You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Carmen

Fascinating, non-musical post-Soviet spin, Alexander Khvan's "Carmen" expertly meshes political and psychological destiny in a well-paced crime thriller. Cerebral rather than impassioned, pic is told from the point of view of the fallen Don Jose character. Pic may stand as too much of a generic hybrid for American tastes.

Cast:
Sergei - Igor Petrenko Carmen - Olga Filippova

Fascinating, non-musical post-Soviet spin on what must rank after “Romeo and Juliet” as the most oft-adapted literary text in cinema, Alexander Khvan’s “Carmen” expertly meshes political and psychological destiny in a well-paced crime thriller. Cerebral rather than impassioned, pic is told from the point of view of Sergei (Igor Petrenko), the fallen Don Jose character, who fatalistically describes his waterloo to his defense attorney, step by step. Pic, which performed rather indifferently in Russia after Khvan’s record-breaking 1992 “Douba-Douba,” may stand as too much of a generic hybrid for American tastes.

Khvan maintains a nice balance of the familiar and the unexpected, with an astute attention to detail. Thus the traditional opening scene in a prison tobacco factory links the serried rows of cigarettes to the regimentation of the women and formations of the guards, without sacrificing the titillating spectacle of Carmen’s fiery catfight.

Scripter Yuri Korotkov hardly need update the story, which fits the current situation in Russia like a glove. Hero’s trajectory — the move from cop to robber — looks believable in this setting. At home with the old regime, Sergei seeks orderliness, finding his center through obedience to duty. His encounter with the amoral, anarchic, imaginative Carmen (Olga Filippova) turns his life upside-down. Pathological jealousy and murderous possessiveness soon findhim totally dependent on Carmen, she substituting for the authority of the state in determining every aspect of his life.

As incarnated by model Filippova, Carmen is a contempo figure, a woman not of instinct but of fierce enterprise, extraordinarily sharp in situational ways, comprehending everything from new computer systems to the latest Paris fashions. Carmen seduces via her ability to genuinely relate, hooking up with people’s zeitgeists and intimate desires and then using them to further her own ends.

Her “toreador,” whose role in the film is greatly reduced from his stature in the original text, is a motorcycle racer, and it is clear that she would rather ride his bike than him.

Capitalist to her fingertips, she craves the thrill of figuring out how to make things pay off and, like her many predecessors, is fickle not out of shallowness but because stasis represents for her a form of death. Constantly changing her appearance, racing from hideout to hideout, she thrives on the rootless freedom that Sergei finds so enervating.

Sergei’s and Carmen’s violent lovemaking lies somewhere between aggression and desperation, much like their larceny. Khvan is good at capturing the nervous exhilaration of the very different robberies that Carmen’s gang pulls off.

Tech credits are pro. Gennady Gladkov’s fully orchestrated score scrupulously avoids Bizet while keeping up with pic’s tonal variations. Courtesy of Igor Kozhevnikov’s luminous widescreen lensing, the Crimea seascapes provide further vivid representations of the freedom Sergei that doesn’t know how to deal with.

Carmen

Russia

Production: A Pygmalion production with the participation of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. Produced by Sergei Chliyants. Directed by Alexander Khvan. Screenplay by Yuri Korotkov.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Igor Kozhevnikov; editor, Albina Antipenko; music, Gennady Gladkov; production designer, Vladimir Kartashov; sound (Dolby Digital), Gleb Kravetsky. Reviewed at Russian Film Week in New York, Oct. 29, 2003. Running time: 113 MIN.

With: Sergei - Igor Petrenko Carmen - Olga FilippovaWith: Yaroslav Boyko, Ramil Sabitov, Alexander Shein, Alexi Gorbunov. (Russian dialogue)

More Film

  • 'The Fortress' Review

    Film Review: 'The Fortress'

    Fascinating, non-musical post-Soviet spin on what must rank after “Romeo and Juliet” as the most oft-adapted literary text in cinema, Alexander Khvan’s “Carmen” expertly meshes political and psychological destiny in a well-paced crime thriller. Cerebral rather than impassioned, pic is told from the point of view of Sergei (Igor Petrenko), the fallen Don Jose character, […]

  • Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment

    Film Review: 'Never Here'

    Fascinating, non-musical post-Soviet spin on what must rank after “Romeo and Juliet” as the most oft-adapted literary text in cinema, Alexander Khvan’s “Carmen” expertly meshes political and psychological destiny in a well-paced crime thriller. Cerebral rather than impassioned, pic is told from the point of view of Sergei (Igor Petrenko), the fallen Don Jose character, […]

  • Busan: Hong Sang-soo Trio Set for

    Busan: Hong Sang-soo Film Trio Set for U.S. Release

    Fascinating, non-musical post-Soviet spin on what must rank after “Romeo and Juliet” as the most oft-adapted literary text in cinema, Alexander Khvan’s “Carmen” expertly meshes political and psychological destiny in a well-paced crime thriller. Cerebral rather than impassioned, pic is told from the point of view of Sergei (Igor Petrenko), the fallen Don Jose character, […]

  • Film Victoria Hires Caroline Pitcher as

    Film Victoria Hires Caroline Pitcher as CEO

    Fascinating, non-musical post-Soviet spin on what must rank after “Romeo and Juliet” as the most oft-adapted literary text in cinema, Alexander Khvan’s “Carmen” expertly meshes political and psychological destiny in a well-paced crime thriller. Cerebral rather than impassioned, pic is told from the point of view of Sergei (Igor Petrenko), the fallen Don Jose character, […]

  • “The Gaze of the Sea” vies

    Jose Alvarez’s ‘The Gaze of the Sea’ Vies for the Top Docu Prize at Morelia

    Fascinating, non-musical post-Soviet spin on what must rank after “Romeo and Juliet” as the most oft-adapted literary text in cinema, Alexander Khvan’s “Carmen” expertly meshes political and psychological destiny in a well-paced crime thriller. Cerebral rather than impassioned, pic is told from the point of view of Sergei (Igor Petrenko), the fallen Don Jose character, […]

  • Anna Karina'All the President's Men' screening

    Lumière Festival: Celluloid Angels to Give Anna Karina Directorial Debut “Vivre Ensemble” 4k Restoration

    Fascinating, non-musical post-Soviet spin on what must rank after “Romeo and Juliet” as the most oft-adapted literary text in cinema, Alexander Khvan’s “Carmen” expertly meshes political and psychological destiny in a well-paced crime thriller. Cerebral rather than impassioned, pic is told from the point of view of Sergei (Igor Petrenko), the fallen Don Jose character, […]

  • TYLER PERRY'S BOO! A MADEA HALLOWEEN

    Film Review: 'Tyler Perry's Boo 2! A Madea Halloween'

    Fascinating, non-musical post-Soviet spin on what must rank after “Romeo and Juliet” as the most oft-adapted literary text in cinema, Alexander Khvan’s “Carmen” expertly meshes political and psychological destiny in a well-paced crime thriller. Cerebral rather than impassioned, pic is told from the point of view of Sergei (Igor Petrenko), the fallen Don Jose character, […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content