Posted tagged ‘The Fly’

Ambiance and Ambivalence at New Direc– Aw, Screw It All, Let’s Get Hammered.

March 30, 2009

After drinking sake with Armond White, joshing with A.O. Scott and seeing a couple pretty-darn-good movies, I felt pretty content with my experience writing for New Directors/New Films, solid in the knowledge that I’d had a few adventures, laughs, et cetera. However, apparently this was not enough for the editorial staff who decided, with the precision of moving plastic soldiers in a game of Risk, to throw me in to the one situation I wasn’t prepared for:

An after-party.

IMG_1478  Film Society Bloggers

The filmlinc blog's New Voices are out on the scene!

“Just make sure I don’t get too drunk too fast,” I told my friend. I thought for a second. “Or too slow.”

The Directors’ After-Party for the New Directors/New Films Festival was held Sunday night at Josephina, a classy New-American joint with organic-natural themes, the sort of place that seems smart and doesn’t do too bad either. People filed in from on early, starting at around 8:30 and a burst of unexpected rain seemed not to deter them.

As for the atmosphere, it was a difficult for me to discern who was who. Unlike Cannes or Sundance, ND/NF is a “working” festival; the people here aren’t on vacation. They see their films and then go home or go to work or back to their lives. Thus, there’s not a lot of opportunity for socializing before-hand in a small community like Park City, where the parties go on for nights.

Instead though, you manage to get an interesting cast of characters gathered from around the city’s film scene in one place. Given my singular ignorance, I was fortunate to run into a figure from my school, the well-connected-and-witty Jeremiah Newton, who volunteered to point out to me various figures, including film critics, directors, distributors and movie-house owners.

Still, the directors were hard to pick out, something that can be testified by the most common question asked to me that evening (“Do you have a film in the festival?”), to which I could only shake my head and grit my teeth, identifying myself as a lowly blogger. Still stranger were the times one managed to actually locate a director. Sterlin Harjo of Barking Water, a Native American road movie, was a nice guy, but after talking to him about the dearth of money for Native American cinema and Chris Eyre’s career, he was surrounded by his friends back from the buffet and I had to move.

IMG_1587 So Yong Kim, director of Treeless Mountain

Memo to Nick Feitel: the director above is So Yong Kim (Treeless Mountain)

A man I later found out was Vladimir Kott, of the Russian family comedy The Fly, said “yes” when I asked him if he was a director, but that was just about all the English he spoke.

“What film?” I asked enthusiastically.

“Zeflai,” he responded.

“What?”

“Zeflai. Zefli.”

We had a stand-still, for a moment, at the buffet.

“I have, uh, translator,” he said as he returned to getting food and turned away from me.

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Updated: Another director I.D....Jack Pettibone Riccobono, co-director of KILLER

But all in all, I had a pretty good time, which I suppose is the point of these after-parties. Learning how to duck the Key-Lime-Tart Vodka-Drink offered and find your way to a glass of Merlot or a Whiskey Sour proved a good skill to learn and I even had some street cred with people coming up to me about my interview with Armond.

“Free booze, free food. Some good movie talk. I’ll take it in a flagging economy,” a fellow student told me.

“Come on,” I told my date. “My ears are turning red, along with the rest of my body.”

And then home.

-Nicholas Feitel, ND/NF New Voice

All photos by Susan Sermoneta.

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ND/NF: The Fly proves Tolstoy’s adage that “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”

March 26, 2009

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On the autumn side of his too-far-extended teenage years (the closer-to-forty side), Fedor Mukhin (Alexey Kravchenko) of writer/director Vladimir Kott’s debut feature The Fly (2008) might be a footloose hard-drinker tough-guy truckdriver, but he is no deadbeat dad. He’s not above swapping off on a roadside prostitute with his trucking buddy, but he’s ready to pledge devotion and fatherdom for any progeny who happens to come along. So when Fedor receives a deathbed telegram from a past girlfriends (he isn’t quite sure who she is) summoning him to a distant small town to devote himself to her, he u-turns his rig from his shipping route to get there.

Fedor doesn’t make it in time to meet (and confirm he knows) the telegram girlfriend, but he is there in time to be assigned (per the will) the guardianship of her 16-year-old daughter: local terror Vera Mukhina (Alexandra Tyuftey) who has earned her nickname: “Mukha” (meaning “the fly”). The daughter, the will assures him, is his own.

