the authorities The Fool (2014). In The Curator he is a bullyboy in a black leather jacket. The camera follows the powerful bald back of his head. His eyes aren't visible, with heavy eyelids hiding both them and true thoughts. The direct look of this horrendous character should be feared. He is ruthless and cruel as far as it can be imagined by audience.

Levchenko gives no prescriptions, no treatment, no recovery. Only the statement of infection with the monstrous polyps of unfinished buildings and the absence of even a hint of human warmth. Welcome to modern Russia, where you can go missing in one of the construction pits full of gravel.

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FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project

Lemana Filandra2Lemana Filandra is a writer and editor at "Klifhenger" (www.klifhenger.com), a site dedicated to movie analyses in Bosnian and English. She has been working as a freelance writer, a researcher, and a translator for the last three years. Currently, She is working on a PhD thesis in philosophy, focused on intersectional feminism and political implications of the concept of body. In the past she had different professional engagements at Sarajevo Film Festival, one of the most prominent European festivals. She also worked as a producer of a music video, a script supervisor and an assistant to a movie director.

Levan Tskhovrebadze2Levan Tskhovrebadze is a student of film studies in Ilia State University, Georgia. He has written and made other kind of journalistic content for Georgian outlets like Indigo, Cinemania.ge or Demo.ge. Recently he started working for Ilia State University online publication Cinexpress.iliauni.edu.ge where he writes reviews, articles and also translates some of the important articles or interviews about cinema into Georgian. He has covered few festivals as a film critic. He was doing video blogs for Berlin International Film Festival 2019th edition and has made some content at CinéDOC-Tbilisi and Batumi International Art-House Film Festival. Cinexpress is also the Ilia State University’s Film Club where he made public reports before screenings.

Oleksandra Povoroznyk2Oleksandra Povoroznyk is a film critic and journalist based in Kyiv, Ukraine. She is currently working for Vertigo.com.ua, one of the largest Ukrainian websites devoted to the film industry and entertainment in general. She is also the host of two podcasts about movies and TV.

Denisa Jašová2Denisa Jašová is a PhD student of Audiovisual Studies at Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. As a Film Studies and Archival Science graduate, she specializes on archival research in film and TV history, especially on Czechoslovak amateur film and TV non-fiction programmes from 70s and 80s. She also works as a researcher for TV documentaries, as a librarian in the Central European House of Photography and as a talk show host in student radio talk show called Cinefil. She frequently writes for magazine Film.sk, IFF Cinematik Piešťany and her first paper about the history of Slovak amateur film will be released in October 2019 in Kino-Ikon magazine. She simply loves film archives.

Bogdan Balla2Bogdan Balla is a Romanian experimental film director and freelance film critic based in Bucharest. He studies film directing at the National University of Theatre and Film and writes for FILM MENU. Besides directing and producing his own films, he also works as an independent freelance film critic. He reads bell hooks and is passionate about queer cinema. He has a preference for working with archival footage for his films.

Svetlana Semenchuk2Svetlana Semenchuk is an author of such publications on cinema as “Seanse”, “The Art of Cinema”, “Cinema TV” and other. The author-composer of the books “S. M. Eisenstein: pro et contra: Sergey Eisenstein in national reflection: anthology” and “E. F. Bauer: pro et contra. Eugene Frantsevich Bauer in assessments of contemporaries, colleagues, researchers, film critics. Anthology”. Teacher of the St. Petersburg New Cinema School, and at the St. Petersburg State University of Cinema and Television.

TUTORS of FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project

amber wilkinson2Amber Wilkinson  is a journalist with more than 20 years experience. She is the co-founder and editorial director of UK-based website Eye For Film. Her byline has appeared in The Times, Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald and Filmmaker Magazine among others. She also contributes as a freelance film critic on BBC Radio Scotland. She has run several FIPRESCI young critics' workshops and mentored student critics at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2018 and 2019.

TommasoTommaso Tocci is based in Italy, where he works as a film critic and translator covering film festivals across Europe for international publications. He has also worked for Berlinale Talents and for the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and he currently serves as Co-Programmer for the Saas-Fee Film Festival in Switzerland.