Alexander Sokurov

Russian director Alexander Sokurov's ALEXANDRA is one of the great auteur's finest films. A babushka goes to Chechnya to visit her grandson, a captain in the Russian army. (Some scenes, such as his brushing her long hair, are so erotically tender that the film could be called Grandma and Grandson.) The great soprano Galina Vishnevskaya is brilliant as the title character, an 80ish, high-maintenance complainer for whom soldiers rise to the occasion and act civilized. Ignoring all the rules, she wanders from the makeshift military base into the market of bombed-out Grozny and connects with a local Muslim widow over tea in her apartment. Later, the woman and her friends wave Alexandra off at the train station in one of the most touching movie scenes ever shot about war--in a film with no fighting.In between, young, handsome Chechen men stare at Alexandra. We project onto them a narrative function: Will they slip explosives into her bag? But they have no purpose other than just being there. Like Russian combatants, we become suspicious, therefore complicit. All this takes place against a palette of gray and washed-out color, better to capture the bleakness of the place (it was shot in Chechnya itself), of the soldiers?? daily grind, of the Chechens? present and future. Less Mother Russia than a reformed Mother Courage, Alexandra, appalled by man's capacity for destruction, is a fraternizing catalyst that provokes humane impulses in both occupiers and occupied. (


Alexander Sokurov
France, Russia
92 minutes