Friday, February 24, 2012


"Elena" (7.5) tells a story of contemporary Russia that is both particular and emblematic.  A 60ish woman, retired from nursing, lives in a spendy apartment in Moscow with her well-heeled husband.  He resents the long trips she makes across town to visit her adult son from a previous marriage, to whom she apparently gives her pension check while he sits around drinking beer and playing video games with his teenage son and impregnating his wife, giving no thought to earning an income to support them.  But Elena's husband, in turn, supports his angry daughter who parties all the time and never calls him.  The film nicely sets up the conflict of entitlements; Elena ends up taking actions that are undeniably wrong, but in a certain light her criticisms of her husband make a sort of sense.  The conflict between them and their parallel relationships with their children also serve as a potent illustration of the current state of class conflicts in Russia--and the U.S., for that matter.  The relationships are conveyed with insight and ambiguity, particularly the relationship between Elena's hustand and his daughter.  This carefully told story, which won a special jury prize at Cannes, gets all the details right and resonates beyond its immediate context.

"The Day He Arrives" (5.5) from South Korea, is slight but fun.  It follows a young man's day and evening wandering the streets of Seoul, meeting an old friend, visiting an old girlfriend, drinking at a bar, eating in restaurants.  Then things happen again, but slightly differently--he visits some of the same spots, but in different company or the same company but with a different conversation--yet there is overlap between the prior events.  It's an intriguing device, humorously highlighting patterns to the man's interactions that perhaps mirror what happens to a lot of us in real life.  And there is some apt comedy about relationships and male-female interaction.

Only three more festival days left!  We'll see how much more I can squeeze in. . . .

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