A Room and a Half

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Nostalgic enough to make Fellini blush in his grave, this semidramatization of prizewinning poet Joseph Brodsky’s experiences during the Stalin years and beyond grows on you. Brace yourself for painfully adorable scenes of a little boy looking through binoculars at his adoring parents, images of purring cats and wide-bottomed school teachers (good enough for budding sexual fantasies). But paradoxically, it’s the film’s frequent episodes of Pythonesque animation—Russian director Andrey Khrzhanovskiy has years of experience as an illustrator—that are the most emotionally taxing. A thorny crow’s nest of black spikes spills out of a Russian truck, destroying windows and burning homes; elsewhere, a cookbook comes to life with food that our hero isn’t allowed to eat, while musical instruments fly serenely through the air, unperturbed by Soviet architecture. Wednesday, Sept 30 at 6pm—Joshua Rothkopf

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New York Film Festival 2009

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