Reviewed at Rotterdam Intl. Film Festival, Jan. 30, 1994. Running time:67 MIN.
Luminous short-film material gets unjustifiably stretched beyond an hour’s length in Russian Evgeni Ivanov’s feature debut “Nicotine,” an impressive fusillade of technical prowess within a moodily ripe atmosphere that’s glibly squandered on a weightless parody of Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless.” Slick but slight outing should nonetheless saunter into fest dates and hip TV slots.
Storywise, “Nicotine” remains reasonably pally with its inspiration: A reckless romantic (Igor Chernevitch) stalked by assailants picks up a footloose journalist (Natalia Fisson), who eventually informs on him before torn loyalties compel her to give him an unheeded chance to run.
But consonance with the landmark Godard pic’s plot is secondary to Ivanov’s knowing take on its outwardly slapdash character construction and casual manipulation of the city settings into a tangible presence. More pointed nods, such as a press conference aping Jean Seberg’s encounter with Jean-Pierre Melville and a detour to a screening of “Breathless” replete with introductory lecture, feel more like labored overstatement than jokey homage.
Ivanov’s direction consistently eclipses the narrowness of his material, revealing a wry sense of humor and visual vitality that suggest capabilities far beyond this academic genre-bending. A richly complex soundtrack fusing unrefined jazz comments with a wide-ranging haul of noises contributes significantly.