The Death of Stalin (2017)

Laughing Gravy
Balcony Gang, Foist Class
Laughing Gravy
Balcony Gang, Foist Class
Joined: September 1st, 2005, 4:44 am

April 1st, 2018, 4:27 pm #1



The Death of Stalin (2017) Dir. Armando Iannucci
eOne Films
107 min. / color / 1.85:1

When old, frail, crass and bawdy Stalin pisses himself and collapses from a cerebral hemorrhage, he's not even dead yet and the Soviet vultures circle his bed, scheming to replace him, or thrust into greater positions of power than they have any idea how to cope with - how do you fill the shoes of a man who had complete power over everybody?

Our players included Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), head of the Moscow Party, anxious to introduce new reforms; the degenerate Beria (Simon Russell), head of the Secret Police and master manipulator and strong-arm man; the weak Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), Stalin's successor but Beria's puppet; Molotov (Michael Palin), marked for removal by Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) but the only one fiercely loyal to him; and then there's Marshal Zhukov (Jason Isaacs), the great War Hero who doesn't like secret police; Stalin's children, the high-strung Svetlana (Andrea Riseborough) and her drunken, probably-insane brother Vasily (Rupert Friend).

The whole thing is done as a broad farce (only with a lot of people being shot in the head; odd, I wouldn't call this a black comedy at all, though) and is based, apparently, on a French comic book.

I'm sure there's a way to do all this as a comedy, but the film didn't hit the mark for me: it's hard to laugh at the antics of a bunch of stooges and inept politicians who just happen to have innocent people shot in the room behind them.

Million-dollar Dialog:
On why they hadn't summoned medical assistance as Stalin lay dying: "All the best doctors are in the gulag or dead."

I liked Buscemi and Jason Isaacs a lot, and it's fun to watch Palin try to remember whether he's supposed to be criticizing his wife or not (she's imprisoned, then she's not) and just in case you're wondering, nobody speaks with a Russian accent. But the film itself probably would've worked better as a drama than attempting it as a broad farce. Some things just ain't funny no more.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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Ignatz Ratzkywatzky
Balcony Gang, Foist Class
Ignatz Ratzkywatzky
Balcony Gang, Foist Class
Joined: September 6th, 2005, 3:06 am

April 1st, 2018, 6:20 pm #2

I was much more of a fan. I thought it was the smartest, sharpest comedy in several years.

Armando Iannucci said that he felt that democracy had taken a bit of a hit around the globe, so he thought it was time for a satire of a fictional dictatorship. Then, he discovered that the true events surrounding Stalin’s death and the grasping for power that followed contained all the farcical elements he was planning to create.

Iannucci is very careful to take the crimes (wrongful imprisonment, torture, murder, and rape) seriously, while lampooning those responsible. It is the directorial equivalent of walking a tightrope while simultaneously threading a needle. It worked perfectly for me, and I felt that Simon Russell Beale as Beria was the real standout.

Here’s my review: https://bottomshelfmovies.com/the-death-of-stalin-2017/
IT CAME FROM THE BOTTOM SHELF! is a movie recommendation site, focusing on forgotten classics, lesser-known gems, and oddball discoveries. https://www.bottomshelfmovies.com
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Fantomas
Balcony Gang, Foist Class
Fantomas
Balcony Gang, Foist Class
Joined: April 21st, 2007, 2:20 am

April 10th, 2018, 3:24 am #3

I just saw this one today, and I thought it was a brilliant satire. This is what it's like to live in a country where you always have to be ready for that middle-of-the-night knock on your door in a country run by the whims of a single sociopathic leader. It's both terrifying and strangely comic.

Although the credits say it's based on a French comic book, most of the material ultimately comes from Khrushchev's memoirs, Khrushchev Remembers--which contains a key line: "If there was one thing worse than having to eat dinner with Stalin, it was having to go on vacation with him."
"For life is short, but death is long."
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