The smartly stylized “Moscow” is an epic, overly long but ultimately chilling study of life in the Russian capital today. Though action is set in the 1990s, when gangster capitalism was just getting a foothold as the old Soviet culture faded, the story of Irina, Masha and Olga confirms one’s worst fears about Russian life today. The family drama is spiked with brutal beatings and gangland killings, like a Chekhov play gone criminally insane. Though pic takes its time getting there, it has a lot to say about the educated “new Russians.” One of the more interesting of recent Russian offerings, pic could catch hold of auds curious about that part of the world.
A long opening pan over the city states director Alexander Zeldovich’s ambitions in recounting not just individual stories, but a whole way of life. Irina (Natalia Koliakanova), the attractive, hard-drinking owner of a nightclub, is celebrating daughter Masha’s (Ingeborga Dapkunaite) engagement to Mike (Alexander Baluev), a businessman-gangster and patron of the Bolshoi. Youngest daughter Olga (Tatiana Drubich), who has been hospitalized for mental problems, sings atonal songs for the club’s wealthy patrons.
Atmosphere in the fancy Western-style club is very cool and slightly surreal, echoing the characters’ relationships. Irina goes out with a psychiatrist (Viktor Gvozditsky), but doesn’t repel her future son-in-law’s advances. Catching mom and Mike in the act, Masha just shrugs. She soon falls for Mike’s drug runner Lev (Stanislav Pavlov).
In her spacy way, Olga too develops a crush on Lev, who takes her on a latenight ride on the famous Moscow metro for a public quickie.Visually ever-inventive, cinematographer Alexander Ilkhovsky uses filters and trick lenses to create pic’s icy modern look. City monuments from Red Square to the ski jump are cleverly worked into the story.
Kinky sex and some stomach-churning gangland revenge scenes punch up the sometimes flagging script written by Zeldovich and conceptual writer Vladimir Sorokin. Though abounding in cynical, nihilistic dialogue, there is not a bit of overt politics in the whole film.