A Friend of the Deceased

on May 01, 1998 by Kevin Courrier
This remarkably assured film from director Viatcheslav Krichtofovitch ("Adam's Rib") captures both the moral and political climate in the Ukraine following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In this new world, mafia bosses have replaced communist bureaucrats, and a corrupted form of capitalism has turned personal loyalties into what one character calls "business associates." Krichtofovitch has weaved together a subtly smart story about the consequences of political change that packs little ironies that keep tweaking the audience on the nose.
Anatoli (Alexandre Lazarev) is a former translator who feels melancholic for the way things were. This is due in part to the fact that his wife is drifting away from him, and embracing the free-market economy. When she decides to pack her cellular phone (which Anatoli handles like a dead mouse) and shack up with another guy, he hits rock bottom. A friend tries to persuade Anatoli to hire an assassin to get rid of her new beau, but Anatoli is so depressed he decides to put out the contract on himself for a few hundred dollars. (The assassins in Kiev are as cheap as life has become.) But, after he meets a lively young hooker, Vika (Tatiana Krivitskaia), who reawakens his zest for living, he wants to call off the hitman. But things don't go quite as planned.
It's obvious that Krichtofovich is critical of the communist regime of the past, but he's skeptical about the pseudo-liberalism that has replaced it. In a way, "A Friend of the Deceased" says that a lack of freedom can sometimes create a sense of community, the kind where being underground helped people endure the oppression. "A Friend of the Deceased" is a bittersweet lament for that lost community. Starring Alexandre Lazarev, Tatiana Krivitskaia and Evgueni Pachin. Directed by Viatcheslav Krichtofovich. Written by Andrei Kourkov. Produced by Jacky Ouaknine. A Sony Classics release. Drama. Ukrainian-language; English subtitles. Rated R for some nudity and language. Running time: 100 min.
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