DVA V ODNOM (aka: TWO IN ONE) (director: Kira Muratova; screenwriters: Yevgeni Golubenko/Renata Litvinova; cinematographer: Vladimir Pankov; cast: Renata Litvinova (Alisa), Mila Musiyenko (Oksana), Natalya Buzko (Masha), Bogdan Stupka (Andrei Andreevich), Alexander Bashirov (Vitia, stagehand); Runtime: 124; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Oleg Kokhan; Cinema Group; 2007-Russia/Ukraine-in Russian with English subtitles)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The celebrated in art circles seventy-something Romania-born, Ukraine-raised (born to a Romanian mother and a Russian father) director, Kira Muratova (“Asthenic Syndrome”/”The Tuner”/”Melody for a Street Organ”), presents an outrageous comedy/drama. It’s a misanthropic theatrical film in two parts: “Stagehands” and “Woman of a Lifetime.”Each part could be viewed as a separate film, as they do not mesh into each other except initially when transferring from segment one to segment two.This weird film moves seamlessly from the simplistic first part into the more complex second part, but seemingly without a reason or purpose. It’s written byYevgeni Golubenko and Renata Litvinova,who tell in the first story about the dangers of a ritualized life in the theater and in the second write an over-the-top bedroom farce.
The first part, “Stagehands,” opens at the darkened famed Odessa theater, in the Ukraine, with its auditorium seats covered in white bedsheets. There’s a stagehand quoting Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech, but his airy feelings gets squashed and he turns fearful after discovering on the stage’s rafters a hanging corpseof a suicidal actor, from the previous evening, dressed in a colorful clown costume from the opera Pagliacci. The stagehands are busy preparing the stage for the next performance of “Woman of a Lifetime,” and the three principle actors of that play — Renata Litvinova, Natal’ia Buz’ko, and Bogdan Stupka — visit the set and chat with the stagehands while admiring the stunning imagery of the sets used by the previous experimental theater group and staring in shock at the suicide corpse.
In the second part, “Woman of a Lifetime,” the three main characters: the morally corrupt father Andrei (Bogdan Stupka); his long-suffering adult daughter Masha (NatalyaBuz’ko), with whom he has an ongoing incestuous relationship, and the vengeful daughter’s attractive blonde friend Alisa (Renata Litvinova), someone the horny dad thinks is the perfect woman for him and is begging his daughter to introduce her to him. Alisa is invited over to dad’s mansion and the three of them celebrate the New Year, with dad hell-bent on sleeping with Alisa and she’s equally hell-bent on drinking as much champagne and stuffing herself with as much caviar as she can.
The strange film mixes comedy and murder, without missing a beat. In the first part it has the suicide of the actor Borisov and the murder of a stagehand, after a stagehand and a janitor get into a heated verbal spat. The third death is a little more iffy, as in the second part Andrei Andreevich is drowned in his bathtub while taking a bath by the two women. In a later scene, Andrei is transformed into a devilish ghost-like figure running around his outside grounds with a butcher’s knife.
The confusing pic leaves doubts about everything and does not make it easy to figure out what the tale is leading to. This unique one-of-kind film, by this uncompromising artistic film-maker, is meant for cinephiles and those curious viewers seeking something different and more esoteric, and the reward is in trying to make sense out of a personal film that seems absurd at first glance. The director’s penchant for putting anything onscreen, even if it breaks the rules on film-making, means the viewer has the difficult task of figuring out all that’s thrown together without much help from the film-maker. In a few instances the film reminded me of a Fellini-like film gone over to the dark side because of its pervasive freakish circus atmosphere, that could be either chilling or exhilarating. It’s highly recommended because of its artistic merits, even if it might not be that enjoyable a watch as much as it’s a provocative one, and that many parts of the film, grounded in the Russian experience, probably will not be completely understood by the foreign viewer.
REVIEWED ON 1/31/2012 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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