Sunday, May 31, 2015

Khrustalyov, my Car!

 Aleksei German, 1998

These frame enlargements come from the first part of Aleksei German’s phantasmagorical recreation of the nights and days leading up to and following the death of Russia’s Little Father, Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, beginning on February 28, 1953.  (Officially Stalin’s death is given as March 5, 1953, as the news of it was most likely held back for a brief power struggle.)  The story concerns the fate of a Jewish brain surgeon, General Glinsky, who is accused of taking part in the Doctors’ Plot, a paranoid delusion of the Soviet hierarchy that led to the death and imprisonment of many doctors, most of them Jews.  Glinsky senses something is up when he discovers a double being prepared (in the enema ward) to stand in for him at his show trial.  Yuriy Tsurilo, a wonderfully physical actor, plays the charismatic and hubristic doctor.

The images below are from the second and third sections of German’s great comedy of social chaos.  The brain surgeon tries to escape his fate, sleeping with a large admirer who would like to have his child, while back home his wife and son are removed from their sumptuous apartment and the son is asked to inform on his father should he return.  After his capture by a gang of schoolboys, the doctor is thrown into the back of a champagne truck where he is gang raped, orally and anally, by some (presumably also Jewish) thugs as they are being transported to the Gulag.  Fortunately, Glinsky is rescued because it is believed that he might be able to save Stalin’s life, but brought to the remote location where the Premiere is being treated, all the doctor can do for him is massage his stomach, which produces a fart (the first time) and some bubbling froth from his dying lips (the second.)  He is given a reprieve for his efforts and told to go home, but, after doing so, he quickly disappears as his son in voice-over tells us that he never saw his father again, and the film cuts to ten years later where the great doctor is the conductor of a train running from the Gulag to Moscow, and where he has set himself up, much as he had before in his hospital, as a little king.

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