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OF FREAKS AND MEN

Russia, 1998 (MIFF 1999, International Panorama)

Director: Aleksey Balabanov

Turn of the century St Petersburg: two respectable families come under the scrutiny of Johann, a malicious pornographer, and his sinister, grinning accomplice. Johann's discreetly perverse spanking photographs are much prized in both households and the schemer uses this leverage to plot the downfall of both families.

With its sepia imagery and pokerfaced irony, this dazzlingly perverse black comedy resembles a nasty dream dredged up from the unconscious of early cinema. It occupies territory bordering on Peter Greenaway and David Lynch but is absolutely distinctive in its own cooly morbid way.

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