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Monday 23 February 2015

Movie of the Year: Leviathan: In the Belly of the Beast


A brilliant reflection of corruption in modern #Russia. Really, really worth watching #Leviathan: image via Natasa Vidakovic @navidakovic, 7 February 2015

Vodka goes to... #Leviathan: image via ShukhratJalilov @ShukhratJalilov, 23 February 2015

 #Leviathan with @AiaPaec: image via A fish that reads @Un_pez_que_lee, 22 February 2014

'#Russia's official Oscar entry #Leviathan now playing. Seen. Enjoyed. Depressed confronting so much reality.: image via Rosanna Ubanell @RUbanell,  20 February 2014

¿Y qué tiene que ver Vladimir Putin con #Leviathan? Reseña de un filme supremo: image via Darwin-The Movie @Darwin_Movie,  11 February 2015

La religión y el poder van de la mano en #Leviathan: image via Mantarraya @mantarrayfilms, 9 February 2015

Aquí las razones por las que creemos que los cinéfilos deberían ver #Leviathan
: image via EnLaButaca @ EnLaButaca, 7 February 2015

now playing!: image via Gables Art Cinema @gablescinema, 7 February 2015

Best foreign language Oscar nominee #Leviathan now playing!
: image via Gables Art Cinema @gablescinema, 6 February 2015

@empiremagazine says #Leviathan
is "Funny, heartbreaking & magnificently shot": image via Gables Art Cinema @gablescinema, 3 February 2015

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 #Leviathan could win the #AcademyAward as best foreign #film: image via Vancouver Observer @VanObserver, 30 January 2015

 Bigger and louder than a giant? The Campaign Against #Leviathan in #Russia: image via Philip Lyon @PhilipLyonDC, 27 January 2015

 Ma trebe se va explic ce film e aista? #Leviathan image via Jax @JAX_226, 23 January 2015

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 #Leviathan, by Zvagintsev, is a marvelous movie: the great beast of corrupt state & church is no match for simple man: image via Wilhelm Weitkamp @WWeitkamp, 23 January 2015

Last chance to watch #OscarNominated film #Leviathan in cinemas: image via Culture Whisper @CultureWhisper, 23 January 2015

#Leviathan, la #pelicula rusa nominada a los #Oscars2015 se enfrenta a una avalancha de críticas en #Rusia. #cine: image via Pere Trad @PereTrad, 19 January 2015

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playing song: Vladimir Central, north wind: image via CaliFUCKINfornia @Rita Reckless, 11 January 2015

Rusia llegará a México con el estreno de #Leviathan
en febrero del 2015: image via Mantarraya @mantarrayafilms, 31 December 2014

"...rigorous and challenging workout for the soul" @tbmeek3 on Andrey Zyagintsev's #Leviathan: image via Paste Movies @PasteMovies, 29 December 2014

The most compelling movie of the year: #Leviathan: image via kassia st clair @kassiastclair, 23 December 2014

Dustin & Donna review #leviathan the Russian submission for best foreign language film: image via Texas Art & Film @TexasArtFilm, 20 December 2014

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is No. 9 on our 2014 #VeriteTopTen: image via veritefilmmag, 14  December 2014

 The Guardian top 10 films 2014 is based on US release dates: No 5 –- #Leviathan: image via davidcaffey_123@_djc, 12 December 2014

#Leviathan is reviewed by @myfavtalkies and gets five stars: image via @spoooolers, 12 November 2014

Trailer Break: #Leviathan Makes the Rounds with Brute Force: image via The Script Lab @TheScriptLab, 22 October 2014

#Leviathan un relato de nuestros días, del director Andrey Zvyagintsev: image via Mantarraya @mantarrayafilms, 13 January 2015


TC said...

For those who wisely ignored the cheapjack pageantry of the Oscars, a circus into which this magnificent film, a dark meditation on Power, was admitted but whose prizes it was predictably denied, a selection of frames is presented here, on grounds that this is a the sort of film that compacts its meaning into every image.

A sample of the critical response follows:

Russian Movie 'Leviathan' Gets Applause in Hollywod but Scorn at Home: Neil MacFarquhar, International New York Times, 27 January 2015

MOSCOW — In many ways, the movie “Leviathan” is Russia’s greatest cinematic accomplishment in years, maybe decades. The Golden Globe winner this month for best foreign film, it provides an unrelenting, vodka-soaked portrait of small-town corruption that has been praised by critics and filmmakers throughout the world — everywhere, it seems, but Russia.

Well before its long-delayed general release here on Feb. 5 it has polarized the country, acclaimed by many as an accurate rendering of life in the Putin era and condemned by others as enemy-of-the-state propaganda that should be banned.

