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Cinematic Releases: Siberia (2020) - Reviewed

Posted By themoviesleuth 824 days ago on Entertainment - Courtesy of Vivo FilmsBronx based gritty urban provocateur turned independent artiste Abel Ferrara, like Werner Herzog before him, has carved out his own niche and operated outside of the studio system on his own terms for years, churning out everything from sleazy exploitation trash ala Driller Killer to his eloquent Pasolini biopic.  His latest venture and sixth collaboration with actor Willem Dafoe, Siberia, is a weird foray into madness through self-examination in the frozen mountains of Siberia involving a snowbound bartender named Clint (Willem Dafoe) serving Inuit patrons speaking a language outside his understanding.   Previously premiering at the 70thBerlin International Film Festival right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, delaying the US theatrical release for another year until mid-2021, Siberia is sold as a dogsledding adventure film ala Disney’s Togo also starring Dafoe.  What it really is however is a bizarre, formless and seemingly plotless one-man show involving Dafoe on a soul-searching journey with his Siberian huskies into a nearby cave to confront his demons both real and imagined.  While some other cast members come into play including a cameo by Simon McBurney as a magician, mostly the film rests solely on Dafoe who is game for every strange detour this film throws at him and the audience.Courtesy of Vivo Films Co-written by Welcome to New York and New Rose Hotel screenwriter Christ Zois, Siberia might be the oddest work of a wholly original artist who lulls the viewer into thinking this will be a straightforward character study only to throw that notion completely out the window.  Sound wise, the film is largely quiet save for some unexpected (and still confounding) jump scares and features the music of lifelong collaborator Joe Delia.  While the score isn’t aiming for the unforgettable rhythms generated by the soundtrack to Ferrara’s Ms. 45, it suits the ethereal, creepy mood of the piece rather well.  The film also boasts some of Ferrara’s most painterly widescreen panoramic vistas of the Siberian mountains thanks to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou cinematographer Stefano Falivene. As a narrative, Siberia is a tough sell even for hardcore Ferrara fans.  Those expecting a down and dirty character study of a troubled man will sort of get that here but with all manner of hallucinations and provocative imagery, some of which is hard to unsee.  While the work is difficult to make heads or tails of, you have to admire the journey Ferrara and Dafoe have taken together which have offered some of modern independent world cinema’s most unique offerings of the last few years.  Courtesy of Vivo FilmsSome may read Siberia as an artistic misfire when compared to Welcome to New York which I still say is the best Ferrara work of the decade.  That said, it was nonetheless an interesting psychodrama made by an original New York based artist operating on his own who could care less about whether his films have an audience or not.  Just don’t get mad if you come away from this one unsure of what to say about it.--Andrew Kotwicki (function() { var zergnet = document.createElement('script'); zergnet.type = 'text/javascript'; zergnet.async = true; zergnet.src = (document.location.protocol == "https:" ? "https:" : "http:") + '//'; var znscr = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; znscr.parentNode.insertBefore(zergnet, znscr); })();

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