Dovlatov
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Dovlatov

The struggles of dissident writers in the Soviet Union will likely always remain a key theme of Russian cinema, ripe for ruminating on unappreciated artists in society and the fight for recognition notwithstanding power concentrated in the hands of apparatchiks. Maverick director Alexey German Jr. brings his signature dreamlike vision to the subject with “Dovlatov,” a classically German take on six days in the life of writer Sergei Dovlatov, when the as-yet unrecognized author was trying to get published. Working for the first time with “Ida” cinematographer Lukasz Zal, the director once again delivers enthralling choreographed tracking shots that add a Fellini-esque overlay to straightforward depictions of reality, making the film a visual treat.

However, it clearly caters to an audience who’ll thrill at recognizing a host of references to 20th-century literary giants from Yevtushenko and Mandelstam to Steinbeck and Nabokov. “Dovlatov” might not expect you to know all about Dovlatov the man or his writings, and it’s easy to simply be mesmerized by German’s exceptional talent for stage blocking and camera movements, yet while there’s much here to appreciate, the film lacks the power of “Under Electric Clouds” despite being his most emotionally approachable work to date. To boot, Dovlatov’s popularity within Russia has yet to be replicated outside, where he’s largely mentioned simply as an important writer friend of Joseph Brodsky, notwithstanding frequent appearances in The New Yorker magazine. That perception won’t help international sales beyond expected, and limited, Euro art houses.

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Dovlatov