Bipedalism 

[Прямохождение]

Russia, 2005
Black-and-white, 90 minutes
In Russian, with English subtitles
Director: Evgenii Iufit
Screenplay: Evgenii Iufit, Igor' Khadikov
Camera: Evgenii Iufit, Dmitrii Alekseev
With: Viktor Mikhailov, Elena Sapozhinskaia, Nikolai Marton, Aleksei Tarasov, Valerii Krishtapenko, Stanislav Il'iushin, Aleksandr Anikeenko, Sergei Chernov, Iurii Zverlin
Producers: Sergei Sel'ianov (STW Film) and Igor' Kalenov (Nikola Film); with support from the Hubert Bals Fund of the International Film Festival, Rotterdam

Evgenii Iufit's latest film is the third in a quasi-trilogy that includes Silver Heads (1998) and Killed by Lightning (2002). The two previous films meditated on the meaning and shape of evolution, and featured heroic scientists prepared to sacrifice life and sanity to achieve a more perfect human being. Bipedalism revisits this theme and combines it with reflections on the role and responsibility of the artist, thus echoing another earlier work, The Wooden Room (1995).

Bipedalism's hero is a prize-winning animal painter (Viktor Mikhailov) who buys a half-dilapidated house in the country, where he moves with his wife and two children. At first, the artist has little clue as to why he feels such an uneasy affinity for the place. Soon, however, his children unearth in the house's cellar a treasure trove of dusty film reels, primate skulls and bones, research reports, and photographs—the archives of their grandfather, a top biologist whose work on eugenics had been co-opted by the Soviet military and secret police. As the artist attempts to piece together the implications of his father's research, he also unravels the mystery of his life, whose thread was abruptly severed after his father disappeared and he himself was removed to the orphanage where he would grow up. In his quest for the truth about himself and his past, he stumbles on a group of present-day scientists (led by Silver Heads' Nikolai Marton) who plan to market his father's evolutionary theory as a form of "gene therapy," even as the last of the ape-like hybrid offspring created by the "Bipedalism Project" escape their confinement and begin wreaking havoc on the railways. Torn between guilt over his father's sins and love for his family, the artist slips ever closer to the abyss of madness, as the horrors of the past merge with the confusions of the present.

  

 

Described by Kommersant's reviewer as a cross between The X-Files and Tarkovskii's The Mirror, Bipedalism marks a new stage of narrative and aesthetic maturity in Iufit's evolution as a film auteur. The slapstick chases and fistfights, the mock-homosexual orgies, and the crudely made-up undead of the earlier films have been replaced by a nuclear family and a female voice-over narrator, perhaps reflecting the lonely king of necrorealism's newfound status as husband and father. And yet this precarious family happiness is threatened by the monsters of the past—a haunting that is reflected, in Bipedalism, in Iufit's virtuoso recycling of Soviet newsreel footage and of motifs from his own earlier films. Is it any wonder that, during the film's world premiere at the Rotterdam International Film Festival and the retrospective accompanying it, some moviegoers were surprised to learn that Iufit was in his mere mid-forties and that his films hadn't been made fifty years ago?


Evgenii Iufit

Evgenii Iufit was born in 1961, in Leningrad. Educated as an engineer, in the early 1980s, he began working as a painter and art photographer. In 1985, he founded the first independent film studio in the new Russia, MZHALALAFILM, which brought together artists, writers, directors, and others open to radical aesthetic experimentation. Under the aegis of MZHALALAFILM, Iufit made a number of short films, many of which have been shown at the world's major festivals, including Montreal, Locarno, Toronto, and Moscow, and in screenings at the MoMA, Anthology Film Archives, the University of Texas, and Yale.

Iufit's first feature film, Daddy, Father Frost Is Dead, was awarded the Grand Prix at the 1992 Rimini Film Festival. He has been honored with complete retrospectives of his work, at the 2001 Pittsburgh Russian Film Symposium and at the 2005 Rotterdam International Film Festival. Mr. Iufit's paintings, films, and photographs have been shown in major exhibitions of contemporary Russian art at the State Russian Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, and the MoMA.



Filmography

1984 Werewolf Orderlies
1985 Woodcutter
1987 Spring
1988 Courage
1988 Suicide Warthogs
1989 Knights of Heaven
1991 Daddy, Father Frost Is Dead
1994 Will
1995 The Wooden Room
1998 Silver Heads
2002 Killed by Lightning
2005 Bipedalism

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