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Tribeca 2007: Two in One

Two in One

is the latest film from Russian filmmaker Kira Muratova, making its North American premiere at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. As the title suggests (and as the film’s original title, Two Stories: One Simple, and the Other More Complex, elaborated on), this is two films in one – two separate narratives tied together by a transitory plot device. The concept of multiple narratives forming one film has been used by Muratova in previous films such as Three Stories and The Asthenic Syndrome. 

The first story in the film is titled “Stagehands” and is set within a theater in the hours before a play is supposed to take stage. The stagehands arrive only to find that one of the cast has hung himself from the scenery. The police are called to the scene, but take their time in arriving, and in the meantime, the film’s audience is left with an hour’s worth of dialogue among the various eccentric and miscreant behind-the-scenes people as they prepare for the play, working around the body. Suspicion of foul play, concerns about the integrity of the crime scene, and tensions among the characters are key topics of discussion.


The second story is the play itself, which takes the stage after the police arrive and the audience is let into the theater. It is titled, “Woman of a Lifetime,” and is about an aging wealthy womanizer who thinks he has spotted the woman of his life in a young blonde walking her dog outside in the snow on New Years Eve. He forces his daughter – by threatening to write her out of his will, and to force her to have sex with him – to go outside and convince the girl to come in, so that he may coerce the young blonde girl into sleeping with him.


“Stagehands” begins on a promising note, with a weird-looking if not somewhat menacing character arriving to the empty theater, taking the stage, and reciting Shakespeare, inserting his own small, evil laugh (really more of a tic) between lines. The body, hanging from part of the onstage scenery, is placed behind the actor/stagehand to be revealed as he steps aside. Upon noticing the body, he takes it down and attempts to steal a ring from its finger before another stagehand arrives. Unfortunately, this segment goes downhill as more of the characters arrive. Muratova utilizes inventive camera work and angles and moves through the inner workings of the theater in a creative and visually interesting way, celebrating the stages changing and malleable architecture. And the entire segment leads up to a memorable murder scene on par with the likes of Hitchcock and Argento. But the most interesting scenes of the piece are the beginning and the end.


“Woman of a Lifetime” has tons of stylistic flair and is a brilliantly well-made piece of cinema in terms of lighting, camera, art direction, and every other technical element of filmmaking. The problem with it is the plot, characters, and story. It is obvious Muratova was taking a deliberately absurd approach to the subject matter, which with its overtones of psychotic narcissism and incest, could have been black as night, but here, is just kind of silly. It is funny in that way that abysmally bad movies can be funny, but it never gets quite bad enough, ridiculous enough, or absurd enough to be really entertaining. And it goes on way too long. Artistically done and sometimes amusing, if no engaging or entertaining all the way through.

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