'Khrustalyov, My Car! Special Edition'
(Yuriy Tsurilo, Nina Ruslanova, Mikhail Dementyev, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1998) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview:Named after the apocryphal exclamation of Soviet security chief Lavrentiy Beria as he rushed to Stalin's deathbed, this blackly funny, deliriously immersive satire distils the anticipation and anxiety in the Moscow air, as the Soviet despot lay dying.
A one-of-a-kind collision of nightmare and realism, director Aleksei German's film is presented here in a new restoration with a wealth of illuminating extras.
Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, and even having seen it three (3) times now over the past four days, it's hard to truly explain this film.
It's cinematography was beautiful, but even as a Russian I found the plot/story/events almost impossible to understand!
That, however, did not make me enjoy the movie any less. Granted I would have loved to have understood what I watched, but I honestly think that is what the director wanted.
For as someone said to me whilst watching it alongside me, "To have you be lost and confused. Why? To make the film better I guess."
As a whole, we cinephiles watch things we don't understand for pleasure sometimes. Or rather we understand what we are seeing, but can't put together why it's happening or how it fits into the story.
Luckily, as my Russian is now rusty and this film had a lot of dialogue and people talking over each other, this brand new Special Edition comes complete with newly translated English subtitles.
Ok, sure, it still didn't really help, given the speed of talk, the talk overs and the fact that every happened as a kind of a mess of a group scene most times, but it did fill in some blanks come the end.
German's genius masterpiece is of course 'My Friend Ivan Lapshin', made in 1984. A movie so perfect and genius that it hurts. Both films are similar, they have the same voice narrating - even German's son who became a director would keep using this somber narrator's voice.
So, together with the genius cinematography, although not as perfect as 'My Friend Ivan Lapshin' in my humble opinion, but somewhat similar and even more busy, 'Khrustalyov, My Car!' is a breathtakingly free and creative black and white cinematic ride.
The work that went into this film is staggering. It's a film filled with action. A true piece of art I'd say, even though almost impossible to understand (with or without subtitles, trust me).
We are given no context, no historical data, no explanations about who the characters are except a couple of words on their work. This movie proves ultimately that you can like a movie without understanding it!
In closing, I truly can't really think of any other film I've ever seen that stumped and mystified me so fully yet so clearly had some structure and apparatus to it! Buy this splendid newly-released Blu-ray today and find out just what I mean for yourselves. This is a Full Screen Presentation (4:3) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
New 2K restoration from the original camera negative by Arrow Films
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original uncompressed 2.0 stereo Russian audio soundtrack
Newly translated English subtitles
Audio commentary by producer Daniel Bird
Between Realism and Nightmare, a new video essay on Khrustalyov, My Car! and the films of Aleksei German by historian and film critic Eugénie Zvonkine
Diagnosis Murder: Jonathan Brent on The Doctors' Plot, the academic talks about Stalin's anti-Semitic campaign which provides the backdrop for Khrustalyov, My Car!
Aleksei German, the veteran film historian and critic Ron Holloway interviews the Russian director
German... At Last, an interview with Aleksei German by producer Guy Séligmann
Double-sided fold-out poster
Limited edition 60-page booklet featuring new writing by Gianna D'Emilio, an archival essay by Joël Chaperon and original reviews