Tuesday, September 28, 2010

NYFF Spotlight: My Joy

I have the distinct pleasure this year of covering a few of the films that are being shown at the New York Film Festival. Most of these films do not yet have U.S. release dates, and therefore this can be considered a preview review.

My Joy
Directed by Sergei Loznitsa
NYFF Public Screening: September 30th at 9:00pm

"My Joy" is a cold, severe exploration of the depths of human life in contemporary Russia. Its start is reminiscent of the slow, contemplative pacing of recent Romanian film "Police, Adjective." As trucker Georgi goes from place to place with his unidentified cargo, the film pauses to linger on his surroundings and pick up briefly on interactions between the people living in the places he passes. It becomes difficult to pinpoint the protagonist of the story once it changes course so much to focus on other characters and other despicable events. By the end of the 127-minute compilation of horrible behavior, it's hard to feel any sort of joy. It's an incredibly burdensome experience to travel through Russia through such a pessimistic realist point of view. Addressing questions about the title's origin, director Sergei Loznitsa explained that the title came from a segment that he ultimately did not include in the film, and his translator started laughing when he noted that the "short scene" had been about forty minutes long. That's a quip made much more relevant after having seen the film and the extremely delicate, patient pacing present in its awfully long two-plus hours. The film, like the far better "Police, Adjective," does boast some stirring scenes, as well as a few terrifying moments notable for their shock value and content. As a whole, however, the film is an absolutely depressing, demoralizing journey, and to come out on the other side with anything but a dismal outlook on life is truly difficult. For its aesthetic and production values, the film should be commended, and for its plotting and execution, it's a tougher call.


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