Twilight Portrait

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Bent coppers scour the dismal Russian highways for prostitutes to rape and discard in the gutter, but encounter a glitch in their failsafe system when they pick up Dykhovichnaya’s Marina, a damaged, upper crust social worker. Recalling Andrea Arnold’s ‘Red Road’, not only in its unremittingly bleak exploration of urban poverty but in its central conceit of a woman seeking psychological revenge on the man who sexually assaulted her, Nikonova’s provocative and impeccably performed film suffers from having played all its aces in the opening two acts. Some of the miniature set pieces are bound by cliché, such as a standard drunken dinner-party explosion, and Marina’s method of annoying her now-tamed cop attacker by cooing sweet nothings into his ear during sex. Yet, the film still works as a lacerating review of societal divisions and grotesque moral decline in contemporary Russia.

By: Dave Calhoun

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