"My Joy is easy to follow for an hour, then unnecessarily diffuse and possibly objectionable," writes Vadim Rizov for the L. "The basic plot is as follows: Georgy (Viktor Nemets) drives a truck. He gets pulled over by leering cops busy harassing a female driver, skips away while they stare at her ass and eventually ends up in a small town, where he's conked out by locals upset he's merely hauling flour. There's a flashback (hang on), and then he re-emerges, bearded and with a gun, shooting all and sundry. End. There aren't many ways to plausibly interpret this scenario: the end conclusion is that people must die for Russia to live. Specifically, everyone who isn't a good, law-abiding middle-class Russian is probably an untrustworthy piece of shit. Anyway, the law-administering classes (as 90% of emigres will tell you) are the Communist Party rebranded, and the lower classes mainly want to slit your throat and spit vulgarly after drinking vodka. This is, precisely, the message of My Joy, and it doesn't lend itself to a whole lot of interpretation."
"Bodies, living and dead and somewhere in between, heave and collapse with horrific intensity throughout the film, the first feature by Sergei Loznitsa, a Belarus native who has been making acclaimed sociopolitical documentaries, reportedly underseen even in Eastern Europe, since 1996." Reverse Shot's Michael Koresky: "Though My Joy occasionally flirts with nonfiction conventions (surveying faces with clinical attention, allowing its camera to take in landscapes with pointed exactitude), this is a deeply allegorical work that makes sport of narrative and character in ways that perhaps only someone not enslaved to fiction traditions would dare. At once amusing in its details and frightening in its scope, My Joy is an anguished howl of social disorder.... It's a portrait of a lawless, godless social order that circumvents mere nihilism by virtue of its humane fascination with the people trapped inside it."
"Cinematographer Oleg Mutu, who shot the great Romanian journey-through-medical establishment-hell drama The Death of Mr Lazarescu, stays tight and close to people, as though doing so might reveal documentary truths," writes Aaron Cutler in Slant. "The film is willing to — and very often does — shoot off into tangents to reveal these truths. The trucker quickly becomes a pretense for the movie, rather than its focus, as Loznitsa abandons him for long stretches in order to follow underage whores down a highway as they patrol for clients, or soldiers dragging a farmer off so that they can shoot him and ransack his house.... It's useful to think of some of the best pan-societal critiques from the past decade, dazzling films like Code Unknown, The Circle, and even Lazarescu, in which we roam across a culture with a small group of recurring characters.... If the aforementioned films are arguments, then My Joy is a list. Loznitsa's documentaries are mainly compilations of archival footage, so it makes sense that his first fiction film is also essentially a compilation, an array of dynamic, aggressive bits rather than one coherent text."
More from David Fear (Time Out New York) and Elise Nakhnikian (House Next Door). As Nigel M Smith reports for indieWIRE, My Joy has been picked up for US distribution by Kino International.
Earlier: Reviews from Cannes, where Daniel Kasman noted that the film's "wavelength is less structural than physical, weighted, anecdote based." And the other day, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky spoke with Loznitsa "about his background as a documentary filmmaker, about his next feature, about the presence of a couple of prominent Romanian New Wave figures in his film."
Coverage of the coverage: NYFF 2010. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow The Daily Notebook on Twitter and/or the RSS feed.