Monday, 20 August 2012

Aleksei German Jr: Garpastum -Гарпастум (2005)

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Director Aleksei German Jr.
Cast: Chulpan Khamatova, Evgeny Pronin, Danila Kozlovsky, Dmitri Vladimirov

Awards :
Best Cinematography Oleg LUKICHEV , International debut film festival, Russia, 2006
Best directing Festival of Central and Eastern Film , Germany, 2006
Best directing "NIKA" Prizes, Russia, 2005
Best Cinematography Oleg LUKICHEV , Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Russia, 2005
Best actor Danila KOZLOVSKY , Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Russia, 2005
Bélier d'or de la meilleure réalisation, 2005 Prix Nika de la meilleure réalisation, 2005

The second feature film of talented young filmmaker Aleksei German, Jr. is as stark and challenging as his award-wining 2004 debut film The Last Train (see Birgit Beumers’s review in KinoKultura 3). While The Last Train was set in the waning days of World War II, the action of Garpastum takes place at another critical moment in twentieth-century Russian history, the period between the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 and the Revolution of 1917. Although profoundly marked by the influence of the director’s father, Aleksei German, Sr., Garpastum is the work of a mature, independent artist.
Garpastum (Latin for a ball game played by the ancient Romans) is a tale of two middle-class brothers, who, completely oblivious to the storm clouds gathering all around them, spend their days obsessed with soccer and girls. Nikolai (Danila Kozlovskii) is the dark-haired, serious, and responsible one, while Andrei (Evgenii Pronin) is blond, irresponsible, self-centered, and a genius at soccer. They live with their uncle (Pavel Romanov), aunt, and invalid father; apparently their mother’s recent death has unhinged their father, who is mostly confined to his bed. Along with two young friends, Shust (Dmitrii Vladimirov) and Misha, nicknamed “Tolstyi” (Aleksandr Bykovskii), the brothers devote themselves to playing soccer and much of the film revolves around their efforts to raise money to purchase a field for a stadium of their own. When not playing soccer matches for money with factory toughs, Orthodox seminarians, or young boys in the streets and fields of a fog-draped St. Petersburg, Nikolai works in a pharmacy (perhaps he will follow the family tradition and become a doctor), while Andrei spends his evenings being initiated into slightly kinky sex by Anitsa (Chulpan Khamatova), an attractive and unstable young widow and Silver Age salon hostess. Although the leading literary lights of the period—including Akhmatova, Gumilev, Mandelstam, Khodasevich, and Blok—gather at Anitsa’s salon, Andrei shows no interest in them, only occasionally feeling jealous of Blok, whom Anitsa calls a friend and “perhaps, a great poet.” The calamitous events of the world beyond the family apartment, Anitsa’s salon and bedroom, and the soccer field are briefly mentioned by characters who quickly pass through the camera’s field of view: a man on the train reads out loud a newspaper account of the assassination of the Archduke, random people discuss rumors about soldiers being drafted or the latest military news from the front, a soccer-playing acquaintance of our heroes who had deserted from the army is taken into custody. But throughout it all, our heroes’ attention stays firmly focused on their own personal field of dreams.

The friendship of two handsome brothers survives wars and revolutions in Alexey German’s second film Garpastum, a sepia-tinted exercise in 1910s Russian melancholy that could resonate with older, sophisticated arthouse audiences across Europe and, possibly, North America. The brothers’ love for football (Garpastum in Latin) is used niftily to enlarge their ambitions from winning the game to succeeding in life, and not only diverts their attention from World Wars and Communist Revolutions but also allows German to put their love for play and physical prowess on display. ... more>>

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