Leto (2018)

KIRILL SEREBRENNIKOV

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

/, 2018. , , , , , . Screenplay by , , , Kirill Serebrennikov, based on the memoirs of . Cinematography by . Produced by , , , , , , . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

The underground rock scene surviving under state repression in early eighties Leningrad is the subject of Kirill Serebrennikov’s exuberant and touching musical, focusing on fictionalized portrayals of Zoopark’s Mike Naumenko and Kino’s Viktor Tsoi.

We’re introduced to Zoopark at the newly formed Leningrad Rock Club, a concert hall officially approved by Soviet administrators looking to keep an increasingly restless young generation on their ideological side. Indulging in a popular American form of entertainment has its risks, however, so the music can be wild but the crowd cannot, and as Mike plays his electric guitar on stage, stiff-necked ushers admonish audience members for doing so much as swaying to the beat.

Mike soon meets Viktor and a bond is formed, the one becoming something of a mentor for the other, who is debuting his sound and gradually working it up to great popularity with the crowds, while behind the scenes something of a love triangle is formed when Natasha feels a kinship with Viktor that she is not afraid to explore.

Musical gigs and album recordings occur amid a great number of interruptions that one already knows come with this period in Russian political history, band members are drafted to fight in Afghanistan, citizens in public spaces accuse the youngsters of loving their enemies, and a rebellious artistic spirit is worn down by the uphill fight of something as simple as loving and listening to music.

Rather than turn these events into an opportunity for a self-indulgent, melancholic biopic, Serebrennikov keeps the focus on the energy and excitement of musical inspiration, frequently throwing in fantasy sequences in which characters cover classic American rock hits by Talking Heads, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and David Bowie, with accompany animation and a fourth wall-breaking narrator named Skeptic to keep us in mind of the liberties being taken by the story.

The film has met with controversy from members of the movement for its free interpretation of history, and loses points for an unconvincing recreation of the period (it looks more like retro eighties style than actual eighties), but it’s not meant to be a straightforward biographical film and whether the details are exactly on point doesn’t really matter. What is meant to permeate the consciousness is atmosphere and spirit and both are irresistible, taking a bunch of people who were seen as enemies of the state and showing the genuine good nature of their fun, and the true talent at the heart of their “subversive” activities.

Cannes Film Festival: In Competition

 

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