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"You I Love"|
83 minutes | Unrated
LIMITED: Friday, April 1, 2005
Directed by Olga Stolpovskaja, Dmitry Troitsky
Starring Damir Badmaev, Lyubov Tolkalina, Evgeny Koryakovsky
Comedy-drama import about bisexual relationship triangle lacks romantic credibility
With its matter-of-fact, almost lighthearted depiction of open sexuality and homosexuality in modernized Moscow, "You I Love" may be culturally groundbreaking in Russian cinema, but out of that context, it's little more than a comedy-drama of shorthand emotions and unlikely relationships.
Fast and choppy (at 83 minutes), and sometimes deliberately cheesy (as a comical riff on the main character's job in TV advertising), the story expects one to believe that a homeless, Eurasian-hillbilly day laborer -- so unsophisticated that he's baffled by the magic machines that dispense cash outside of banks -- is such a master of gay seduction that in one evening he can come between a new-economy yuppie and his intelligent, drop-dead gorgeous, sexual-dynamo girlfriend.
But even if this life-changing encounter wasn't so hard to buy, the resulting relationship certainly is. These two men have not one thing in common outside the bedroom. Timofei (Evgeny Koryakovsky) works in an international office and owns his own condo (where he inexplicably goes to sleep at night with his front door wide open), while Uloomji (Damir Badmaev) sleeps in the zoo and spreads honey on toast with unwashed fingers.
The film begins with the hetero romance, which is contagiously charming even though it has credibility problems of its own: She's sexy and famous (a TV news reader) and he's a wishy-washy nerd in designer suits. Actress Lyubov Tolkalina, who looks like a more accessible and vulnerable Angelina Jolie, has the talent to keep the first act afloat by genuinely selling her insecure, almost obsessive adoration for her skinny, milksop lover.
But "You I Love" becomes more far-fetched with each twist of romantic fate. Soon Timofei is following his backwater boyfriend to the ends of the earth, hoping for one of those happy endings in which traditional rural parents come to accept unconventional love and more open-minded girlfriends go in for relationship threesomes.
Whether or not these dreams come to pass is a little hard to say since directors Olga Stolpovskaja and Dmitry Troitsky have a tendency to leap suddenly forward in time without resolving -- sometimes without even addressing -- the primary conflicts of the plot.
"You I Love" is thick with sexual chemistry and unexpected humor -- and visually it's distinctly creative, as when a passionate, tamely risqué and beautifully photographed sexual encounter gives way to a freeze-frame montage designed to mock exactly such scenes. But all that just makes the picture feel like an implausible, superficial knock-off of a Pedro Amolodovar flick.