THE OUTSKIRTS
DIRECTOR:                     PYOTR LUTSIK
COUNTRY:                     RUSSIA 1998
SUPER FEATURES:       Black and White. Deadpan humor. Or we don't get it!


(Seen at the 22nd Portland International Film Festival, in Portland, Oregon)

It's hard to tell if this is a farce, or a comedy, or just plainly, one of those films that really wants to take the proverbial pogo stick and shove it
in the .... of those who really deserve it. BUT, wait a minute, who is that person?

It is the story of a few men that had their land stolen, and then sold to someone who ended up owning the rights to it for 100 years, so that he could look for oil, or some other equitable resources. Well, it doesn't matter who these rights went to. Might as well been a Rockefeller or a Perot. Never mind that the people that live there need food, and have worked this land for centuries and are not getting anything for it at all. Is this a statement on the Capitalist world? Or is this a major attack on the failure of the new system in Russia, where privatization seems to be aiding a few, but hurting the most? Or is this the signal that there are inherent problems which the country itself has not addressed?

Shot in Black and White, in a cool style that really shows the b&w of the cold, icy country where these people live, it is the story of one man that decides to undertake a crusade to either regain their land or avenge the land that was stolen from them. How to get this done, is something that they ave to figure out along the way. Some of the people had been their very own neighbors and friends, and now they are turned against each other. As the man gathers his friends, and departs, the group has a few adventures, some of which are very amusing.

However, there are barriers. Some of the people that engineered these deals, did so to gain something for themselves and their families at the
cost of their friends. In one case, he was outright tricked, or robbed.

As the entourage takes off for Moscow, they meet their adversaries, and they have to get information as to the next step and the manner in which they get this information is one of the times that we come to like in this film, even if sordid. It is all a part of the deadpan humor, that is found in this film that is often subtle, but after a while gets you going. Just when you think the film is beginning to drag on, we crack up.

Eventually the film gets into its end, and the farmers get their due. They get to see the Certificate of Ownership, which they undoubtedly will take home with them. And the end of the film, is a bit of a throwaway, but it makes the point. It is the people that matter, and must be answered to in the long run.

Not per se a great film, but an enjoyable one that has some rather funny moments and a type of humor that we don't always enjoy or are afraid to appreciate. It is black humor in every sense of the word, but at the same time it is deadly serious, since the characters have a valid point, and deserve some recognition and respect. What the film does not say, or worry about, is that the government is responsible for these things. The film maintains the individualistic point of view through out and refuses to discuss politics. We are left with a story of a few men, and their adventure in trying to recover their very own Utopia. Well, right or wrong, the nice thing is that they get it. How, that's another story.

Well written, and as usual, a wonderful acting exercise where characterization is of supreme importance, and each character is very different from the other. Few films, or plays have such a well defined cast, and this reviewer has not been able to find information on this film that would have helped give credit where credit is due.

Their are large musical passages in this film during the quiet moments that induce a sense of isolation and loneliness which these people no doubt live under, but all in all it is difficult to fault this film as inferior. It's humor, as subtle and quick as it is, and so darned deadpan, keeps you on your toes and wondering what next. It is done rather allegorically, specially towards the end, but by then it doesn't matter. We are just happy that this group of people was able to achieve what they needed for survival. Even if the ending is a throwaway.

3.5 of 5 GIBLOONS

 

   

      

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