You I Love

[Я люблю тебя]

Russia, 2004
Color, 85 minutes
Directors: Ol'ga Stolpovskaia, Dmitrii Troitskii
Script: Ol'ga Stolpovskaia with Dmitrii Troitskii
Camera: Aleksandr Simonov
Set Design: Konstantin Vitavskii
Music: Rigardas Norvila
Cast: Liubov' Tolkalina, Evgenii Koriakovskii, Damir Badmaev, Irina Grineva, Iurii Sherstnev
Production: Malevich Productions Producers: Ol'ga Stolpovskaia, Dmitrii Troitskii


The project that became You I Love was more than five years in the making; work on the script began in 1998.  It is unclear why the simple declarative of the Russian title [literally, "I Love You"] has been twisted into the almost incomprehensible English version upon which the authors apparently insisted. Perhaps it is an attempt to make clear that the declaration of love, uttered several times in the film by two of the three main characters, is never simply the joyful realization and affirmation of relationship, but can and often is a confession of confusion, a ritual act of dissimulation, and occasionally the prelude to an impending and senseless disaster.

The film introduces two young and successful inhabitants of a no longer post-Soviet but rather quite cosmopolitan Moscow.  Timofei (Evgenii Koriakovskii), a talented and upwardly mobile creator of media advertising campaigns, begins a romance with Vera (Liubov' Tolkalina), a television news anchor with celebrity status.  Their personal and professional successes are imaged in the film with a kind of artificial glossiness that suggests that their happiness may be not only dependent upon but also defined by the new media with which they work and live. Before they have time to work out the parameters of their relationship, Timofei's well-ordered world is thrown into turmoil by the arrival out of the blue (actually, the black of the night sky) of the young Kalmyk Uliumzhi (Damir Badmaev), who falls upon Timofei's moving car and is slightly injured.  Timofei is forced to take in the unregistered migrant to avoid complications with the police.  In remarkably short order, the Asian youth has employed his mysterious and mystical Eastern power to seduce his host, thus setting up an uncomfortable but inevitable ménage a trois, in which "I love you" can no longer be a personal and meaningful declaration from lover to beloved, but becomes a tentative, complicated and increasingly desperate attempt to find meaning and human contact in a world that seems to lack both.

The film is structured as a hodgepodge of contrasts and themes that do not seem to form any coherent artistic whole.  The artificiality of contemporary life in the Russian capital city is juxtaposed with a purportedly more natural lifestyle embodied by Uliumzhi, who seems to have a spiritual bond with the animal kingdom but can make no sense of an ATM machine.  Consumption as the pathology of urban society finds expression in Vera's "secret passion," while true human feeling must be mediated through money, technology, or role-plays.  Ethnic stereotypes are deployed to interrogate questions of sexuality, anxieties around gender roles are exploited to expose social and economic cleavages.  In the West the film has been marketed as Russia's first self-consciously gay film, while in Russia it has been called a scandalous film about love.  The film is an unwieldy assortment of impulses that bear witness to its own mixed heritage.  It is an ambitious attempt at a union of incompatibles: commercial cinema and the tradition of Russia's parallel cinema movement.

Ol'ga Stolpovskaia and Dmitrii Troitskii

Ol'ga Stolpovskaia (b. 1969) and Dmitrii Troitskii (b. 1971) are both native Muscovites, both completed their film training in the Workshop of Individual Directing in 1997, and have partnered in a number of artistic projects.  You I Love is their first feature film. Their formation as filmmakers is deeply indebted to the Russian Parallel Cinema movement, in particular to Boris Iukhananov and Gleb Aleinikov (who appears in You I Love as one of the "deputies").  In addition to their work as writers, producers, and directors, Stolpovskaia and Troitskii have appeared in front of the camera in Ivan the Fool [Иван-дурак] (co-directed by Aleksandr Dulerein and Sergei Koriagin, 2003).  Stolpovskaia is the author of numerous short films, videos, and multi-media projects, including Bruner's Trial [Суд над Брунером] (with D. Troitskii, 1999), later acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  She is currently producing of a number of television shows.  Troitskii has also worked in television production since 1999 and has recently made a name for himself as producer of the notorious TV reality show Hunger on TVT.

 

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