“Crush: 5 Love Stories” reps a cinematic tasting menu consisting of courses by five of Russia’s hottest young helmers: Boris Khlebnikov, Ivan Vyrypaev, Pyotr Buslov, Alexey German Jr. and Kirill Serebrennikov. Flavorwise, the individual dishes don’t always complement one another. However, with a not bad three-out-of-five batting average, pic reps a tastier viewing experience than most anthology films. Outside Russia, where it’s is likely to do OK biz, “Crush” won’t venture far beyond the fest circuit and retrospectives.
Arguably the best of the five is the fourth film, German’s “Kim,” which tells story of a mental patient (Karim Pakachakov) rotting away in a remote asylum, where his dream of finding love with one of the doctors (Anna Ekaterininskaya) is about as likely as his release. Much remains unexplained about the circumstances, but the melancholy, claustrophobic atmosphere is intensely realized. Pakachakov’s despair-infused perf impresses, as does Evgeny Privin’s color-bleached lensing.
Not quite as impressive, but still good, are Khlebnikov’s wry omnibus opener “Infamy” and Serebrennikov’s antic concluding short, “Kiss the Shrimp.”
Set in what looks like the same dingy housing estate featured in Khlebnikov’s last pic, “Help Gone Mad,” “Infamy,” with its odd mix of whimsy and violence, almost seems like an addendum to that film as a tyro journalist (Alexander Yatsenko, from Khlebnikov’s “Free Floating”) is bedeviled by a hostile but lovelorn resident (Ilya Sherbinin).
Serebrennikov’s silly but amusing “Kiss the Shrimp” feels much closer in tone to his blackly comic debut, “Playing the Victim,” than to its darker follow-up, “Yuri’s Day.” Here, a gangly employee (Yuri Chursin, “Victim”) dons an enormous shrimp costume to promote a restaurant. Taking too literally his employer’s demand that he get people to love him, he forcibly kisses everyone he meets, prompting violent reactions. Russian auds will be more impressed than offshore viewers by the short’s lineup of celebrity cameos, which include Russian Vogue editor Aliona Dolestkaya and artists Alexander Vinogradov and Vladimir Dubossarsky as two particularly aggressive cops.
“To Feel,” Vyrypaev’s inconsequential contribution, plays like leftovers from his latest, “Oxygen,” as it features the same two stars (Alexei Filimonov and Karolina Gruszka), and opts for the same choppy narrative technique as it tells a semi-incoherent tale of attraction and jealousy that hops between countries.
Buslov’s syrupy fable, “Emergency Repair,” is almost as dreary, although at least more professional-looking. Pic stars Ivan Dobronravov (the younger son in Andrei Zvyagintsev’s “The Return,” now all grown up) as a deaf cobbler who falls in love with a customer based solely on a glimpse of her feet and the feel of her white Dior pumps. Helmer Buslov at least uses sound in an interesting way, but the final result is trite.
The omnibus’ Russian title, “Korokoye zamikaniye,” means “short circuit.”