Review: ‘The Ugly Swans’

A flooded Siberian town struggles to survive global warming in atmospheric Russian-Gallic co-production "The Ugly Swans." Plot's so waterlogged with sci-fi notions, though, it can't stay afloat. Latest feature by helmer Konstantin Lopushansky mines a similar arty-apocalyptic vein of his "Letters from a Dead Man" and "The Museum Visitor," and looks pleasingly old-school with its lack of CGI, but only fest auds will appreciate the baffling beauty of "Swans."

A flooded Siberian town struggles to survive global warming in atmospheric Russian-Gallic co-production “The Ugly Swans.” Plot’s so waterlogged with sci-fi notions, though, it can’t stay afloat. Latest feature by helmer Konstantin Lopushansky mines a similar arty-apocalyptic vein of his “Letters from a Dead Man” and “The Museum Visitor,” and looks pleasingly old-school with its lack of CGI, but only fest auds will appreciate the baffling beauty of “Swans.”

In the near future, writer Victor Banev (Gregory Gladiy, soulful) gets himself on a UN commission to investigate what’s going on in the remote town of Tashlinsk, where reports tell of a virus-created race of brainiac mutants, the “ugly swans” of the title. Banev’s tweenie daughter Ira (Rimma Sarkisian, creepy) is enrolled at a school for gifted children there that the mutants have taken over, and are teaching the kids, now able to levitate and yak about philosophy, to despise ordinary humanity. Confusing script reportedly diverges massively from the original cult book in order to beef up its environmental message. Score by producer Andrei Sigle, Alexander Sokurov’s regular composer, is knockout. Editing, credited to three names, is a mess.

The Ugly Swans

Russia-France

Production

A Pro Line Film production (Russia), in association with CDP (France), with the participation of the Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography, Canal Plus, CNC, the Gorbachev Foundation, the Intl. Green Cross. (International sales: Pro Line Film, St. Petersburg.) Produced by Andrei Sigle. Executive producer, Dmitri Gerbachevski. Directed by Konstantin Lopushansky. Screenplay, Lopushansky, Viacheslav Rybakov, based on a novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.

Crew

Camera (Kodak color), Vladislav Gurchin; editors, Alexander Zaretsky, Maxim Kholodiuk, Sergei Obukhov; music, Andrei Sigle; art director, Konstantin Pakhotin, Victor Ivanov; costume designer, Tamara Seferian. Reviewed at Open Russian Film Festival (competing), Sochi, June 12, 2006. Original title: Gadkie Lebedi. Running time: 110 MIN.

With

Gregory Gladiy, Leonid Mozgovoy, Alexei Kortnev, Rimma Sarkisian, Laura Pitskhelauri, Sergei Borkovsky, Dima Ispolatov, Olga Samoshina, Alexei Ingelevich, Victor Mikhailov. Russian, English dialogue.
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