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Chekhov’s Motifs

Having survived three decades as one of the Soviet Union's most frequently banned screen talents, septuagenarian helmer Kira Moratova lends considerable glee to "Chekhov's Motifs," an off-with-the-statues'-heads satire of Russian cultural and literary traditions -- including but not limited to Anton Chekhov.

Having survived three decades as one of the Soviet Union’s most frequently banned screen talents, septuagenarian helmer Kira Moratova lends considerable glee to “Chekhov’s Motifs,” an off-with-the-statues’-heads satire of Russian cultural and literary traditions — including but not limited to Anton Chekhov. Often sublimely funny (at least for those who recognize the targets being parodied), eccentric B&W pic nonetheless reps a viewing challenge due to a over-long midsection. Still, it merits extensive fest play, and could serve as a flagship for Moratova retrospectives.

Bookending segs take place in the farmhouse of a hysterically cliched peasant family, with the long-suffering mother directing endless complaints at an exasperated husband also beset by their radical-student-intellectual son’s accusatory demands for money. A teenaged daughter and several young boys watch this family circus with considerable amusement. Connected only by the student’s accidental attendance, large central set piece has a rigidly traditional Russian Orthodox wedding ceremony driving its large party of almost Fellini-esque attendees batty with boredom. This sequence too has its hilarious moments, but overstays its welcome by as much as a half-hour. Director/co-scenarist’s absurdism is perfectly complemented by exaggeratedly stereotyped perfs and wry design contributions.

Chekhov’s Motifs

Russia-Ukraine

  • Production: A Nikola Film Studio, Odessa, Ukraine Ministry of Culture and Intercinema Art Agency presentation. Produced by Igor Kalenov. Co-producer, Anna Chmil. Directed by Kira Moratova. Screenplay, Moratova, Evgeny Golubenko.
  • Crew: Camera (B&W), Valery Makhnev; editor, Valentina Olejnik; music, Valentin Silvestrov. Reviewed at Mill Valley Film Festival, Oct. 9, 2002. Original title: <I>Chekhovskie motivy</I>. Running time: 121 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Sergei Bekhterev, Nina Ruslanova, Natalya Buzko, Philip Panov, Jan Danhel.
  • Music By: