Combustible Celluloid
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With: Marina Vovchenko, Irina Vovchenko, Svetlana Vovchenko, Sergey Shnurov, Yuri Laguta, Konstantin Murzenko
Written by: Vladimir Sorokin
Directed by: Ilya Khrzhanovskiy
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Russian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 126
Date: 26/05/2006

4 (2006)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Doll Faces

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Every so often a film comes along that even the most frequent and/or jaded of moviegoers won't quite know what to do with. Ilya Khrjanovsky's new film 4, which opens today at the Roxie (3117 16th Street, SF), is that film. In its native Russia censors and viewers probably didn't know what to make of it either, but it nevertheless inspired outrage and even physical violence.

It begins with a view of a street. A few dogs lay peacefully panting until some kind of jackhammer drill lands, blasting the concrete to bits and scattering the hounds. Later, a woman and two men meet at 3 a.m. in a bar, share some vodka and a few outrageous lies about their occupations. From there we follow them separately to a restaurant that serves round pigs and to a funeral for a woman that makes dolls out of chewed-up bread. And then the weirdness really starts.

Khrjanovsky directs with amazing confidence, using long takes and impossibly sustained close-ups; sometimes we're looking only at nothing but an ear or a curl of hair for minutes at a time. 4 could be a gross-out phantasmagoria to test your cinematic stamina, or it could be a political commentary, though Khrjanovsky insists not.

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