On the same day as the criminal comedy The Liver by Ivan Snezhkin, Boris Akopov was shown the Bull at the festival, but as a heavyweight: the film won the Kinotavr this year, dividing the critics into two camps. Some accuse the director of misogyny (Akopov himself adds fuel to the fire in an interview) and reluctance to bring something new to the now popular topic of the 90s, while others note the bright talent of a debutant who made a testosterone action movie about "boys".
The main character — recently served Anton Bykov (fantastic Yuri Borisov) returns to the family, or rather to the family. He has two of them — by blood (mother, younger sister and brother), and in spirit — sidekick from the district, who are met in endless fights. A new work looms on the horizon — a criminal authority sympathetic to the Bull offers troubled affairs that in the future will bring both money and respect among the bandits.
Akopov, a screenwriter, collects a puzzle from childhood memories (in 1997 he was only 12 years old), the stories of his father, who was an investigator, and the book Moscow Bandit by Nikolai Modestov. Mad bulls, careless prostitutes, loose raves — legs in concrete, fists in blood, head in fog. This is exactly what the 90s look like through the eyes of a myth broadcast by all TV channels. The position of the current government is clear: “then” there was “democracy” with corpses and raspberry-colored jackets, “now” “stability” reigns and all roads are open. The debutant builds a script designer from a cliche, and on this, it seems, one could calmly bury the film.
And yet, the “next” statement on the topic of the 90s, in the last turn, claims to be an innovative story or a twisted plot about a damned decade. And the young screenwriter does not offer any new point of view on the era. But it does something that Russian cinema lacked so much — it saturates the frame with bright colors, aesthetically plays with long plans and puts on alarming songs of murdered youth at full volume.
The stories from the life of the Moscow bandits-boys are accompanied by perestroika disco (the “Announcement” group and their hit “Olya i AIDS”), underground wild punk (St. Petersburg's “Chimera”) and even a cover of Vysotsky from a tragic thief in law — a scene with its execution in karaoke as if sends greetings "Only God will forgive." Around this point, it becomes clear what Akopov’s debut is actually close to: not Balabanov, but Nicholas Winding Refn. The first films of the Dane are about the same as “The Bull” — evil, throbbing scenes from the life of bandits, a cut of the boy's life, where animal violence is always the last argument.
The director Akopov promptly knocks the crap out of the screenwriter Akopov, but many people prefer not to notice this moment, concentrating on the secondary plot, the author’s shocking position on gender and slurred political views (the ending can be read both as a belief in stable zero and as total to them mistrust). Nevertheless, one should not forget that the film is not only “what”, but also “how”.
The winner of the "Kinotavr", of course, great infuriates and will enrage. The list of complaints and problems is understandable (and in many respects fair), but it is unlikely that it will be possible to take away from the film his restless and angry heart. “Bull” is definitely not a new word in the history of cinema or a well-aimed political statement, but are we not expecting a lot from a saturated gangster action movie? It seems that Akopov’s debut was hastily recorded in a false coordinate system (Balabanov – Balagov – Zhuk). “Bull” is replete with driving scenes: in addition to Refn, you can recall Gaspard Noe, Martin Scorsese and Danny Boyle. It is very difficult to resist his aggressive pressure.
Akopov is a director who primarily takes powerful visual devices: this is not journalism about the 90s, but a vivid clip with incredible acting (in addition to Borisov, it is worth noting Stas Miloslavskaya). Human bodies shudder at the arrows, punk concert and colorful rave — the camera does not remain indifferent and captures every drop of blood, sweat and tears. This is what is worth appreciating, ceasing to require new interpretations of the 90s from the modern director. Youth is about blood and flesh, and not about reflection.
Author: Marat Shabaev