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This ambitious documentary takes a long, hard look at the realities and fantasies at the heart of modern Russian identity....
Kino / 85 Minutes / 2012 / Unrated / Street Date: December 31, 2012
Disillusion is the central tenet of Putin's Kiss, a documentary about a desire for a return to national greatness colliding messily with the realities of the modern world. The image this documentary riffs off of involves young Masha Drakova, who got a smooch from Russian president Vladimir Putin after receiving a high honor, and the movie chronicles how this young girl came to terms with her identity as a Russian.
It's tricky territory because when Drakova is a high-profile member of the youth group party Nashi, she appears to be fully devoted to both her national identity and her idolatry of Putin as a figurehead. This may be unfair to say as a westerner looking through the drawn shades of Russian historical secrecy, but as a cute young thing, she seems more like a brainwashed cult member than anything else. Watching her grow up and dissolve these once-saturated sensibilities is dramatically effective, but her sobriety from Putin-drunkenness takes an uncomfortably long time to manifest itself.
And the question remains: what are we to make of Putin? Putin's Kiss doesn't offer extensive background into the leader's biography, but it definitely makes an agonizing argument about Russia being in a present state of flux. Director Lise Birk Pederson doesn't want to return to old Russia, but new Russia isn't exactly a prize, either - and if both past and future are clouded with problems, where should the country turn? If the documentary filmmaking in Putin's Kiss is accurate, the next twenty years of Russian history will be fascinating to behold.