Directed by: Slava Ross
Starring: Pyotor Zaychenko, Mikhail Protsko, Sergey Novikov, Lidiya Bairashevskaya, Sonya Ross
Despite what the title looks like, this is not some Russian variant on Hiroshima, Mon Amour. No, Siberia, Monamour is a place in the backest backwoods of Siberia where Slava Ross' film takes place. It is, however, a somewhat dour film about a culture most of us can scarcely imagine. This is brutal world bereft of most of even the most rudimentary modern conveniences. At the center of the film we have an old man and his grandson who live in isolation in the woods, where they await the return of the boy's father (who apparently isn't coming back). The area is not just isolated, but food is scarce (especially since the old man is too infirm to do much in the way of hunting) and a pack of wild dogs -- even though one of them is the pet of the boy -- are a very real menace. For that matter, so are gangsters. At the same time, there's a parallel story about two soldiers who have been sent by their commander to get a prostitute. Eventually, the two stories will intersect in an effective manner. The film isn't perfect. There's one aspect of the plot that is never resolved, for instance. It's also difficult to know if a Russian filmmaker would know that the idea of a dog trying to lead someone to a well to save a boy is a cliche to the American viewer. (It isn't really played through anyway.) At the same time, there are undoubtedly things that just don't travel well. I'm sure that the image of wild dogs swarming down from a old hammer-and-sickle monument means more there than it does here. All in all, though, it's a compelling drama and a fascinating look into another world.
Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Siberia, Monamour at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 25, as the opening night film of the Twin Rivers Media Festival at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). This screening is the opening night film for the Twin Rivers Media Festival (see press release online in this week's Weekly Reeler), which has traditionally screened films of considerably higher quality than you'd find in most regional film festivals. Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com