One of the oddball finds in Locarno’s Soviet retro, “The Life and Ascension of Yuraz Bratchik” irreverently thumbs its nose at power, any power, in the true spirit of 1968, year of its making in Belarussia. A delightful sendup of the Middle Ages, it tells the story of how a 16th-century traveling puppeteer gets in trouble with the cardinal. To get off the torture rack, he agrees to pass himself off as Jesus Christ and quell the starving peasants’ rebellion against the Catholic Church. But the masquerade backfires when Jesus and his apostles start wandering around the countryside, working “miracles,” getting drunk and having a good time in a convent of sex-starved nuns.
Version shown in Locarno was re-edited 12 times for the censors and still got only limited release; pic was finally taken off the shelf in 1989. One can only imagine what the original film was like. Setting brings to mind Andrei Tarkovsky’s banned Middle Ages historical tragedy “Andrei Rublev,” made two years earlier.