Friday, January 16, 2009

4 [Chetyre]

Ilya Khrjanovsky | 2005 | 126 min | Russia

One quiet night on the streets of a Russian metropolis two men and a woman find themselves together in a bar, sharing drinks and stories of their work. The woman is marketing a Japanese product that emits vibes of happiness, one man sells high-end water that has earned him a position as a government insider, and the last man is a genetic engineer who has been engaged in secret cloning experiments. Of course, these power brokers did not just happen to bump into each other. They are all liars; a prostitute, a shady meat salesman, and a piano tuner respectively. Each of them is ashamed enough of their positions in the booming capitalist nation (were everyone should be getting rich) that preposterous lies are the desirable option, even when dealing with strangers for a short while.

When the three leave the bar we follow each on their own course and find all of them embroiled in criminal endeavours. Prostitute Marina is given the most attention as she travels to the small village of her upbringing for the funeral of an old friend. Is it here we have the most obvious clash of generations (and metaphor) in which the old women of the village recycle chewed food into hideous dolls sold to wealthy collectors. Marina's world is interesting, but it is a shame we see less of the other characters by such a broad margin.

4 is not a great film and the quick stitch up at the end barely fits the definition of a "resolution." However, there are several visually inventive moments that make it a worthwhile experience. There are nods to the urban nightmares of Gaspar Noe and the grotesque surrealism of Jan Svankmejer, particularly in Marina's story. Khrjanovsky's take on the dilapidated environs of the New Russia is striking. Look to 4 for engrossing visuals, but not a captivating storyline.

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