Yuri's Day

Russian Reels Hit the Big Screen at the KinoArt Film Festival

The KinoArt Film Festival, which runs from November 5th until November 8th, features new(ish) works from Russia. But it's not the only film fest on the horizon.

By the looks of things on the Toronto festival circuit, film buffs will have more flicks to choose from than time this month. The November movie blitz kicks off on Wednesday with the Regent Park Film Festival's annual community showcase, and some crazy tales will be on at the Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival. But for Russophiles (such as myself) the KinoArt Festival is a priority.

Though this year's lineup is heavy on period pieces and literary adaptations, may I recommend a few mysterious and oddly compelling gems?

In Shultes (Nov. 7), the camera follows a good-looking guy that doesn't get out much except to work (i.e., pick-pocketing strangers in restaurants and subways in Moscow). Usually this film's titular character spends his evenings at home, watching TV in the small apartment he shares with his sick mother. A few incidents stir up a hint of emotion for Shultes: his mother passes, he recruits a young thief and teaches him the tricks of the trade, hooks up with a cashier... but throughout all of it he remains cool and enigmatic, leading up to a revelation about his situation.

Yuriev Den
I love a good mystery. Yuriev Den (aka, Yuri's Day, Nov 6) is in fact so mysterious I'm left with more questions than answers by the time the end credits start to roll. It's one of those city-folks-go-to-the-country-and-something-really-bad-happens thrillers, about an opera star who takes her son on a tour of the remote village she grew up in. The young man disappears without a trace. And, according to the investigating officer 30 to 40,000 people disappear in Russia every year. Is her son dead? Has he become a local monk? A prisoner? Did she ever have a son? Aren't there any showers in small town Russia - her hair gets messier every day? All this, plus an opera soundtrack and one of the creepiest daytime blizzard scenes of all time.

Morphine (Nov 7) is surprisingly edgy (for a period piece). The story is taken from Mikhail Bulgakov's A Country Doctor's Notebook, where a once upon a time keen country doctor develops an addiction to morphine - and becomes a shifty, stealing, slutty junkie. Meanwhile in the backdrop, it's 1917 and the Russian Revolution carries on.

The KinoArt Festival is chock full of adaptations, with classics like Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and Gogol's Taras Bulba getting the motion picture treatment, this time by and for Russians. And Moscow's impressive subway system is featured Metro, a doc that covers the history behind the monumental structures. These failed to grab my attention and - I hate to admit it - a bigger budget would probably have done the trick.

The KinoArt Russian Film Festival runs from Thursday, November 5th to Sunday, November 8th, 2009. Tickets: $20/$12 Gala and $12/$10 Main Program available at the various venues on the night of screening or online (in Russian).

Still from Yuriev Den.

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