Contempo Russian factory workers are brutally thwarted in their attempt to organize an independent union in "For Marx … ," an utterly loopy reinvention of socialist realist cliches that's annoying, weirdly hilarious and ultimately rather admirable.

Contempo Russian factory workers are brutally thwarted in their attempt to organize an independent union in “For Marx … ,” an utterly loopy reinvention of socialist realist cliches that’s annoying, weirdly hilarious and ultimately rather admirable. Maverick multihypenate Svetlana Baskova’s latest feature could unite left-leaning Russophile trash-cinema fans around the world, but that’s a pretty Menshevik minority. At home, pic seems to be generating buzz at underground screenings, especially among those living oppressed lives like the ones it depicts.

Made on an evident microbudget at real factories around Russia and inspired by sadly all-too-similar actual events, the pic depicts the struggle to unite workers at a smelting plant owned by rapacious young oligarch Pavel (Vladimir Epifantsev, way, way over the top). An Everyman foreman (Sergey Pakhomov) has his consciousness raised by activist colleagues, but crumbles ethically when Pavel’s minions use murder to enforce the status quo. Stretching credibility to the limit, the action pauses for long discussions about Gogol, Brecht and Godard, among others, making it hard to tell if Baskova’s self-described “neo-Soviet” style is meant as po-faced retro agitprop or just a postmodern joke pushed to the limit.

For Marx …

Russia

Production

A Cine Fantom, A&D Studio production. (International sales: Reflexion Films, Moscow.) Produced by Anatoly Osmolovsky, Andrey Silvestrov, Gleb Aleinikov. Directed, written by Svetlana Baskova.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Maksim Mosin, Egor Antonov; editor, Veronika Pavlovskaya; production designer, Baskova; sound (stereo), Kirill Vasilenko. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 9, 2013. Running time: 101 MIN.

With

Sergey Pakhomov, Aleksandr Kovalev, Lavrenty Svetlichny, Victor Sergachev, Vladimir Epifantsev, Denis Yakovlev, Vladimir Yakovlev, Mikhail Kalinkin, Nikolay Shilin, Victor Yurkov, Vyacheslav Ganenko.

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