The fact that few Russians have actually seen the film has done nothing to dampen the arguments. The national fracas is being compared to the denigration of previous significant artists who won fame abroad for their unsparing depictions of Russian life, like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Boris Pasternak.

“One of the reasons for this almost universal condemnation of ‘Leviathan’ has to do with the general situation today in Russia,” said Vladimir Posner, a veteran Russian journalist. “A great many people feel that they are being unfairly criticized, ostracized, dissed by the Western world and that they have to protect themselves.”

The Ukraine crisis only added to a sentiment brewing for years, he and others noted.

“Anything seen as being critical of Russia in any way is automatically seen as either another Western attempt to denigrate Russia and the Orthodox Church,” Mr. Posner said, “or it’s the work of some kind of fifth column of Russia-phobes who are paid by the West to do their anti-Russian work or are simply themselves profoundly anti-Russian.”

TC said...


The movie follows the travails of Nikolai, a small-town auto mechanic whose life unravels as he tries to block a venal local political boss from seizing his home. Andrey Zvyagintsev, the director, has repeatedly defended his work as a universal parable, his inspirations ranging from the biblical book of Job to the violent resolution of a Colorado zoning dispute in 2004.

The movie’s creators delayed its release in Russia, hoping that it could be seen as a work of art rather than a political statement. “Leviathan” was shown quietly in just one St. Petersburg theater last year to qualify for the Oscars.

The controversy began last summer, after “Leviathan” won the Cannes Film Festival award for best original screenplay, the first in a string of international trophies.

Russia’s culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky, a conservative historian, led the attacks even though his ministry provided a significant portion of the movie’s budget. He acknowledged that “Leviathan” showed talented moviemaking, but said that he did not like it.

After the film won the Golden Globe on Jan. 11 — the first for Russia since “War and Peace” in 1969 — Mr. Medinsky sharply criticized its portrayal of ordinary Russians.

“However much the authors made them swear and swig liters of vodka, that doesn’t make them real Russians. I did not recognize myself, my colleagues, acquaintances or even acquaintances of acquaintances in ’Leviathan’s’ characters,” Mr. Medinsky told the newspaper Izvestia. “Strange, but among the movie’s characters there is not a single positive one.”
Continue reading the main story

He implied that the director did not like Russians but instead loved “fame, red carpets and statuettes.”

His ministry then proposed guidelines that would ban movies that “defiled” the national culture.

The basic response from members of Russia’s intelligentsia was that Mr. Medinsky sought to resurrect the fantasies of the Soviet era, when artistic endeavors that did not promote the Communist system as utopia were banned. They noted that Russia had a long tradition of artists who created gloomy masterpieces — Dostoyevsky, Chekhov and even Tolstoy.

The movie ignited an unusual disagreement among adherents of the Russian Orthodox Church as well, because a corrupt bishop features prominently. Some called for it to be banned.

“‘Leviathan’ is a filthy libel against the Russian church and the Russian state,” Kirill Frolov, an Orthodox activist, wrote on his Facebook page, later dismissing accusations of restricting freedom as immaterial. “ ‘Leviathan’ is evil, and there is no place for evil in the cinema.”

Some church leaders endorsed the movie, however. Metropolitan Simon of Murmansk and Monchegorsk, the diocese where the movie was filmed, issued a statement calling it “honest.”

“Leviathan,” he said, raised important questions about the state of the country.

The uproar extended far beyond the cultural and political elite cloistered in Moscow and St. Petersburg. A few commentators suggested that the off-screen turmoil said more about the culture wars in modern Russia than about the movie itself.

The village chief in Teriberka, population 957, where the movie was shot, panned it as not worth watching. “We are all shown as drunkards living in our own dump here,” the official, Tatiana Trubilina, was quoted as saying. But after the producers arranged a special screening in the village hall and she actually saw it, she and many residents endorsed it.

Alexander Rodnyansky, one of the film’s two producers, countered that the movie highlighted the stunning natural beauty along the Barents Sea, in sharp contrast to the polluted human behavior.

Critical reaction has been favorable over all, with many reviews calling it both a universal parable about the crushing power of authority and an accurate reflection of today’s Russia.

Daniel Dondurei, the dean of Russian film critics, said he could not remember such a ruckus over a movie since the 1988 release of “Little Vera,” the first Soviet film to show explicit sex.

TC said...

And too...

