Sunday, 17 September 2017

TIFF Film Review: "The Death of Stalin" (2017).



"The fight for leadership begins." This is The Death of Stalin. This period comedy-drama film directed by Armando Iannucci, adapted by Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin, and Peter Fellows, based on the French graphic novel of the same name by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin. The film follows the Soviet dictator's last days and depicts the chaos of the regime after his death.

The project first gained momentum during the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. Armando Iannucci was set as director and co-writer, alongside his regular collaborators David Schneider (The Thick of It co-writer), Ian Martin and Peter Fellows. Production began in late June 2016, with Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Palin, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Andrea Riseborough, Adrian Mcloughlin, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs and Paul Whitehouse all confirmed to be in the cast. In September 2017, a high-ranking Russian official with the culture ministry said the Russian authorities were considering a ban on the upcoming film, which, he alleged, could be part of a "western plot to destabilise Russia by causing rifts in society."

The film stars an ensemble cast that includes Jeffrey Tambor as Georgy Malenkov, Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev, Olga Kurylenko as Maria Yudina, Michael Palin as Vyacheslav Molotov, Simon Russell Beale as Lavrentiy Beria, Paddy Considine as Comrade Andreyev, Andrea Riseborough as Svetlana Stalina, Rupert Friend as Vasily Stalin, Jason Isaacs as Georgy Zhukov, Adrian McLoughlin as Joseph Stalin, Paul Whitehouse as Anastas Mikoyan, Paul Chahidi as Nikolai Bulganin, and Dermot Crowley as Lazar Kaganovich. Every single one of the cast gave performances that rides the thin line between hilarity and insanity. Every moment throughout the film, all the performances were hilarious and insane to the point where I actually, and literally, fell on the floor of the theatre laughing my ass off. All the jokes by the cast were funny as hell and the entire ensemble is great.

There had been nothing in comedy like The Death of Stalin ever before. All the gods before whom the Russia of the stolid, paranoid 50s had genuflected went into the wood-chipper and never got the same respect ever again. Armando Iannucci's brilliant Soviet Union satire is funny and razor-sharp. The film is arguably one of the best political satire of the century. By a whopping margin, this is Iannucci's most radical film and greatest dramatic gamble. Like most of his work, Iannucci's insane satirical comedy-thriller on the death of Joseph Stalin madness and its possible effects has aged well. Perhaps Iannucci's most perfectly realized film, simply because his satirical vision of the danger of power and human stupidity is wedded with comedy. The pre-eminent satire of the troubling times of the Soviet Union, the film is a hilarious and harrowing fable of systemised madness. The film does what so few comedies do today: it challenges us, provokes us, unsettles us while also making us laugh. A slick satire of Stalin's death, and one that succeeds in brilliantly lampooning the hands that guide the world.

Simon says The Death of Stalin receives:


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