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Digital Vistas, Stone Wardrobes: Alexander Zeldovich’s "Target"

Alexander Zeldovich’s bracing philosophical epic runs the gamut from holographic sci-fi to flaky satire to sober meditation.
MUBI is exclusively showing Alexander Zeldovich's Target (2011) from December 16 - January 14, 2017 in the United States.
The natural terrain so revered in the past of Russian art is a largely digital entity in the future of Alexander Zeldovich’s Target, overlaid with megacities and serpentine highways and casually picked at by supercilious characters. (One of the protagonists contemplates a rare volcanic nugget and sticks it in his breast pocket, as if filching a novelty pen.) The year is 2020, and Moscow is a sleek network of glass compartments, robotic chimes, and Chinese billboards. Describing himself as “the King of the Mountain,” the Minister of Natural Resources (Maksim Sukhanov) has luxury and power and a gorgeous wife (Justine Waddell) purchased at the “bridal fair,” but that’s not enough—youth is the ultimate grail, finally available in a deserted excavation near the Mongolian border, where celestial radiation has a mysterious anti-aging effect on visitors. The affluent Muscovites and two other couples—including a clenched security supervisor (Vitaly Kishchenko) and a contest-show goofball (Danila Kozlovsky)—revel in the high of rejuvenation, then nurse its increasingly alarming hangover. “There should be no limits at all,” sighs one of the frisky aristos, and Zeldovich, working with cult novelist Vladimir Sorokin, seconds that notion with an audaciously flexible method full of strange eruptions. There are goggles that view good and evil energy as phosphorescent red and blue smears, political debates televised as gaudy cook-offs, and a grave turn toward the end that suddenly reveals that the Tolstoy of Anna Karenina had hovered over the tale all along. (The fun eventually leaks out of anarchy, the characters find out, and then “it’s like moving stone wardrobes.”) Over the course of its two and a half hours, Target runs the gamut from holographic sci-fi to flaky satire to sober meditation, wrapping it all in a peculiarly airy and antic mise en scène closer to mid-period Alain Resnais (La vie est un roman, say) than to Tarkovsky. The bracing result is not unlike one of the culinary mutations whipped up in Kozlovsky’s program, where soufflé fuses with borscht and blood flows when you least expect it.

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