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Tenders’ Heat. Wild, Wild Beach

Frequently grotesque, but admirably unflinching -- even poetic in its own weird way -- docu "Tenders' Heat. Wild, Wild Beach" depicts Russians at play on the Black Sea's beaches. Helmer Vitaly Mansky, best known internationally for "Gagarin's Pioneers," joins forces here with fellow documakers Alexander Rastorguev and Susanna Baranzhieva to track adventures of various locals and vacationers, from an en-route President Putin to homeless drunks. "Heat" won a jury prize at last year's IDFA, but TV buyers and distribs may get nervous over the pic's explicit depictions of sex and animal cruelty, severely limiting commercial play.

Frequently grotesque, but admirably unflinching — even poetic in its own weird way — docu “Tenders’ Heat. Wild, Wild Beach” depicts Russians at play on the Black Sea’s beaches. Helmer Vitaly Mansky, best known internationally for “Gagarin’s Pioneers,” joins forces here with fellow documakers Alexander Rastorguev and Susanna Baranzhieva to track adventures of various locals and vacationers, from an en-route President Putin to homeless drunks. “Heat” won a jury prize at last year’s IDFA, but TV buyers and distribs may get nervous over the pic’s explicit depictions of sex and animal cruelty, severely limiting commercial play.

Digitally shot pic reps a collage of stories following assorted unnamed folk, some of whom reportedly appeared in Mansky’s previous docu “Broadway. Black Sea.” Unadorned by voiceover or identifying subtitles, “Tenders’ ” makes no attempt to construct a larger, all-embracing narrative or to judge its protagonists, many of whom are seen in a particularly unflattering light, particularly to non-Russian eyes.

One main character is a beach photog who exploits a menagerie of exotic animals to drum up trade from the tourists. Filmmakers follow him out to the steppes where he buys a young camel, and then carts it back to the Black Sea where it eventually dies, seemingly of neglect. Photog is human enough to shed a tear as he dumps the corpse in a landfill, but in most developed countries, such cruelty would bring repercussions.

Elsewhere, a blousy blonde, perpetually pickled in beer, and her equally booze-soaked b.f. fight verbally and physically, while another woman, an ex-prostitute, puts up with her own mate’s constant infidelities. Two young men pick up a pretty girl and retire to a boathouse for a practically X-rated threesome.

A party following the wedding of a dwarf and a buxom, full-sized woman descends into another alcoholic debauch; it’s a cross between affection and exploitation for freak value.

On a more cheerful note, the pic also shows wholesome, happy families and other “ordinary” people frolicking in the sand and surf.

Ultimately, however, the pic leaves an impression of a sleazy, anything-goes beach culture. Similar scenes could no doubt be filmed in Atlantic City, various Spanish resorts or Blighty’s Blackpool, but there’s something distinctly Russian about the milieu captured here — at times endearingly so.

Despite being credited to three helmers, footage looks all of a piece and is held together by rhythmic editing by Dasha Danilova. However, two-hours-plus running time becomes something of an endurance test. Use of Russian pop tunes and original scoring by Peter Nazaretov and Alexander Pantyukhin adds additional suturing.

Tenders' Heat. Wild, Wild Beach

Russia

Production: A Mansky Realnoye Kino, Studio Vertov IK production. (International sales: Deckert Distribution, Leipzig.) Produced by Vitaly Mansky, Natalya Manskaya. Directed, written by Alexander Rastorguev, Vitaly Mansky, Susanna Baranzhieva.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Edward Kechedzhiyan, Pavel Kostomarov; editor, Dasha Danilova; music, Peter Nazaretov, Alexander Pantyukhin; sound, Georgi Masyukov. Reviewed on DVD, Hoveton, U.K., April 20, 2007. (In Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival.) Running time: 125 MIN.

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