Saturday, 12 March 2011

Boris Khlebnikov, Ivan Vyrypaev, Petr Buslov, Alexei German Jr., Kirill Serebrennikov: Crush - Короткое замыкание (2009)

Directors: Boris Khlebnikov, Ivan Vyrypaev, Petr Buslov, Alexei German Jr., Kirill Serebrennikov
Cast: Aleksandr Iatsenko, Il'ia Shcherbinin, Irinia Butanaeva, Karolina Gruszka, Aleksei Filimonov, Ivan Dobronravov, Evgeniia Sviridova, Tat'iana Zhukova, Karim Pakachakov, Anna Ekaterininskaia, Pavel Sergienko, Aleksandr Bezrukov, Dmitrii Vladimirov, Dmitrii Voronets, Aron Mel'nikov, Nikolai Andreev, Iurii Chursin, Iuliia Peresil'd, Alena Doletskaia, Andrei Savel'ev, Andrei Fomin, Vitalii Khaev, Psoi Korolenko, Anastasiia Golub, Svetlana Brilliantova
Producer: Sabina Eremeeva

The search for the meaning behind an almanac film like Crush can be synonymous with efforts to define auteur cinema as a whole. What purpose does a collection of short film-novellas typified by highly personalized aesthetics serve, if it is not to place the auteur above all other participants in the cinematic event? The introductory sequence reinforces their primacy, as each contributor to the film orders a beverage from the camera, before they all enter an empty auditorium. Through the various drink orders, Boris Khlebnikov sets himself apart from Ivan Vyrypaev, who sets himself apart from Petr Buslov, who sets himself apart from Aleksei German, Jr., who sets himself apart from Kirill Serebrennikov. And if Khlebnikov’s hundred grams of vodka or Buslov’s espresso are not the most esoteric drinks ever, their singularity is assured by the absence of cast, crew, and, most importantly, an audience. They are producing themselves by themselves for themselves.
The five directors optimize the exhibition of contrast by approaching the same topic, the difficulties in confessing love, from different artistic points of view. Some, though not all, play with the image of the “short circuit” (the literal translation of the film’s Russian title Korotkoe zamykanie). Others, by contrast, are connected by their depictions of senseless violence or graphic mutilation, conveying more strongly the meaning of the film’s English title: “crush” means both the state of being in love before the other person ever loves you in return, and violent compression or oppression. Otherwise, there appears to be very little to connect the five novellas thematically or visually.

Boris Khlebnikov, Petr Buslov, Ivan Vyrypaev, Aleksei German Jr., and Kirill Serebrennikov: Crush: Five Stories about Love (Korotkoe zamykanie, 2009)reviewed by Joshua First © 2009 in KinoKultura

With the participation of Khlebnikov, Buslov, Vyrypaev, German Jr., and Serebrennikov, Crush will inevitably be hyped for its all-star lineup of contemporary Russian filmmakers. The Kinotavr Open Russian Film Festival featured the film in its opening gala in June 2009, and its international premiere took place at the Venice International Film Festival in September, where the film competed in the “Orrizonti” section. Despite its directorial and international film festival credentials, the structure of Crush evokesthe time-honored Soviet tradition of the kinoal’manakh, wherein a few directors agree on a vague theme—such as “friendship” (a popular one in the Soviet Union)—and create a short, and, for the most part, forgettable film. In Crush, the chosen theme is love, as the English title indicates. The Russian title, translated as “short circuit,” however, indicates something more specific to the theme that these short pieces address: all of them deal with love as a force that necessarily moves in unintended directions; that it is in no way predictable or fateful. In this respect, love possesses something magical about it, perhaps the same kind of magic that brought to life Number 5, the hero of another film that shared a title with this one. While perhaps this also fits the plot of a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy, the directors at least provide enough stylistic flair to keep things interesting for 95 minutes.

As with much of contemporary Russian cinema, Crush focuses on socially marginal spaces and people—hooligans in apartment block courtyards, a deaf cobbler who lives and works in a basement shop, a forced labor camp for the mentally ill, and a sub-proletarian, prawn-suited young man advertising a seafood restaurant. With the exception of Petr Buslov’scontribution, all of them are notable for their dark humor, each of them foregrounding the surreal and unexpected. While none of the shorts rank with the best of the five directors’ work (again, with the possible exception of Buslov), they are all entertaining, with some more interesting on a formal level than others.

The film begins, in black and white, with each of the directors, in turn, ordering a drink. They then all gather the front row of a movie theater, where we watch the five settle down to view their own film. While certainly a novel manner to begin a film, perhaps it comments on the zadanie that the directors were given—to produce something original out of a tried and true, some might say cliché, formula. Thus, we see them as the proverbial “ordinary spectators,” and at the same time as auteurs. ...

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