Wednesday, February 2, 2000

Troika

Posted By on Wed, Feb 2, 2000 at 12:00 AM

The genesis of Troika, filmmaker Jennifer Montgomery’s second feature, was her reading of an interview with Russian nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky in Playboy magazine. Zhirinovsky is one of those post-Communist creatures who seems to have emerged from a textbook on Fascist pathology, a barely closeted homosexual who surrounds himself with robust young male admirers he refers to as his "falcons," but who maintains a public persona of hetero-orthodoxy in the form of a densely rationalized misogyny.

The Playboy interview was conducted by Canadian journalist Jennifer Gould and in the film Montgomery has a fictitious Jennifer (Jennifer Bass) stuck on a yacht with Zhirinovsky (Lev Shekhtman), her interpreter Masha (Marina Shterenberg) and a handful of Vlad’s lurking goons. At first Zhirinovsky just oozes that combination of smarmy evasiveness and theatrical indignation that one would expect from a demagogue on the make, but as the interview progresses his pontificating becomes more explicitly sexual; his "falcons" start to loom a little closer to the two women and the atmosphere thickens with menace.

Montgomery intersperses the interview on the boat with a parallel scenario involving Jennifer and her lesbian lover, Z (Valerie Maneti). This amounts to a series of flashbacks, since Jennifer is shown preparing for her upcoming interview with Zhirinovsky while Z – in a provocative mood and aware that their relationship is winding down – teases, cajoles and insults her lover, and generally acts like an annoying child. Some of the dialogue in these scenes is similar to that on the boat, but it’s a conceit that resonates lightly since Z’s restless petulance is a pale analog to Zhirinovsky’s aura of genuine threat. Also, the domestic scenes seem largely improvised, always a dicey process since the actors occasionally have to talk faster than they’re thinking in order to generate dialogue and so come up with a familiar kind of "movie talk" – a little strained, a little silly.

But if the film has a lot of rough edges, both intentional and otherwise, it also has an original approach to examining the old questions of power, sex and incidental love wrapped untidily into an open-ended meditation.

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