Wednesday, March 09, 2005

You I Love

Ya lyublu tebya (You I Love) (2004)
Directed by: Olga Stolpovskaja, Dmitry Troitsky
Release: Currently under limited release.

I have not had the opportunity to experience much Russian film with sound. The silent Russian filmmakers invented many of our still used film editing techniques and established many of our rules for filmmaking. I was quite happy to get the chance to see a new Russian film particularly one with a gay plotline.

The Story

Timofei (Evgenny Koryakovsky) is an ad executive who while out to lunch meets a beautiful woman Vera (Lybov Badmaev) and ends up having lunch with her. They begin to bond over the lunch and a relationship soon develops between them. After taking her to work one night, Timofei literally runs into Uloomji (Damir Badmaev) with his car. Realizing that Uloomji is without documentation, and after failing to be able to get him medical attention, Timofei takes Uloomji home with him. In the middle of the night Uloomji wakes Timofei by accidentally knocking over the sofa that he is sleeping on drawing him out of his bedroom. They share a brief moment of tenderness and the attraction between them becomes apparent.

After only sharing brief touches, Vera comes back to Timofei’s apartment and catches the two of them together. What develops from here is a fairly complex relationship between the three complicated by Uloomji’s family and acceptance of everyone’s sexual identity. The story takes place in modern Moscow and we are given a possible glimpse of what life can be like for those living in the freed city.

The Film

There are many themes explored in this film that go beyond the simple story of a man learning to live with his love for both a man and a woman. From the very opening sequence, food plays an important part in the film. The first encounters between Timofei and Vera involve colorful rich foods in wonderful settings. The theme of rich colorful foods is even carried into their first sexual encounter when just after having sex, Vera takes a bite out of a ripe green apple, an apple that is the same shade and color as the apples in Timofei’s bed sheets. The food seemed to relate to a decadent and luxurious feeling that matched his relationship with Vera a feeling that was matched by her beauty and femininity.

In contrast, Uloomji’s presence is marked with strong masculine influences. The sofa that he sleeps on is covered in an animal skin. His hat that he wears almost throughout the film is fur and he works in a Zoo tending the animals. The first true sexual experience that they have together was filmed as a beautiful mix of lust and raw sexual power that was not shown with Vera. It was almost as though Timofei was exploring both sides of not only his sexuality but also his personality. Both the masculine and feminine aspects of life and sex appeal to him and his nature.

Additionally, there is also a strong theme of social change and conflict between the modern city and rural Russia. Once Uloomji’s family finds out about his sexuality, in a wonderfully funny scene, their reaction is less than acceptance. As opposed to Vera’s friend who reacts to Timofei’s relationship with men by simply saying that she sleeps with women. When Vera asks why, she responds essentially; “Why not?”

I was incredibly impressed with the directors and you could tell that the film was directed by both a man and a woman. The two worked incredibly well together by balancing the masculine and feminine aspects of love. This is an incredibly powerful first film for the filmmakers. I was also impressed to learn that the actors playing Timofei and Ulooji were first time actors. I thought the cast performed incredibly well and there was a great deal of screen chemistry between them. Overall, I truly enjoyed this film and would recommend it without reserve.