WINNER – Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film

WINNER – Best Screenplay, Cannes Film Festival

“(A) masterpiece. Stunning images. The movie expands, breathtakingly, into mordant humor, impenetrable mystery, ferocious satire and classic tragedy. Mr. Zvyagintsev’s direction is so precise, his concern for concision so steadfast, that screen time is never squandered on what can be inferred. Every moment in LEVIATHAN is emotionally charged. Every image has its impact. Magnificent cinematography….Every character comes alive through flawless performances.”
– Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal

“A grave and beautiful drama, at once intimate and enormous. Pictorially ravishing in the best Russian wide-screen tradition… Mr Zvyagintsev layers social commentary, intense emotion and spiritual allegory without ever losing the human dimension of the narrative.”
(Best of 2014 List)
– A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“Breathtaking Arctic scenery, political corruption, sex and vodka – LEVIATHAN is the year’s best foreign film. May be the one true masterpiece of global cinema released in 2014. A psychological thriller, a scathing political satire, a powerful and upsetting family drama, a dark comedy and a work of magnificent landscape cinematography and startling pictorial intensity. It’s grand and novelistic, in the spirit of Turgenev and Tolstoy, intensely observed and ironic, in the spirit of Chekhov, and contemplative and spiritual, in the spirit of Tarkovsky. A bitter and compassionate work of genius.”
– Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

“A vodka-soaked middle finger to Putin. A whale of a movie. A tragedy with a hint of black comedy that…lands a bruising punch on modern Russia. The film is sweeping, curious and bold, told in widescreen with a sense of the epic applied to everyday lives…. with all the detail and density of a great novel.”
– Dave Calhoun, Time Out New York

*****! [5 STARS]
“A bleak, beautiful, and bitterly funny parable of post-Soviet Russia. A modern masterpiece.”
– Graham Fuller, Daily News

“A new Russian masterpiece. A mix of Hobbes, Chekhov and the Bible, and full of extraordinary images and magnificent symmetry.”
– Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

manik sharma said...


Although I'm yet to watch the film, Zvyagintsev is already being hailed as the next Tarkovsky. It only surprises me that the academy gave up on the opportunity to do Putin no favour. Ida on the other hand is marvelous too, but it is symptomatic of the dig-a-grave-for-a-story routine, that most directors must contemplate in their lifetimes, with relation to history, and war in particular. There should be a category for WW2 film of the year, I guess.
At least we got a few drab American Sniper jokes out of the way.

TC said...

Yes. Well, actually I refused to hear the jokes (along with everything else, truth be told). (As a matter of fact, no cable, so no telly, and believe it or not, le plus incroyable, no desire to watch tv anyway, even and indeed especially in hospital, where at least I might get to enjoy preferable forms of time-passing, such as, say, the conversation of fellow sufferers, perhaps, for example, recovering victims of American domestic terrorists with less than perfect aim.)

But it seems they just keep on coming, those jokes, whether one is listening or even watching, or not, but sneaks a peek at the photos.

And do my ancient glims deceive me or was that the deadly killer's glammed up wife, immediately recognizable from last week's dramatic courtroom photo of her wiping away a tear at the trial of the man accused of shooting her american sniper husband to death in a dispute at a Texas shooting range (of all places!) -- right there in Hollywood, in the impossible rain, under a plastic tent, giving it up for freedom, on the red carpet, or at least on some kind of synthetic carpet, at least as represented in the celeb glam gallery (you know -- celeb in frock, celeb with train, celeb with red oven mitts over falconing gauntlets, &c.).

Or could it have been merely a deceptive phosphene-size deadly-killer-'s-wife sim?

(Funny thing about the celeb with red oven mitts over falconing gauntlets look, by the by, Manik, either it's simply the inevitable climax of fashionista evolution, or there are leaks somewhere in the industry, because not only did Lady Gaga show up flaunting it, but so did, of all people, the extremely classy Lebanese lawyer who was for one day about to step in and accept the position of international legal arbiter on Gaza, and the next day checked her smartphone and realized Oh No! she and George Clooney were due to invade Venice! So sorry about that!)

(Other funny thing, Oscar nominated films traditionally don't make money, but American Psychokiller, or whatever it's called, though predicted to flop, smashed all box office records and grossed $330M for January and is zooming along to rank right up there with whatever, Gone with the Wind, Star Trek, the Godfather -- that latter, indeed, the one Oscar winner prior to American Terrormaniac that did do big gross, as Choderlos de LaClos might have put it... and doubtless for pretty much the same reasons, the vivid graphic splatter, the formidable body count, all that good freedom-loving stuff.)


A Russian client of mine recommended it. The director said that things in Russia have already gotten worse now than depicted in the film.

TC said...

Weirder still, the director has also said that the immediate inspiration for the film came from a news report of an incident that had occurred in a place even more remote from civilization that far northeastern Russia.

That is...Colorado.