Troika

by

The genesis of Troika, filmmaker Jennifer Montgomery’s second feature, was her reading of an interview with Russian nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky in Playboy magazine. Zhirinovsky is one of those post-Communist creatures who seems to have emerged from a textbook on Fascist pathology, a barely closeted homosexual who surrounds himself with robust young male admirers he refers to as his "falcons," but who maintains a public persona of hetero-orthodoxy in the form of a densely rationalized misogyny.

The Playboy interview was conducted by Canadian journalist Jennifer Gould and in the film Montgomery has a fictitious Jennifer (Jennifer Bass) stuck on a yacht with Zhirinovsky (Lev Shekhtman), her interpreter Masha (Marina Shterenberg) and a handful of Vlad’s lurking goons. At first Zhirinovsky just oozes that combination of smarmy evasiveness and theatrical indignation that one would expect from a demagogue on the make, but as the interview progresses his pontificating becomes more explicitly sexual; his "falcons" start to loom a little closer to the two women and the atmosphere thickens with menace.

Montgomery intersperses the interview on the boat with a parallel scenario involving Jennifer and her lesbian lover, Z (Valerie Maneti). This amounts to a series of flashbacks, since Jennifer is shown preparing for her upcoming interview with Zhirinovsky while Z – in a provocative mood and aware that their relationship is winding down – teases, cajoles and insults her lover, and generally acts like an annoying child. Some of the dialogue in these scenes is similar to that on the boat, but it’s a conceit that resonates lightly since Z’s restless petulance is a pale analog to Zhirinovsky’s aura of genuine threat. Also, the domestic scenes seem largely improvised, always a dicey process since the actors occasionally have to talk faster than they’re thinking in order to generate dialogue and so come up with a familiar kind of "movie talk" – a little strained, a little silly.

But if the film has a lot of rough edges, both intentional and otherwise, it also has an original approach to examining the old questions of power, sex and incidental love wrapped untidily into an open-ended meditation.

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