The Austin Film Society’s series on post-Communist Russian cinema continues with The Rider Named Death, another film about political agitation from Karen Shakhnazarov (whose own father was a reformer and key adviser to Mikhail Gorbachev).
In 1906 Russia, anarchists affiliated with the Socialist Revolutionary Party conspire to assassinate key members of the government. Hiding in plain sight, they hatch their plan at a cabaret that is can-can-kicking with fin de siècle debauchery – an amusing sidebar in a largely grim-faced movie. Adapted from the autobiographical novel The Pale Horse by real-life revolutionary Boris Savinkov, the film plucks its coda from Savinkov’s own untimely end, which we won’t spoil here.
Other highlights in the eight-film series include Hipsters, a sprightly, hepcats-vs.-squares musical in the mold of Hairspray and Swing Kids that mines real danger from the Fifties culture wars, and Russian Ark, Alexander Sokurov’s avant-garde gamble that rambles through St. Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum in a single, 96-minute-long Steadicam shot. – Kimberley JonesAll screenings are Thursdays at 7:30pm at AFS at the Marchesa (6226 Middle Fiskville). Jan 9: The Rider Named Death (Karen Shakhnazarov, 2004)