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Kantemir Balagov Beanpole Blu-ray

Disc Reviews

Life After Wartime: Balagov Crafts Exemplary Portrait of Post-WWII Role of Women with “Beanpole” (2019) | Blu-ray Review

Life After Wartime: Balagov Crafts Exemplary Portrait of Post-WWII Role of Women with “Beanpole” (2019) | Blu-ray Review

Winning the Best Director Prize out of Un Certain Regard at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival (where it also took home the FIPRESCI Prize), Kantemir Balagov’s post-war sophomore odyssey Beanpole solidifies him as one of contemporary Russia’s most notable new directors.

A successful festival run saw Balagov edge close to snagging an Oscar nod with the international film shortlist and Kino Lorber released the film domestically in January of 2020, where the title took in nearly two-hundred thousand dollars across thirty-five venues (his lauded 2017 debut Closeness never received a theatrical release stateside).

From our review at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival:

Beautifully textured cinematography from Kseniya Sereda captures a tremendously vibrant color palette of these period interiors, flanked by the less colorful but grainy exteriors of a bedraggled but bustling Leningrad (where a near-Anna Karenina moment occurs). Balagov concocts a third tremendous debut from Ksenia Kutepova, a remnant of a downgraded oligarchy whose son desires to marry Masha—Kutepova walks away with one of the film’s best moments as she highlights the underbelly of the façade afforded privileged woman (also of note, Olga Dragunova of Closeness appears in a minor role as a surly seamstress).

Balagov pointedly avoids any direct mention of Stalin or Lenin, whose visual representations are also absent from Beanpole. However, his film channels the energies of some of Russia’s greatest filmmakers, with a mise en scene recalling Aleksey German’s classic My Friend, Ivan Lapshin (1985), which depicts the effects of Stalin’s 1930s purge on a small town in Russia. However, Beanpole plays like a sister film to Larisa Shepitko’s underrated and unforgettable 1966 film Wings, wherein a female ex-fighter pilot cum school teacher cannot find meaning in her life during peace time. Tragic, hopeful and subversive (the film paints a complex portrait of friendship and sexuality which would have been impossible to make in Russia), Beanpole confirms Balagov’s stature as a major contemporary filmmaker.

Disc Review:

Kino Lorber (also releasing Balagov’s 2017 debut Closeness for the first time on Blu-ray concurrently) presents Beanpole in 1.85:1 with 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo. The film’s visual splendors are evident in the transfer, while the sole extra feature is an interview with Kantemir Balagov.

Film Review: ★★★★/☆☆☆☆☆
Disc Review: ★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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