The Fool pulls no punches

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      Starring Artyom Bystrov. In Russian, with English subtitles. Rating unavailable.

      Putin’s Russia is a squalid wasteland of corruption and misery in Yuriy Bykov’s feel-good hit of the winter.

      The fool of the title is Dima (Artyom Bystrov), a lowly but ambitious plumber called out to inspect a burst water pipe in a nine-storey slum while the city supervisor is AWOL on a “three-day bender”. When he discovers that the building is about to collapse on its 800 drunk, stoned, poor, crazy, violent, and abused inhabitants—something we learn in a chillingly effective set piece—Dima sets out to save them.

      He’s strongly discouraged in his task by a wife and mother who’ve already spent the first part of the film berating Dima and his father for their pitiable honesty, but that’s nothing compared to the obstacles he faces from local government, a cabal of grotesques busy drinking themselves stupid at a birthday party for a fearsomely matriarchal mayor known as “Mama” (Natalya Surkova).

      Bystrov takes real glee in stripping bare a vertical system utterly paralyzed by mutual blackmail, bribery, and graft—not to mention cowardice—and The Fool unfolds with a powerful, if appalling, logic.

      As ever, there’s something uncomfortably thrilling about a film that’s so uninhibited in its critique of the criminal state, and something perhaps a little telling that western art is so dickless in comparison.

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