'The Precinct'

A lurid, overlong psychological drama from Azerbaijani writer-helmer Ilgar Safat.

A photographer specializing in provocative photos of nude women is forced to revisit traumatic incidents from his past in “The Precinct,” a lurid, overlong psychological drama from Azerbaijani writer-helmer Ilgar Safat. Spiced with supernatural imagery, archival footage of early 20th-century Baku and visits to the ancient rock carvings at the Unesco world heritage site Gobustan, pic plays like a mash-up of Giuseppe Tornatore’s “A Pure Formality” and film noir. Azerbaijan’s Oscar submission might find offshore fest slots as a curiosity item; limited Stateside run begins Dec. 3.

During an argument with fiancee Sabina (Melissa Papel), photographer Garib (Zaza Bejashvili) loses control of his car. After a fiery crash, the garishly bleeding couple winds up at a derelict police precinct, where the mocking chief (Vagif Ibrahimoglu) mysteriously knows everything about their lives. Pic cuts between this shadowy purgatory and Garib’s adolescence in a dusty, sun-drenched village where he (soberly played by Timur Odushev) is exploited by a gang and compelled to print pornographic photos. Thesping by an ethnically diverse cast mixes nightmarish stylization and naturalism to uneasy effect. Pic was shot entirely on 35mm; tech aspects are fine.

The Precinct

Azerbaijan-Georgia

Production

A Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Narimanfilm, Georgian Film, Bagira Films production. (International sales: Narimanfilm, Baku.) Produced by Nariman Mammadov. Co-producers, Tamara Tatishvili, Archil Menagarishvili, Fina Garber, Svetlana Slapke, Christoph Cordoli, Konstantin Vitkin. Directed, written by Ilgar Safat.

Crew

Camera (color), Konstantin Esadze, Varlam Karchkhadze; editors, Levan Kukhashvili, Safat; music, Andrey Doynikov; production designers, Rena Effendi, Torakhanim Agabayova; costume designer, Olga Shabanova. Reviewed on DVD, Chicago, Nov. 13, 2010. Running time: 118 MIN.

With

Zaza Bejashvili, Melissa Papel, Vagif Ibrahimoglu, Timur Odushev, Mammad Safa, Farid Bagirov. (Azeri, Russian, English dialogue)

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