And The Thief Was Stalin: The 1997 Film, “The Thief”

A handsome thief dressed in a captain’s uniform seduces the mother of a young son, with their liaison lasting a number of months before the thief is duly arrested. . . As anyone who has seen the Russian film The Thief (1997), by Pavel Chukhrai, can affirm, Toljan the thief symbolizes none other than Stalin, he who seduced the Russian people (the mother and her son) without loving them but most certainly with the inclination to betray them.  And so, to be sure, Toljan is a betrayer.

Thievery?  Toljan steals people’s small possessions; Stalin stole farmland through collectivization—and much else besides.  A message of politics and criminality is in full force here, as is a vision of the worthlessness of totalitarianism.

The Thief is made and written cleverly enough to be unforgettable.  It stars Vladimir Mashkov, Ekaterina Rednikova and Misha Philipchuk, all of whom are splendid.

(In Russian with English subtitles)

The Thief (1997 film)

The Thief (1997 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Indie 2002: “Raising Victor Vargas”

Dealing with Latino teenagers, Peter Sollett’s largely successful Raising Victor Vargas (2002) is a serious, casual, charitable picture with themes.  The themes are the hardship of raising highly imperfect children when you, the guardian, are too demanding and a bit of a crank; the lure of young love as fearful as it is inexorable; and the odd, fascinating vicissitudes of life.  For a 27-year-old director-writer, Sollett has done something indubitably impressive.  Non- and semi-professionals make up the fine cast, and canny control lies behind the multiple shots.  Sollett’s script is character-driven and unsentimental.

Cover of "Raising Victor Vargas"

Cover of Raising Victor Vargas

One More Time With “Jane the Virgin”, Report #7

The actors in this week’s Jane the Virgin (April 27) really get to emote.  And why wouldn’t they?  The episode, Chapter 20, is replete with figurative wrestling matches as well as a literal one (which, like everything else in the show, is not allowed to become boring).  Petra, egregiously lying, locks horns with Jane, and there is unfortunate stuff between Xiomara and Rogelio too.  Meanwhile, Magda (Priscilla Barnes) does not yet get her comeuppance since an illegal-immigrant wrinkle is tossed in to complicate matters.  (Inevitable, huh?)

Speaking of emoting, it is flatly gratifying what kind of range Gina Rodriguez (Jane) exhibits in this episode.  Jaime Camil, Andrea Navedo and a couple of others are able to handle the range requirement also.  As a police detective, Brett Dier is surprisingly believable, and Barnes is chillingly sober.

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