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Helmer Darezhan Omirbaev (“Cardiogram,” “Killer”) continues his minimalist ways with “Chouga,” a flat reworking of “Anna Karenina” set in contempo Kazakhstan. Rarely shifting out of gray monotone as it trudges its way through Tolstoy’s passionate tale of betrayal and burning desire, pic faces a daunting commercial task following world preem at the Pusan fest. Exhibition beyond domestic borders and possibly in co-prod-partnering France looks to be strictly fest-related.

Recalled from capital Astana to the southern city of Almaty to help her brother through marital woes, married thirtysomething Chouga (Ainour Tourganbaeva) falls for younger smoothie Ablai (Aidos Sagatov).

The rich guy is supposed to marry academic Altynai (Ainour Sapargali) but wants only to whisk well-dressed Chouga away from her much older politician hubby. Much soporific lust and abandonment later, the fallen woman is left to rue the flight of fancy.

With many plot-altering confrontations taking place offscreen, story jerks along with the viewer having to fill in the gaps. Displaying a wider emotional range than rest of cast, Ainour Tourganbaeva reps sole bright thesping spot.

Lensing by regular Omirbaev collaborator Boris Troshev is clean and simple.

Chouga

Kazakhstan - France

  • Production: A Kadam Film (Kazakhstan) production, in association with Kazak Film (Kazakhstan), Paris-Barcelone Films (France) and Artcam Intl. (France), with the participation of Ministry of Culture and Information of Republic of Kazakhstan, Ministry of Culture and Communication CNC, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France. Directed, written by Darezhan Omirbaev, based on the novel "Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Boris Troshev; editor, Dominique Viellard; production designer, Aiguor Dioussemebaeva. Reviewed at Pusan Intl. Film Festival (A Window on Asian Cinema), Oct. 8, 2007. Original Kazakh title: Shuga. Running time: 91 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Ainour Tourganbaeva, Aidos Sagatov, Ainour Sapargali, Jassoulan Assaouov. (Kazakh dialogue)
  • Music By: