Saturday, April 16, 2016
'The Fool' BD: Spot-On Portrayal of Modern Russian Corruption
The April 19, 2016 Blu-Ray release of the 2014 (subtitled) Russian-language drama "The Fool" (nee "Durak") adds another awesome dimension to the cult and independent film catalog of Olive Films. This film coming ahead of Olive releases of the 1994 Russell Crowe drama "The Sum of Us" and the delightful teencoms "Agent Cody Banks" and "Zapped" partially shows how Olive is a one stop shop for many of your movie-watching needs.
The scads o' festival awards (including some for best film and best actor) for "Fool" offers proof that this cynical tale of an effort to do the right thing gets it right. The saddest part is that this movie could have been set in any country.
"Fool" taking place over a roughly 16-hour period highlights the tension and need for urgent action that drives the film. The triggering event is a burst pipe in a beyond run-down apartment building in a Russian town. This leads to calling out sincere and caring 20-something plumber's assistant/engineering student Dima (who sure-to-be-an-international star Arytom Bystrov plays very well) from his own run-down apartment that he shares with his parents, his wife, and his young son.
On inspecting the damage, Dima quickly discovers an alarming amount of damage. His initial realization that he literally cannot fight city hall causes him to not make a federal case of the matter at that time. A late-night revelation causing him to conclude that the imminent collapse of the high-riseish is imminent leads to crashing a party at which the mayor is celebrating her birthday with the boss of Dima and the city department heads. Nowhere is the divide between the haveskis and the have-notskis so apparent than at the scenes at that venue.
To her credit, the mayor allows Dima his say in front of her and the other officials. Suffice it to say, Dima is very fortunate that looks cannot kill.
The facts that become very clear very quickly are that Dima must be taken seriously, that the massive misuse of municipal funds across the board is coming home to roost, and that saving the lives of the 820 residents in the building while avoiding a devastating scandal is a very tough problem.
Although the nature of the inevitable cover up is incredibly predictable, the manner in which it is staged and acted keeps it interesting. It further shows both the Russian mindset and the more human tendency to realize when the game is over.
Writer/director Yury Bykov additionally delivers wonderfully cynical twists at the end that reveal both human nature and the seemingly inevitable destination of folks who literally and figuratively demonstrate good intentions. (This is not to mention an earlier scene that merely helps establish the nature of the father of Dima but proves to be foreshadowing.)
The bigger picture is that this release comes at a time that cinephiles (including your not-so-humble reviewer) are bemoaning the current emphasis of commerce over art at the major studios. "Fool" is an engaging film that makes an aptly toned sociological statement without any costly CGI effects or big-names from the American perspective stars. A good way to identify these films is to evaluate whether they (like "Fool") would be feasible live-stage productions.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Fool" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.