Kirill Serebrennikov’s delirious newest provides a strikingly singular imaginative and prescient of life in post-Soviet Russia.
Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov is just not at Cannes this 12 months to current Petrov’s Flu, simply as he was not right here in 2018 to current his earlier characteristic, Leto. In 2018, he was beneath home arrest, dealing with virtually actually politically motivated embezzlement prices referring to his function as a director of a state-supported, state-critical Moscow theatre.
Having been launched from home arrest in 2019, he’s nonetheless unable to go away Russia, however is at the very least doing interviews this time round – and reward be for that, since Petrov’s Flu, which he shot at evening whereas going to courtroom throughout the day, is without delay palpably visionary and abrasively obscure, an intensely expressive work which can also be deeply embedded in a Russian context.
Petrov’s Flu is essentially exhilarating, though I do not know what it’s about – it could really be about Petrov’s (Semyon Serzin) flu. The title character is launched on a Yekaterinburg bus wanting straight into the digital camera and coughing a raspy, hacking cough. (The movie, an adaptation of a novel by Alexey Salnikov, was shot earlier than the pandemic.) It’s the top of the 12 months, and Petrov and his ex-wife (Chulpan Khamatova) are monitoring their son’s signs earlier than he’s set to attend a kids’s New 12 months’s live performance and costume celebration. It’s indicative of the type of movie that is that the previous Mrs Petrov has a subplot about being a serial killer with superhuman energy, and it really feels a bit of bit throwaway.
The narrative expands, virally, to different characters and different timelines, usually by means of rambling lengthy takes lensed by DoP Vladislav Opelyants, whose digital camera traverses a number of bodily areas and registers of actuality in over the course of a number of single pictures (one was clocked at 18 minutes by Display screen Day by day).
Leto, a type of true story in regards to the Russian punk and post-punk scene, was likeable, with a nostalgic core and rock-n-roll power, however frustratingly spinoff in all its “freewheeling” filmmaking prospers; there wasn’t a lot in it to counsel that Serebrennikov had this a lot imaginative boldness and originality. Petrov’s Flu is filled with a number of motifs which rhyme throughout a number of timelines, actors in a number of roles, and magic-realist touches galore, like a singing set of dentures.
The primary motion of the movie is its most intense, with the invariably darkish and dirty body full of virulently xenophobic and blind-drunk grotesques, and random acts of well-choreographed random acts of violence. When a brawl breaks out at a library’s poetry studying, the overhead lights strobe on and off as a result of somebody’s head is being bashed towards the wall proper the place the sunshine swap occurs to be.
That is breathtaking filmmaking, however could be a bit of onerous to take for two-and-a-half hours. Fortunately, Serebrennikov has extra methods up his sleeve. Saturated flashbacks within the model of narrow-gauge residence motion pictures take us again to Petrov’s Soviet-era childhood and his personal journey to a Christmas live performance just like the one his son attends; and good-looking Leto-style black-and-white widescreen sequences present us the lifetime of the marginal character who finally ends up taking part in the Snow Queen of Petrov’s confused recollections.
These scenes – and their juxtaposition – carry an sudden tenderness and melancholy to what’s basically a literal fever dream about up to date Russia in all its darkish, outsized, incredulous glory, full with a mangy-dog story a few resurrected corpse that threads all through the movie.