Everything about this situation warns him off of it. His trucking buddy begs him to jump up in the cab and ride for the hills. The town itself generates an aura of menace and small town dirty dealings even before the town’s flock of hungry widows eye him like the latest piece of meat. (“Why are there no real men left alive in this town?” one of the women complains.)

But you see, at this stage in his life, Fedor wants to do the right thing, even if he isn’t sure it is his right thing, and even if it just might kill him. But despite his good intentions, the wild-as-in-rabid Mukha might not be above killing him to return to her independent life alone.

The first half hour watching this film, I thought I was watching a return to the slapsticky Soviet smalltown comedy, the kind of film where a stranger stumbles into an off-the-map farming community where they are perfecting the art of making vodka from everything: plants, animals, rocks, human feces. But as the film continues, the tone shifts from high register of farce (and farcical satire) into darker, candid drama.

Debut writer-director Vladimir Kott lands punches with his cultural and political commentary, but the farce broadstrokes belong not to the film but to the inner life of the characters themselves. As the story spirals around the father and daughter at its center, the capacity for these characters to reveal themselves, at first only smoldering, catches flame. The incongruous sides of their personality, supremely tough and painfully vulnerable, are not masks worn by an actor, but masks built up and painfully maintained by the characters.

Fedor and “Mukha” will not be protected by the rules of farce, brought into order by the end by higher principles. Their stakes are much higher, their yearning to make something of their lives too urgent to be resolved by slapstick and hijinks. This involuntary father/daughter couple has no rubric for how a family works, and the mad world they inhabit will not supply one. So they will have to build their own from scratch, a make-do large enough to provide both of them, built from the rubble of their lives, if such a thing exists.

— Matthew Griffin

Buy Tickets
Thu Mar 26: 9 (MoMA)
Sun Mar 29: 2 (FSLC)

ND/NF: Vladimir Kott makes dysfunction palatable in The Fly/Mukha

March 18, 2009

fly

Not another interminable remake of a remake of an adaptation, The Fly/Mukha only deals with the mutations of the heart. In this quirky Russian family drama, director Vladimir Kott captures the dank, inhospitable corners where life sometimes abandons us.

Fyodor Mukhin, played by Alexey Kravchenko with a rakish charm, bears a striking resemblance to Daniel Craig. However, his exploits are far more pedestrian than James Bond’s. Fyodor lives an intransigent life as a truck driver in communion with his fellow road warriors, unwilling to look ahead or settle down. Drinks, smokes, and prostitutes are the constant comforts these men return to on their attenuated byways.

However, Fyodor soon receives a letter from a former lover he strains to remember– a beacon in an all too hazy existence. Subconscious stirrings compel him to go looking for closure with this lost love. He ends up in the no man’s land of Barbash. After the police pull him out of his car for mysterious reasons, he realizes life has been happening around him despite his negligence. A teenage daughter is Fyodor’s reward for curiosity. Mukha not only shares a name with her father, but she is brimming with the same rebelliousness, amplified by youthful angst and sexual confusion.

The two competing halves of Mukha’s psyche are exemplified by a pair of maladjusted suitors. Suslik, the nerdy coward, attempts subterfuge to hide his inadequacies whereas Pulya, the brash fighter, views physicality as the only way to navigate the world. Mukha is struggling, violently at times, with who she wants to be, and the unexpected arrival of her father is at first an unbearable intrusion into her hard-won independence.

Fyodor desperately wants to make a connection, but he is blocked by unnatural calamity in the guise of the town’s Mayor, various women, and an imposing third act fire. He can’t catch any breaks, and his temporary job sucking human waste into a truck pretty much sums up his foray into responsibility.

The Fly/Mukha undeterred by the serious subject matter, unleashes a dark sense of humor at opportune moments to break the dizzying clashes between father and daughter. Once they stop self-sabotaging their own deepest wishes, these achingly human characters can sit down over some beef and macaroni like a real family and argue over meaningless trifles.

-Wayne Lorenzo Titus

Wayne Lorenzo Titus also writes for Cinemism.

Buy tickets to The Fly: Thu Mar 26: 9 (MoMA) and Sun Mar 29: 2 (FSLC)