Sunday, June 3, 2012

Fear and Loathing in Bukhara

Vysotsky was many things to many people, so it is not surprising to see a wide range of opinions on Thank You for Living, a recent biopic by Petr Buslov that captures 4 tumultuous days of Vysotsky's life when he was touring Uzbekistan in 1979.   The story comes from the pen of Nikita Vysotsky, paying the supreme tribute to his late father.  Apparently Marina Vladi was not impressed, calling the film a terrible sin.  More like a sin of omission, since she figured very little into the movie.  What few flashbacks we get are to Vystosky's first wife and children, notably in an out-of-body experience when he suffered a heart attack.

I thought Buslov did a great job in capturing the era, especially the remoteness and desolate beauty of Bukhara, a desert city far from Tashkent.  Vystosky was apparently drug to Uzbekistan against his wishes to stage a concert that would receive close KGB scrutiny.  By this point, he was strung out on drugs and was suffering badly without his fix.  The drama essentially revolves around Tatiana coming out to Bukhara to give him his badly needed supply.

Buslov's biggest challenge was coming up with a strong likeness to Vysotsky, assuming the audience would expect nothing less than a carbon copy.  He succeeded thanks to a death mask which Nikita provided, from which they made a silicon mold to capture every nook and cranny of Vysotsky's memorable face.  At times the CGI seems to skip, so that the actor's face appears to break down, but Sergei Bezrukov also gives Vysotsky a resonant voice.

Oksina Anishina really shines as Tatiana.  Vysotsky and Vladi had split up by this point and he was living with young Tatiana in Moscow.  It is through her that we feel much of the emotional weight of the film, as Vysotsky appears to be battling with his own demons, fortifying himself to go on stage before an Uzbek audience for a second time, when Tatiana arrives with the badly needed drugs to get him through the evening.

All the performances are strong, but you are left scratching your head at times as to how Vysotsky could get himself into such a fix.  The story isn't played for laughs, although the "doctor" that comes along for the ride provides some comic relief.  How true the story is anyone's guess, as the KGB agent conveniently destroys all the tapes and transcripts in the end, which gave the film its verisimilitude.

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