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STROLL, THE

SYNOPSIS:
In present-day St Petersburg, a young woman, Olya (Irina Pegova) steps out of a car and is soon accosted by Alyosha (Pavel Barshak) a boy of her own age. He's clearly charmed by her; she seems happy to take a walk with him, but becomes evasive when pressed too hard about her personal life. Sensing that he's making limited headway, Alyosha calls up his friend Petya (Yevgeni Tsyganov) and invites him to join them. But Petya is attracted by Olya as well, and soon a romantic triangle develops.

Review by Jake Wilson:
The appeal of this slight but charming movie rests mainly on Irina Pegova's very believable performance as its heroine: a brash flirt, full-bodied and giggly, with a piquant hysteria - at times verging on blind panic - apparent beneath all her self-involved chatter. This non-idealised beauty might be at home in any time and place, but seems a particularly appropriate emblem of contemporary Russia with all its social and moral uncertainties (like a wheeler-dealer operating on the fly, she keeps pausing to take calls on her mobile phone). As for the two hapless guys she picks up, for the hour and a half which this film takes to unfold in "real time" they can do little but trail in her wake.

Though I'd imagine Olya wouldn't exactly be Eric Rohmer's type, Aleksei Uchitel seems to have learnt a bit from the French New Wave genius' meandering dialogue, romantic but cool-headed presentation of young love, and location-based, off-the-cuff shooting style (Rendezvous in St Petersburg?). However, he hasn't quite mastered Rohmer's knack of insinuating a world of ambiguity between the lines of a trivial anecdote.

The extremely long takes are often crudely staged, with random flailing camerawork intended to add visual excitement. And while the power struggles between the trio are presented with some psychological subtlety, for too much of the time Uchitel simply relies on the appeal of photogenic young actors in picturesque locations (he could almost be working on behalf of a government-sponsored tourism campaign).

But even if there's something contrived about The Stroll's "youthful energy" and superficial games with form, on its own terms the film is an unarguable success. Australian filmmakers working on similar lines would do well to take note.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

STROLL, THE (M)
(Russia)

Progulka

CAST: Irina Pegova, Pavel Barshak, Yevgeni Grishkovetz, Madlen Dzhabrailova, Andrei Kazakov, Aleksei Kolubkov, Karen Badalov

PRODUCER: Aleksei Uchitel

DIRECTOR: Aleksei Uchitel

SCRIPT: Dunya Smirnova

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Yuri Klimenko, Pavel Kostomarov

EDITOR: Yelena Andreyeva

MUSIC: Not credited

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Not credited

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Potential

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney/Melbourne: August 19, 2004

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Madman

VIDEO RELEASE: May 5, 2005







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