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The movie puts us in the underground rock scene of late Soviet Union. It sets itself in a climate where change is asked but also felt, the times of the Perestroika. But yet control over culture is really strong. The way youth wants to express itself, by the music they listen to and make (music inspired in many occidental rock groups) is only limited to abandoned warehouses where access is restricted, under control of the regime's police. This creative climate is always contained, but never feels oppressive for the viewer nor for the characters that actually act with great liberty. And this is particularly thanks to Serebrennikov's directing. He uses all cinema's artifices, pushes the limits of staging to create his own universe. The black and white creates an atmosphere of such simplicity, yet full of possibilities. The adopted view expresses how all the characters and all the legends that forged this period were great dreamers at core. They had dreams, they dream all along, they tried to transmit their dreams in the frame that was imposed to them. They created a new vision, a new world. The power of youth for change is one of the great motors of this movie. But the real beauty is that the movie never falls in a pamphletarian tone, it always stays with this optimist vision that awakens the dreamer in each one of us, and encourages everyone to pursue their dreams. Although it's dealing with past, Serebrennikov's tale is still really relevant in our time, where we all absolutely need to dream and need to fulfill our dreams to escape this anxiogenous climate that reigns in our society. The movie warms your heart, gives you power and energy for change -whatever type of change it is- and that's where resides all the greatness of the movie; it is a source of light that will reheat your heart, and give you hope.
That's why I am still scandalized that it didn't win a single prize in Cannes when it is one of the movies that was really worth winning a distinction. It would of been the occasion of giving a great impulse to this creative, crazy and ambitious cinema, that throws traditional codes away and finally dares to brake rules ! It would of been the occasion to recognize the talent and vision of Serebrennikov that is, we all know, put at risk by elements that he cannot control.
So go, run to watch this hymn to youth, revolution, change, beauty and dream !
Leto, by the sense of its some features, shares magnificent aspects of Roma of Alfonso Cuaron; regarding not only monochrome shooting but also plain storytelling with awesome camera views, avoiding flagrancy to set political, historical and social background and picturing human relations encounting their psychological context.
Leto is really a cinema pleasure!
I was skeptic to begin with. This, I can tell you right off the bat, was a huge mistake. When the actual film started, I immediately forgot about anything outside the screen. It was like a time travel deluxe package. I speak as someone who is a half European, half Russian Gen Z. I never experienced the Soviet era on first hand, but the night I went to watch this film, I forgot the current year. They're writing 2019 now, you say...? Ha ha, but really. Intense and during certain points in the film, I even got chills.
If you've ever heard about "breaking the 4th wall" as a filmography term, well, get excited because this is exactly what happens a lot. The end result is that you feel like you physically *are* present, and thus incredibly difficult for you to not feel connected in some manner.
The special effects are incredible, and the relationship between black and white/colour splashes in the film is something I've hardly ever seen before. This is fantastic.
One of the points about the film which made me skeptic to begin with was the "love triangle" ordeal in the bio. "Love triangle"? I thought. "Oh my, this has been done to death already!" I was fearing Twilight-esque cliché onto cliché, but nothing like it was to be found at all. It felt humane and raw... original. Not cliché.
If you have Russian roots somehow or have studied Russian, it's hard not to enjoy this film. If you've been in the Soviet regime yourself, you might get very touched/cry because as I mentioned, strong time travel feeling in here. If you're a Russian-rooted millennial or Gen Z, there is a huge potential for you to learn a lot and feel connected to the past of Russia.
I certainly felt connected and impressed. Should you folks happen to have any second thoughts or reservations about watching this, I tell you to just let go of them because the experience is incredible. Worth my every penny :)
The time is circa 1980, the place is Leningrad. The setting is crucial for this is several years before Perestroika. Stuffy old Brezhnev is still in power. Rock concerts were still strictly controlled, and had be as orderly as attending the Bolshoi. Music was from the West was still largely treated as contraband, with LPs and tapes sold on the streets and in the dark corridors of the subway. Mike, Natasha and their friends argue over Punk and New Wave and how to incorporate those sounds under the repressive regime (or more accurately, sneak them in). One of the younger upstart singers is Victor Tsoy (Teo Yoo) who Mike takes under his wing, while at the same time catching the eye of Natasha.
As with most memoirs, the events depicted are filtered through the perspective of both time and that of the adapters (Director Serebrennikov co-wrote with three others). Rendered in wide-screen Black & White, LETO takes on the look and feel of rock 'n roll myth-making. A train full of the young musicians is assaulted by police as they defiantly break out into a rousing version of The Talking Heads' 'Psycho Killer'. A documentary filmmaker follows the band around with his 16mm film camera (those segments are in color). Graphics and graffiti are drawn right on the 'film'. Every once in a while, a minor character will break the fourth wall and talk directly to the camera informing us that such and such an event "never happened".
At over two hours, LETO does get repetitive at times. U.S. audiences won't be as enthralled at some of the minor bits and asides that almost certainly have more cultural resonance domestically*. Still, the movie's energy and vigor ring through. The cast, music, editing and photography are aces. The language may be different, but the spirit of the music needs no translation.
* I arrived in the Soviet Union a week or so after Mike's passing (including a lovely week in Leningrad). I, obviously, had never heard of him, but, I do recall the locals still buzzing about his tragic early passing. A couple of months later, Freddie Mercury died, and the Americans and the Russians on the work project commiserated together.