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Katia Ismailova Review

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Life in Russia is a chore for typist Katia (Dapkounaite), until she meets tool man Serguei (Machkov). Their passion, however, leads to bad things and guilty secrets.

★★★★

This ponderous Russian tale of lust and murder strives to be a film noir, but despite such staples as forbidding storms, death, burial and nightly goings-on never makes the grade. The drama, updated from an old novel, is, in fact, centred around the not-particularly diverting nuttiness of one of those blankly obsessive women that have populated European movies for years.

Said femme fatale is put-upon typist Katia (Dapkounaite), who belts out her mother-in-law's latest novel in the family's crumbling country pad until her concentration is diverted by Serguei the dishy furniture restorer (Machkov, resembling a stubbly Christopher Lambert), who seems to be a domestic fixture despite never lifting a tool in the restoration department. Their passion, as is always the case where thrillers are concerned, triggers a sequence of predictably tragic events - two killings, two cover-ups, some reckless driving - all with a virtually negligable screen impact.

If this was a real thriller, the police would be on their tail, tension would be building, but the only person harbouring an inkling about their guilty secrets prefers to breed bunnies instead. It's no wonder the couple show no signs of panic, though Sergueï does eventually leg it back to the loving arms of an old girlfriend.

With limp direction from third-time helmer Todorovski and performers managing little more than sleepwalking, the best this can offer is untended misty Russian landscapes and starring roles for props from the 50s (which presumably pass for modern in 90s Russia). Altogether, this is an unsatisfying, unoriginal non-event destined for practically niet box office response.

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