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: Armando Iannucci's The Death of Stalin  ( 323 )
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« : November 07, 2017, 09:09:10 AM »

 Seen at cinema 10

* This review may contain spoilers ***

A fan since seeing him credited for the satirical TV series The Day Today,I was disappointed to find in 2009 that no cinema near me was showing Armando Iannucci's (Oscar nominated) film directing debut In the Loop. Seeing news of his second movie getting a limited release,I checked listings and found it was going to be shown at one cinema once a day,by chance (?) on the week of the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, which led to me waving goodbye to murderous "Uncle Joe."

The plot:

Whilst reading a note from pianist Maria Yudina about wanting to see him dead as he listens to a recording of hers, Stalin suffers a cerebral haemorrhage. Gathering round their Dear Leader, Nikita Khrushchev/ Georgy Malenkov/ Lavrentiy Beria/Vyacheslav Molotov/Anastas Mikoyan and other hangers on talk about how to keep things in order as Uncle Joe gets better. As they argue among themselves,Stalin takes his final breath. Finding a power space for the first time in decades,Stalin's former old pals begin fighting to decide who will lead the Soviet Union.

View on the film:

Greatly expanding on the fake documentary style of In the Loop,co- writer/(with regular collaborators David Schneider,Ian Martin and Peter Fellows) director Armando Iannucci goes for a cinematic change of power,by working closely with cinematographer Zac Nicholson for stylish crane shots over the lavish locations of Stalin's Russia,and winding camera moves,closing in on the horrid treatment given out to "dissidents." Retaining a documentary sensibility, Iannucci finds jet-black comedy in " the moment" from the camera staying at the back of a corridor as all would-be leaders run round like headless chickens, and lingering wide-shots hilariously catches catch them each attempting to present the "correct" image Comrade Stalin would love.

Creating a union by transferring Thierry Robin & Fabien Nury's Comic-Book (!) to the screen,the writers treat the horrors of Stalin and his henchmen with an impressive level of care,with the mass murder of innocents on Stalin's "lists" and the killing of 1,500 members of the public at Stalin's funeral being treated as serious,brutal events. Perfectly balancing the harsh reality with comedic punch-lines, the writers continue building on themes from In the Loop and the series Veep of the power politicians have just being an image,as each of them fight for the smallest handout of power in wonderfully bitter,rapid-fire one-liners.

While not getting a chance to enter the power game taking place in post-Stalin Russia, Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough give excellent performances as Yudina and Svetlana Stalin,with Kurylenko giving Yudina a brittleness in her hatred of Stalin,and Riseborough shoving Svetlana into very funny spots of Melodrama. With none of them thankfully having to put Russian accents on, the ensemble cast each give outstanding performances,as Simon Russell Beale freezes the screen up as the cold,heartless Beria, Jeffrey Tambor shakes with terror as Malenkov,and Steve Buscemi hits whip-smart punch-lines as cunning Khrushchev,whilst Jason Isaacs roars as the over the top Georgy Zhukov,as they all fight in the aftermath of the death of Stalin.

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