Saturday, June 3, 2017

An Irish filmmaker explores Russian life: Johnny O'Reilly's entertaining soap opera, MOSCOW NEVER SLEEPS


Basically a soap-operatic set of interlinked stories telescoped to fit into a one-hundred-minute format, MOSCOW NEVER SLEEPS begins like yet another of those Russian movies about life in Russia that sets out to show us all too believably (see Leviathan or The Fool) how ugly, heartbreaking, corrupt and nasty it is for all the characters -- no matter what their station in life. But then, as the movie wends its very lively way along, something odd happens, and you slowly begin to see things in a slightly more positive light.

This most likely is because the movie was made by an Irishman, Johnny O'Reilly, pictured at left, who is said to have lived in Moscow for the past dozen years, and is clearly rather smitten with the place -- as awful in so many ways is it probably is (whether you're Russian or Irish). As writer and director Mr. O'Reilly has given us quite the set of characters, each one brought to fine life by the excellent set of actors he and his casting directors and Elina Ternyaeva & Yulia Milovidova have corralled.

These folk, who include the likes of a very ill but very popular Russian television star (Yuri Stoyanov, above) and a pair of not-very-happy nor friendly step-sisters (Anastasiya Shalonko and Lyubov Aksyonova, below, left and right), out for a night on the town that turns into something a tad more appalling...

a not-so-nice business mogul (Leviathan's Aleksey Serebryakov, below), who's in the midst of being screwed by the state and maybe also by his would-be singer/girlfriend,

who is suddenly torn between her richer, more powerful current beau and her poor-but-hunky ex, who is now in hot pursuit. These latter two are played by Eugenia Khirivskaya (below, right, and at bottom, left) and Oleg Dolin, (below, left and bottom, right) who, if you like your men big, beefy and beautiful, is one hell of a knockout here.

There are a number of other key players, including a granny, her son, grandson, and the son's put-upon wife, and each set of characters and their circumstances are handled with precision, brevity and smarts, so that we come to care as much for these people as the film's short running time can possibly allow.

Another plus are the many gorgeous shots of Moscow, by day and night, that make the city seem, for all its cavalier cruelty, something special and beautiful. (You can certainly understand why those three sisters longed for the place.) So lively and fast-paced is Mr. O'Reilly's keen direction that we have little time to do more than hang on for the alternately funny, moving and wild ride -- by the end of which Russian life seems to have at least partially redeemed itself. Well, almost.

Distributed via Snapshot Productions, the Russian-language film (with English subtitles) hits theaters nationwide, beginning June 9th, 2017 in New York City at the Village East Cinema, June 16th in Los Angeles at Laemmle’s Ahrya Fine Arts  and Town Center 5, and June 30th in Washington, D.C. at the Landmark E Street Cinema. The film will then expand into additional cities throughout the summer.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

When it will be showing in London, Dublin and Russia?

James van Maanen said...

As the film is already two years old, it may have shown in those cities previously.
Otherwise, I have no idea. But keep a watch out (or look for the DVD, which may be out already, as well).