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Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

8.0
41
0

Ignoring Putin’s Kiss, strongman Vladimir Putin has ratcheted up publicity for the fifty-billion-dollar most expensive ever Olympics at Sochi as well as tried to deflect attention from Russia’s internal problems. Notice of Duma-decreed amnesty for, among others, the country’s two most currently famous prisoners arrived just before Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin introduced their Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer in the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s “For Your Consideration” of documentary and non-English-language Oscar hopefuls.

Like also-in-the running The Square, this Sundance then HBO- and BBC-aired eighty-two minutes is thus in fact complete but incomplete, as the filmmakers debate whether or not to append newest and future developments. Surprisingly, during the documentary’s six months’ gestation, they indicated, no impediments were put in their way by Soviet authorities.

In fact, much of the film is material already available to the public, the bulk of it through foreign reportage more intense than that of relatively uninterested domestic media. Noticeable, too, is that both this film and public, e.g., television, footage contain sections on the days of the trial, the accused’s statements, sentencing and appeals, interspersed with a very few childhood photos and interviews with their parents and, in one case, one’s husband. But there are no direct interviews with any of the three defendants, not even Yekaterina Samutsevich although her conviction had been overturned on appeal and she had been set at liberty earlier. Surely the two others whose freedom was confirmed on December 23 will now have their say. Indeed, Maria Alyokhina is already quoted as having been forced out of prison in a false publicity stunt to showcase an expedient clemency on the part of the president-dictator.

From the documentary’s handling of the circus-y atmosphere surrounding the affair, it is difficult to be certain about some aspects. Selecting and edition can distort, though one might well independently infer that a) Russians were not all that interested in or impressed by the band and its short, consciousness-raising, guerrilla street performances and that b) the (perhaps overemphasized) sympathy for the young women was equaled or overwhelmed by a majority conservative, nationalistic and religious population. Madonna and Yoko Ono make gestures of support for these political “prisoners of conscience,” while the strange right-wing Hell’s Angels-like Carriers of the Cross are not presented in a favorable light, but these are drops in the bucket in the vast country whose polarized radicalization in both directions is alarming.

It comes as a surprise that the group, politely translated as “deranged vaginas,” is only some dozen women strong even if mainly yelling and not singing ability is the prerequisite in their focusing on feminist and gender issues. In bright tights and tops and cutout balaclava masks, in fours or fives they had shown up a number of times before, performed their anti-establishment music, and skedaddled without attracting much attention.

In the mystery-lottery of celebrity, attainment and then shelf life are unpredictable. For every Nobel Prize success or simple notoriety, there are many noble hearts that perish unsung or talents or dreamers or pretenders that pass unnoticed. Five Pussy Riot members’ only seconds-long scatological singing and dancing–or punk screaming and jumping–in Moscow’s polemically rebuilt Christ the Savior Cathedral was the straw that broke this camel’s back.

The women said they had apologized and were in any case protesting Putin’s rigged re-election and the Orthodox Church’s backing of him, while the faithful saw their performance as blasphemous. Three were arrested on vague charges of hooliganism and inciting religious hatred and, under debatable Criminal Code Article 213.2, sentenced to two years in separate penal institutions.

On impetus from international rights groups and entertainment notables, the cause celebre was blown up wildly beyond anything Russia might have expected. Its repercussions still sound.

PR:APP is necessarily too rushed and therefore cursory to achieve depth. At best, it is beginning background to events which in themselves do not merit this much ink but which, given time and place, prove symptomatic of greater issues.

(41)

PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER Review

8.0

Three young women face seven years in a Russian prison for a satirical performance in a Moscow cathedral. But who is really on trial in a case that has gripped the nation and the world beyond, three young artists or the society they live in?

Story10.0
Director7.0
Cinematography7.0
Acting7.0
Sound9.0
Reader Rating: ( 0 vote ) 0

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