Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
NYJFF ’16: Natasha
are some scary things coming out of Russia these days. In addition to military
adventurism, rabidly homophobic propaganda, and teacups poisoned with Polonium
there is a manipulative Lolita who will cause no end of disruptions for a
Canadian teenager. The second generation Jewish Russian immigrant is not
prepared for the sexual confusion in store for him in David Bezmozgis’s Natasha (trailer here), which screens
during the 2016 New York Jewish Film Festival.
mother is real piece of work, but Mark Berman’s Uncle Fima is not exactly a
door-prize either. His mother Bella is determined to help this mail-orderish marriage
work, because Fima is running out of chances. Being inherently lazy, Berman
prefers to make weekly delivers for Rufus, his suburban Toronto drug hook-up
rather than take a legit summer. Since he is apparently idle, Bella Berman
insists he show his new cousin Bella around. She thinks even less of her mother
than the Bermans, which is causing domestic stress for the newlyweds.
turns out the fourteen year-old Natasha is more sexually experienced than
Berman. He is a bit nebbish and she is more than a little forward. That might
work okay in Bezmozgis’s original short stories he adapted for the screen, but
it is decidedly creepy in cinematic form. Presumably lead actress Sasha K.
Gordon is of age (she attended Fordham and has a fair number of New York theater
credits) but she looks fourteen—a young fourteen. This will of course, lead to
problems for Berman, precipitated by his shrewish new aunt.
are some really finely turned scenes in Natasha,
including a scene where the two teens discuss Nietzsche, but the ick factor is
just through the roof. Maybe it is a page-to-screen thing, but there is way too
much here. It is shame because there are some terrific supporting performances
from Deanna Dezmari and Genadijs Dolganovs as Berman’s parents. (Old Roman
Berman even has some spot-on analysis of the Middle East situation if anyone
happens to be listening.)
Gordon is also appropriately unsettling as
Natasha. At times, Alex Ozerov seems to
shrink into the background as the passive Berman. Yet, that seems to be part of
the point Bezmozgis is making about the soft, complaint nature of assimilated second
generations like Berman compared to hungry, aggressive first generation
Russia-survivors like Natasha. Regardless, the film still leaves viewers
feeling like they need a shower and a trip to the spiritual advisor of their
choice. Too inconsistent and frankly kind of gross, Natasha screens this Thursday (11/14) and Saturday (11/16) at the
Walter Reade, as part of this year’s NYJFF.
Labels: Canadian Cinema, NYJFF '16