Katia Ismailova

"Katia Ismailova," the story of a married woman whose personality is transformed by a passionate affair, puts a modern spin on the Russian taste for tragic literary heroines. Style is more potent than the content in young Russian helmer Valeri Todorovski's sophomore outing, but slyly sustained noir atmosphere puts across the classic murder-without-remorse narrative. Pic should be welcome at fests.

With:
Katia ... Ingeborga Dapkounaite Serguei ... Vladimir Machkov Irina ... Alice Freindlikh Mitia ... Alexandre Feklistov Romanov ... Youri Kouznetov

“Katia Ismailova,” the story of a married woman whose personality is transformed by a passionate affair, puts a modern spin on the Russian taste for tragic literary heroines. Style is more potent than the content in young Russian helmer Valeri Todorovski’s sophomore outing, but slyly sustained noir atmosphere puts across the classic murder-without-remorse narrative. Pic should be welcome at fests.

Bland, submissive Katia (Ingeborga Dapkounaite) types up manuscripts for her mother-in-law, Irina (Alice Freindlikh), a successful author of romance novels, while Katia’s hubby, Mitia (Alexandre Feklistov), is more deeply devoted to Mom than to his wife.

The threesome repair to Mom’s dacha, where brooding, seductive handyman Serguei (Vladimir Machkov) awakens Katia’s buried passions in a steamy sexual encounter on a windowsill. Mother-in-law, who has a heart condition, catches the illicit lovers in the act.

Katia, besotted with sex, becomes bold and giddy, but Serguei’s sexual attention span is limited. A local judge who is intimately familiar with Irina’s writing takes a special interest in the peculiar and deadly developments at the dacha.

Pic’s psychology and several plot points, including the finale, are highly derivative, but the inventive lensing and fine thesping win out. Leonid Dessiatnikov’s omnipresent score, at its best when sinister and slightly dissonant, grows intrusive and overbearing and could be toned down to good effect.

Modestly budgeted Franco-Russian pic gives every indication that helmer (whose 1991’s “Lioubov” also played in the Directors Fortnight) is a talent to watch.

Katia Ismailova

(FRENCH-RUSSIAN)

Production: A Pierre Grise (France) release of a Films du Rivage/Studio TTL/Lumiere co-production with the participation of the CNC, the Russian Cinema Committee, Russian Television, Dekar, Image Ltd. and the Gorki Studios. (International sales: Mercure Distribution -- Jacques Leglou.) Produced by Marc Ruscart, Igor Tolstounov. Executive producers, Alexandre Gnedenko, Mikhail Zonenachvili. Directed by Valeri Todorovski. Screenplay, Alla Krinitsina, based on a novella by Marina Cheptounova, Stanislav Govoroukhine; adapted by Francois Guerif, Cecile Vargaftig.

Crew: Camera (color), Sergeui Kozlov; editors, Helene Gagarine, Alla Strelnikova; music, Leonid Dessiatnikov; set design and costumes, Alexandre Ossipov; sound, Henri Roux, Gleb Kraveski. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors Fortnight), May 12, 1994. Running time:94 MIN.

With: Katia ... Ingeborga Dapkounaite Serguei ... Vladimir Machkov Irina ... Alice Freindlikh Mitia ... Alexandre Feklistov Romanov ... Youri KouznetovWith: Natali Tchoukina, Avangarde Leontiev.

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