17-10-2019

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

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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.