If there’s any indicator, to which film reigns king as 2019’s summer indie sleeper hit, than let me guide you to Kirill Serebrennikov’s Leto, a chill musical ride, that will numb your receptors and any sense of reality, to a time of rebellious Rock & Roll. What could have easily turned-into an over-saturated predictable three-act biopic, in a similar vein to more recent music-themed flicks such as Bohemian Rhapsody, Leto takes a completely different route. More so delving into the mythos and personal ideologies among the unique backdrop of characters; Leto, for a better sense of its general spirit, basically has no plot. It’s a reflection piece, one mounted by the trials and tribulations of living in the Soviet Union, during the early 80’s. Still not convinced by the film’s subject matter, and unique artistic premise? Here are three reasons why you consider seeing Leto (2019), before it leaves a local indie cinema near you!
1) The Musical Sequences
Told through the lens of a black-and white love letter, Serebrennikov vision is one of pure vinyl-soaked nostalgia. Based on the memoirs of Natalia Naumenko, lover and loyal inspirer of famed front-man of the band the Zoopark, Mike Naumenko; Kirill takes these objectively simple and mundane everyday situations, and amplifies the intensity of these scenes, by adding a beautiful musical touch. Utilizing a unique style of animation known as rotoscoping, the interweaving of hand drawn imagery and sporadic live action footage, is a pleasing sight to see. Mixing beautifully shot celluloid footage, among the multiple creative interpretations of classic American rock songs, from the likes of Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, the enlightening covers of these classics, feel urgently necessary to be alongside the scenarios at play. The “Psycho Killer” scene is one that will forever be engraved in my memory, just alone for it’s creative usage of mixed media and narrative magical realism.
2) The Articulate Performances
One of the biggest offenders which most screenwriters fail to accomplish, is to create a slacker odyssey, that contains characters that the audience can empathize and relate to. While the dialogue exchanges and beats do feel a tad bit overused, what eventually overcomes this frequently trampled obstacle, is the actors who portray these living understated legends. In particular, Irina Starshenbaum’s performance ; who brought a certain sense of down-to-earth facial movements and posture, to the primary perspective and voice of the film. The end result of the combined efforts of these young and upcoming individuals, is one of pure lackadaisical talent and determination.
3) The Spirit of Artistic Ingenuity
While labeled from numerous historians, as an inaccurate depiction of the era, Leto never sets out to deliver a realistic and politically grounded feature in the first place. Keep in mind that Kirill Serebrennikov’s vision is one of pure nostalgia and tribute; a film that shares the carefree ideologies of the era, and the soft-spoken existentialism of originality during the peak of International rock. When digging through the layers of thematic material, Leto isn’t a film about rebellious youth. It’s a story of perseverance and the search for identity; to stand out of the crowd, to not be left behind in the art-world. It’s a somber and honest film, that never let’s down the background dread of the American sound.
Leto is a very special film. Although the prevalent usage of Rock can be a turn-off for some potential viewers, it’s ultimately a film that sheds a creative light on the ingenuity of musical practice. Through it’s gorgeous cinematography and mixed-media art, the end product of Serebrennikov’s lengthy film-making process, paid off for the better. While not historically informative, the film still suffices as a learning tool for all aspiring artists; one that can potentially inspire more films such as Leto.
Leto is Now Playing in Select Cinemas