Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Nochnoi Dozor, My Grahzny Sodding Veshches

CD in Play: Takako Minekawa, Roomic Cube

Saw Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor) on Monday, courtesy of a free pass for two. Apparently the film doesn't open for a while yet, so a review would be considered to be a faux paux at this point. However I feel like saying a few things. Interesting film stylistically, if a bit lacklustre as far as story goes. Wikipedia has an entry on how the film differs from the book, though the writer's neutrality on the film vs. the book is pretty clear. In many ways this is a better film than Underworld, a convoluted mess of a film that failed even to satisfy the extremely low expectations I went in with. Underworld, was typical Hollywood flash fare - all sizzle and no steak.
Night Watch is a lot of flash and it feels like they were trying to cram 6 television episodes into a film about five minutes shy of two hours, but it was much more satisfying than its American counterpart. But I came out kind of liking Night Watch, despite its flaws and rather crammed and rushed feel. One thing I hope the studio here decides to keep are the subtitles. Aside from that fact that I enjoy listening to Russian being spoken, the subtitles are the most imaginative I have come across.
The subtitles are not merely there so non-Russian speakers can follow the film, they have become part of the style and effect of the film. They bleed and dissolve, move when needed to, get bumped and knocked around, fade out and fade in - and none of this distracts you from the film. In fact, I kept thinking that Russian audiences - with whom the film was unbelievably popular - were unlucky not share the same experience.
The director, Timur Bekmambetov has apparently stated he does not like or is not comfortable with magic. The may well lead one to wonder why he would take on the project, but Bekmambetov does avoid a particular pratfall of his American peers. Americans of late just can't seem to accept making supernatural stories without trying to explain them away scientifically. Magic and the magical and spiritual aspects of vampires, shape-shifters, ghosts can all be catagorized, classified and explained away by science. (or at least science fiction) Underworld is one such film, Blade is another. Bekmambetov may not be comfortable with magic but he allows it just to be, and maybe that is for the best.
Anyhow, it isn't a bad film and I would recommend seeing it, even it is just because of the novelty of seeing a popular Russian film. Discerning critics, curmudgeons and Russophobes might hate the film, but the rest of us should be capable of just enjoying it for what it is. I may pick up the fisrt novel at some point, as I assume it has been translated in to English.
Oh! The give away at after the film yeilded one of the best advanced screening giveaways I have ever seen - a wind-up toy of one of the film's most memorable creepy crawlies.

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