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Koo! Kin-Dza-Dza

Canadian Premiere
  • Russia
  • 2013
  • 90 mins
  • DCP
  • Russian
  • English (subtitles)
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WINNER: Best Animated Feature Film, 2013 Asia Pacific Screen Awards

Celebrated symphony cellist Vladimir Chizhov and his long-lost nephew Tolik have only just met on a wintry Moscow street when the simplest mishap — a wrong button pushed on a device clutched by an intrusive street weirdo —instantaneously dumps the two of them on a barren desert world. They’ve arrived on Pluke, and if getting there happened in the blink of an eye, getting back to good old Earth is going to be a much longer, much more convoluted, much more exasperating undertaking. The first entities they encounter are Bi and Wef, a pair of wandering humanoid rascals with a robot sidekick who’s rusty if not trusty. Bi and Wef give them a crash course on how things work on Pluke, with its ridiculous, rough-and-tumble economy and preposterous hierarchy. All manner of misadventures befall the misplaced Muscovites on their erratic path to salvation.

Everyone squat and utter an admiring “koo!” — veteran Russian filmmaker Georgiy Daneliya has dusted off his own late-Soviet-era cult classic and rebooted it as a super-cool cartoon with contemporary upgrades. The live-action KIN-DZA-DZA!, released in 1986 as the Soviet Union was grinding to a halt, was anti-capitalist propaganda on the surface, a biting satire of the socialist state underneath that, and a universally appealing black comedy in its exasperation at corrupt, dysfunctional social structures and strictures. With its rustbucket steampunk gizmos and Kafkaesque conundrums in a dull-witted yet dangerous dystopia, KIN-DZA-DZA! shared a sensibility with Terry Gilliam’s BRAZIL, released a year earlier.

The spirit of the original arrives entirely intact in Daneliya’s Award-winning animated remake. He and co-director Tatiana Ilyina, an experienced animator, have fashioned a finely tuned piece of work, with superior design work (hats off to senior concept artist Alex Andreev) and precision timing for its characteristically sardonic Russian humour. KOO! KIN-DZA-DZA is a vividly imaginative, caustically critical sci-fi odyssey into the absurd — and out the other side. Catch it while it makes its pit stop at planet Fantasia!

— Rupert Bottenberg

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