Monday, August 18, 2008

Aleksandra

Any film by Aleksandr Sokurov has my immediate attention. This is the Russian director who made Russian Arc, a film I consider one of the best ever. (Berg says check it out.) Aleksandra stars internationally renown opera soprano Galina Vishnevskaya as the titular heroine of the film, a grandmother who visits and wanders through the army outpost of her grandson, himself stationed in Chechnya.
Sokurov doesn't get every one of his films distributed, in fact a recent trio of features focused on feared leaders (Hitler, Lenin, Hirohito) has barely played anywhere in North America. Aleksandra might not be the film that instantly converts you to a Sokurov disciple. The anti-war message lacks subtlety. The film wanders like a documentary occasionally pausing to gaze at the faces of young soldiers. The lensing is clean, with sun bleached exteriors and monochromatic interiors (like inside a tank). The sight of the grumpy old lady pushing aside the guards as they try to search her purse mixed with friendly rapport from other troops who are happy to assist her on her journey lends the film a bitter realism.
Aleksandra meets a Chechnyan woman her age in a street market and they soon bond, taking a break, going back to the woman's apartment, making tea. The movie isn't heavily scored but when the music creeps in it is heavily orchestrated. Maybe Aleksandra is too obvious by half, but as art house product it's definitive.

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