Cargo 200 (Gruz 200) 2007

US Inter Cinema DVD edition


Text below written 2016-03-31

YES !! This is IT !! A Wildly enjoyable and cleverly constructed crime drama, fascinating and bizarre and packed
to the rim of the DVD disc with social satire and black humour from the crumbling times of the Soviet empire, 1984.
This film was made in 2007 but the US DVD was released in 2009, so this Monstrosity of a film became my favourite
film of the year 2009. A Prime Russia pitch black kind of Noir with some of the worst - or best - settings for a film,
really anti-settings in some godforsaken human-non-friendly industrial town, and which grabs you as a passenger
for one of the most hypnotic and unsettling cinematic rides of your life.

I really can't come up with more hyperbolic praise as i start getting tautological already, but this film is a MONSTER
and if someone had made it in USA or western europe it would've caused a sensation.

The Power of this film, WOW!

Great actors, great photo, great script and direction makes the indie monster Gruz 200 even better than Balabanov's
own Brat from 1997 and his demonic fairy tale Of Freaks and Men from 1998, and these 2 latter were über great.
Unfortunately i haven't been able yet to see Aleksei Balabanov's last 3 films, as i can't find them with english subtitles
anywhere. Morfiy (Morphine) from 2008 is something extra i've heard and my expectations for this one is Sky High,
but the Russian release is without english subs and i can't find any other release of this supposedly Great Film.
The Stoker made in 2010, another pitch-black indie drama, has got great reviews and could be released in the UK
sometime ... maybe, and finally his last film Me Too from 2012 i haven't seen either.

Note 2020-11-03: Me Too (Ya tozhe khochu) another masterpiece and you can read the review at the top of my page

In Brat (The Brother, 1997) and Zhmurki (Dead Man's Bluff, 2005) Balabanov satirizes the post-Soviet 1990's Boris
Jeltsin era with it's Wild West chaos capitalism and gangsterism with the plundering of Russia by oligarchs. In Gruz 200
he instead flogs the 1980's Soviet era with it's crumbling system and an assortment of bewildered people and freaks.
Maybe satirizing the growing idolization in nowadays Russia of the "Good" old Stalin and Soviet Union times?

Gruz 200 - The Story:

We're in a small dreary town somewhere in the Soviet Union and the year is 1984 with the ongoing war in Afghanistan
going bad and the Empire is crumbling, Free-Falling. The film starts with a conversation between 2 middle-aged brothers
somewhere around 50 or so, Artem (or Artyom) played by Leonid Gromov a university professor in ateism philosophy
and Mikhail (Yuri Stepanovich) a lieutenant. Both of them feel obsolete and the New Russia is waiting just around the
corner. Artem is visiting his brother on his way to their mother in the abominable industry town of Leninsk, probably a
fictious town even though there are places with that name, i.a. in Siberia.

On his way again, his car breaks down out on the countryside and he seeks help from some local moonshiners living on
a farm. He meets Aleksei (Aleksei Serebryakov), his wife Antonina (Natalya Akimova), the vietnamese Sunka and .....
a quiet man (Aleksei Poluyan), who we later will get to know as Zhurik/Zhurov, a man you will never forget, i promise.

On their way to buy some moonshine vodka are 2 youngsters, Mikhail's daughter's boyfriend Valeri (Leonod Bichevin)
and his friend Angelika (Agniya Kuznetsova) .... unfortunately due to nastiness awaiting them ahead.
This unusual film vibrates with "glorious" unpleasantness and you feel more and more discomfortable the longer it's
running, especially when getting to know Zhurik, but still there's some black humour here. In the philosophical context you
can somewhat understand the professor of ateism Artem's decision to abandon his beliefs and seek order in chaos.

Aleksei Balabanov continues with his flogging of his beloved Russia, and this time the final years of the Soviet Union era
with it's corruption, disintegration of norms, copious consumption of Vodka and with it's bewildered and confused
citizens, all victims of the gigantic and failed communistic project. Balabanov does it with a humorous glint in his eye,
and even though the happenings in this film mostly are of the grisly kind you can't help taking a liking to many of the
people in this film .... well, not the one's that has turned into beasts and certainly not Zhurik.
The films title Gruz 200 is referring to the transports of dead russian soldiers from the then ongoing Afghanistan war.

It's a brilliant film, BRILLIANT and it's a shame and a tragedy that Balabanov was/is mostly unknown outside of
Russia, when much, much lesser directors - infantile hipsters or pretentious bores are hailed here, and Balabanov for
sure was no bore. Aleksei Balabanov 25/2 1959 - 18/5 2013 a Great filmmaker.

widescreen 1.85:1 with russian audio 2.0 with english subtitles - this US DVD was only just passable with an often
shaky transfer and let's hope that his films will be released on a Bluray with english subtitles someday.
And yes, i forgot, the Soundtrack to this film was great too, by Leonid Fyodorov (from the group Auktyon).

Gruz 200 was met with acclaim and won i.a. Russian Guild of Film Critics 2007 Best Film award, won at the Rotterdam
International Film Festival, the Gijón International Film Festival and won the Polish Filmmakers Critic award

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