Director: Alexey Krasovsky
Cast:Konstantin Khabenskiy, Polina Agureeva (voice), Valentina Lukashchuk (voice), Kseniya Buravskaya
Best actor Konstantin KHABENSKY , Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Sochi (Russia), 2016
Best Cinematography Denis FIRSTOV , Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Sochi (Russia), 2016
Prix du Conseil Régional de Normandie, meilleur premier film Honfleur Russian Film Festival, Honfleur (France), 2016
Prix François Chalais du meilleur scénario Honfleur Russian Film Festival, Honfleur (France), 2016
A lithe and lean one-man show, “Collector” is a crackling little high-wire act only sent tumbling to earth by its very final one-twist-too-many. Up to that point, it’s a kicky pleasure, a triumph of sharp scripting, shooting, editing, and acting over the obvious limits of time and resources. A canny first film from Russian director Alexei Krasovskiy, it was shot in one single week, almost entirely in one single location, with just one single actor, so it’s a pretty singular achievement all round. And to deliver a credible genre-inflected thriller in that mold takes not just a gapless, unflagging screenplay, but inventive camerawork and a massive central performance, to keep us all from fidgeting in our seats. But that’s exactly what Krasovskiy brings with “Collector,” a movie that makes no claims to being high art, but should be admired for its artfulness nonetheless.
And speaking of artful, our main character here is quite the dodger, a fast-talking, quick thinking, utterly amoral Muscovite debt collector, and the largely autonomous star operator in his company (“I make more money in a day than your whole department does in a month,” he snarls to his boss at one point). Artur (Konstantin Khabenskiy) is a master manipulator, a flawless liar, and apparently a heartless bastard, impervious to threats or entreaties, certain there is no sob story he hasn’t heard a million times before, and none that he has ever fully believed. Artur is not just good at his evil job, he enjoys it, relishing the inevitable capitulation of his victims as a lion does its kill.
Yet this is a subtler, more psychological method of debt collection than the old kicking doors and cracking skulls model that more readily springs to mind as the cinematic archetype. From atop a modern high-rise, in a sleekly furnished office with a plate glass window overlooking a terrace and the lights of the metropolis beyond, Artur gets even the most incorrigible creditors to cough up using no implement more threatening than a telephone receiver.
We always hear both sides of the conversation, and that, along with the conceit of assistant Liza (Polina Agureeva) and security guard Evgeny (Kirill Pletnyov) talking to him from adjacent rooms, we get the impression of a film a great deal more populous that it really is — similar to the trick that the nearest touchpoint, Steven Knight’s “Locke,” managed to pull off. And the dialogue is so crisply written and gamely performed that we get a sense of them all as people anyway.
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