The Death Of Stalin

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA 15+The Death Of Stalin

Directed by: Armando Iannucci

Produced by: Yann Zenou, Laurent Zeitoun, Nicolas Duval Adassovski, Kevin Loader

Based on the comic books: THE DEATH OF STALIN by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin

Original screenplay by: Fabien Nury

Written by: Armando Iannucci, David Schneider and Ian Martin

Additional material by: Peter Fellows

Starring: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, Paul Chahidi, Dermot Crowley, Adrian Mcloughlin, Paul Whitehouse and Jeffrey Tambor.

The poster for, The Death Of Stalin warns: ‘A Comedy of Terrors’ –  I should have realised a film based on the days in the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death had senseless murder and mayhem.

I’m not saying there’s gratuitous blood and guts, but the ridiculous behaviour of those in power – Stalin’s Politburo including the security forces of the NKVD and The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs – who rape and murder while patting each other on the back astounds and at times, tickles:

‘When I piss I always try to make eye contact with an officer,’ says Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor) to Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) while peeing against a tree. ‘It ruins their day’.

The majority-rules-group-mentality spearheaded by the iron fist of Stalin unravels when he dies.  The fear felt by his people shown by the hesitation in speech, the inability to come to his aid when he strokes-out on the floor in his own ‘indignity’ because the soldiers are too scared to check what that thud on the floor actually means: What if nothing’s wrong?

So the soldiers wait until morning, safeguarding Stalin’s dying brain, waiting for the housekeeper to arrive with his morning tea.  All based on fact.

Writer-director, Armando Iannucci has created a dark satire that turns the facts into something so terrifying and ridiculous it’s funny.

Once Iannucci was on-board, the cast came together starring the likes of, Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin and Maria Yudina as the concert pianist, Olga Kurylenko: a solid cast working a dynamic script, much like the beloved communist dictum of a working machine focussing on the whole rather than its parts.

Although the decision was made to allow each actor their own native accent (rather than speak with a Russian inflection), it’s difficult to highlight any individual as they were all different yet essential in the ridiculousness of their nature: from the sad clown Malenkov who knows he’s way over his head as Stalin’s Number 2 (girdle included), to the sociopathic tub of evil genious, Beria (Simon Russell Beale), to Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) who could make Stalin laugh; notes taken every night by his faithful wife, drunken quotes read in the morning to remember topics that worked to those that didn’t to CAAAAA: the sound of a throat being cut.

In other words, he’s on, The List.

The Death of Stalin is gallows humour with the back and forth of words spoken with a blank face changing the meaning so it was more about the way the words were spoken and how best not to get caught saying them.

I expected a laugh-out-loud comedy but the truth of evil doesn’t allow for that; it’s hard to let go of the terror.  Instead, there’s a quick brilliancy; a film of dialogue that could be played out on stage including gems like, ‘Can you ever trust a weak man?’

The film tickled with subtle comment by walking the fine line between the seriousness of committing mass murder against the humour terror brings when people are behaving at their evil worst.

With so many layers it’s a film I’d watch again.

Red Dog: True Blue

GoMovieReviews Rating:


Director: Kriv Stenders

Producer: Nelson Woss

Starring: Levi Miller, Bryan Brown, Jason Isaacs, Hanna Manga Lawrence, Calen Tassone, Thomas Cocquerel, Kelton Pell and John Jarratt.

Sweet and funny, set on the backdrop of red desert, burnt skies and a story about a red dog named Blue.

Red Dog: True Blue is the prequel to the well-know Red Dog, that received world wide acclaim back in 2011.  A neat compliment that made me want to watch the original again.

Shown as a flash-back to the 1960s, True Blue is about young Mick (Levi Miller) who finds himself at a cattle station out in the middle of no where living with his grandpa (Bryan Brown).

Mick is surrounded by all sorts of characters from Jimmy Umbrella (Kee Chan), the Chinese-Australian cook who hates the sun, Bill (Thomas Cocquerel) the larrikin helicopter pilot, Big John and Little John (Syd Brisdane and Steve Le Marquand) who are always fighting, Taylor Pete (Calen Tassone) the budding activist and Durack (Kelton Pell) the Aboriginal stockman who just knows Blue (Phoenix, the dog) is a tricksta spirit.

Blue wasn’t the feature in this film, but he was certainly the main source of humour.  Very clever of director Kriv Stenders (also director of the original Red Dog), as Blue always remained blameless.  And the addition of Willy, the crazy, blind-in-one-eye horse who thinks he’s a bull, made the film even funnier.

Aside from the humour, there are themes here to give the story more depth, such as the politics of equal pay for Aboriginal workers, of free love, landrights, punishment of boys who’ve been bad…  But what really stood out was the beauty of the landscape and those never ending skies.

Geoffrey Hall has returned as Director of Photography, this time making a conscious effort to keep the colour palette of the landscape authentic.  And an anamorphic approach was used for filming giving a narrow depth of field.  The result being beautiful, picture card moments with the weather and landscape becoming another character of the story.

At the end of the year when you drag your feet and wonder when summer is actually ever going to begin, it’s great to see a film that has it’s own brand of humour; that evokes laughter bubbling up from the belly; where the story is sweet (without being too sweet) and uplifting.

Yeah, the kid Mick, annoyed me a bit at the start – all private school and precious.  But I think that was the point.  And the character grew on me through-out the film which may have something to do with the mateship that develops between a lost kid and a cheeky dog named Blue (AKA Marlunghu the tricksta spirit).

And I’m thankful the film didn’t tear my heart out as some of these animal films tend to do.  I was left smiling about a story that relates to life while also giving a positive twist making me really, really want to get a pet dog!