Sunday, 11 December 2016

Pavel Lungin: Queen of Spades - Дама пик (2016)

Queen of Spades

Director: Pavel Lungin
Cast:Kseniya Rappoport, Ivan Yankovskiy,Igor Mirkurbanov

Opera diva Sophia Meyer after years of exile returned to Russia. The singer intends to put the "Queen of Spades" by Tchaikovsky on the stage, where he once made its debut. The play, no doubt, will be an event of the season, and all the actors posing wake up famous. About fame and money dreams of a young singer of opera troupe Andrew, and "Queen of Spades" for him the chance to achieve the desired. He is ready to do anything to get the role of Germany, and it realizes Sophia, who left for the role of the Countess. Opera diva begins a brutal game that will play all the participants involved.

An operatic thriller about the staging of an opera in contemporary Moscow, The Queen of Spades feels at times almost like a Russian-language remake of Darren Aronofsky’s lurid ballet-themed psychodrama Black Swan. Director Pavel Lungin co-wrote the screenplay with David Seidler, who earned an Oscar for The King’s Speech. They borrow their title, key characters and selective plot elements from two related sources: Alexander Pushkin’s supernatural short story, first published in 1834, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s 1890 opera of the same name.

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A film festival regular and one-time best director prize-winner in Cannes, Lungin has penned librettos for operas and orchestral pieces before. His musical passion clearly shines through during the film’s operatic sequences, which are staged with great panache and energy. Premiering this week in the main competition strand at Black Nights Film Festival in Tallinn, The Queen of Spades is hardly subtle, but its juicy combination of technical polish, bloodthirsty action and lusty romantic melodrama could well lure a curious niche audience globally. Its next scheduled festival stopover is next month in Macau.

After decades in self-imposed exile, legendary soprano Sofia Meyer (Kseniya Rappoport) returns to Moscow to rebuild her reputation by directing and starring in The Queen of Spades, the Tchaikovsky opera which made her famous. To help realize her grand schemes, she recruits wealthy oligarchs, shady gangsters and her grudgingly cooperative twentysomething niece Lisa (Mariya Kurdenovich). Sofia also sees potential in Lisa’s broodingly intense boyfriend Andrey (Ivan Yankovsiy), an amateur tenor who has idolized the diva all his life.

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Gifted with the freakish ability to shatter glass with his powerful voice ever since he was pushed into a frozen lake as a child, the obsessive Andrey slowly insinuates his way into the playing the male lead in The Queen of Spades. A Machiavellian manipulator with a heart of ice, Sofia initiates her young disciple into a glamorous late-night shadow world of illegal high-stakes casinos, where he soon develops a gambling addiction and unwisely makes Faustian deals with brutal gangland godfathers. Sofia then seduces Andrey in full view of Lisa, creating an explosive sexual tension which reaches its murderous crescendo when all three are onstage during the climactic opera scenes.

The Queen of Spades has a kind of fruity, oversaturated, borderline-camp mania that feels all too Russian at first. The opening act will test viewer endurance with its soapy emotional dynamics and broad-bush archetypes, especially Sofia, a cackling femme fatale who appears to be channeling Cruella de Vil. But Lungin is no amateur, and the torrid tone starts making more sense as the story evolves beyond realism into something more artfully stylized. Recurring flashbacks to Andrey’s nightmarish plunge into the icy lake and a scene involving the jealous Lisa smashing up a gallery of mannequins are strong visual set-pieces.

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