Arguably Guerman’s most visually stunning, wildly provocative work, this fever-dream meditation on the crazed final days of Stalin’s regime was a cause célèbre of the 1998 Cannes and New York film festivals.
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Just when you thought Salò was the final word on the excesses of totalitarian cultures on the brink, along comes German and his giddy volley of grotesqueries. German really is off bushwhacking uncharted jungle. He obviously has a lot of Fellini-type stuff dressed up in a quasi-Tarkovsky-like way, but that says so very little (that his applicable contemporaries are Kusturica and Iosseliani tells you even less).
Stalinist Russia as a chaotic and massively unsanitary hellscape. Nearly as many bleakly hilarious non-sequiturs (e.g. "Boys, come over here and piss on my dog.") as hocked loogies, for which it might hold the world record.
Yuriy Tsurilo vigorously plays the charismatic and hubristic brain surgeon, Red Army General Glinsky, and the viewer is dragged alongside him as he finds himself accused of taking part in the "Doctors' Plot" and stumbles off into the bleak winter of 1953 Moscow and beyond, where he is captured, raped, and finally released in hopes that he can restore life to the stroke stricken Joseph Stalin.
Theater of an absurd mind. Like Tarkovsky directing a Polanksi absurdist piece like Fellini with the taste of Von Trier... From too far away or too close - never quite right. Funny at points, but more disturbing. Beautiful at moments, but more just violent. Everything about this film is contrasty and brash. A depraved, though intriguing, cesspool.