original title: Autlo
2019, 95 min., color, Russian-Latin
CATEGORIES : Erotic Drama, Debut
Gleb Kalyuzhnyy, Sergey Epishev, Viktor Tarasenko, Liza Kashintseva
Cinematographer : Gevorg Markosyan
Producers : Ksenia Ratushnaya, Veronika Chibis
FESTIVALS: Santa Barbara IFF 2020, PÖFF 2019
DIRECTOR’S NOTES: OUTLAW is about the impossibility of love. In Russia gay and trans themes are considered provocative and risky, and you most certainly won’t get a permission for theatrical release. Film is a drama with a sprinkle of dark humor. Some scenes may feel provocative – in a Balabanov or Lynchian way, but they demonstrate, as the story unveils, that real internal freedom can’t be obtained through violence and extreme sexual endeavors. OUTLAW is planned to be very art-oriented, with quite a few references to famous paintings and books, e.g. Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights”, Plato’s “Symposium”, Boccaccio’s “Decameron”. Therefore the camera movement will make us feel as if we are in a work of art that somehow strangely resembles reality.
Rebels Never End Up In Paradise
Sex and love; rejection and acceptance; passion and depravity – for anyone pushed to the fringes of society, these emotions can often become indistinguishable.
GAY KID is an 11th-grader in Moscow, struggling to align his burgeoning homosexuality with his desire for acceptance by the mainstream, both symbolised by the most popular kid in school, ALPHA. NINA is a middle-aged schoolteacher, with secrets in the past that continue to haunt him. On the face of it, OUTLAW is the only one who revels in her role as outsider; freed from societal restraints, she gives full rein to her basest carnal instincts.
The plot switches from present-day Moscow – centred on the interweaving storylines of Gay Kid, Alpha and Outlaw – and the Soviet Union in the 1980s, following Nina’s love affair with an army GENERAL.
Outlaw is bold, ambitious and naïve at the same time, even somewhat amateurish, but this does not spoil it. Of course, it is pure joy for fans of quotes, charades, and remote associations. It has a Wikipedia-based discussion of Plato’s Symposium (in today’s Russia, the philosopher would be meted out “18+” for his “propaganda of homosexualism”), Decameron, and hints at Faust. However, the cultural wealth of the authors is slightly less remarkable than their lack of inhibitions that seems unprecedented by our Russian standards. It is a free film, and its recklessness seems to render less solid the concrete labyrinth where the characters of the Outlaw are wandering. Just poke it with your finger, and it will fall apart, as Vladimir Ilyich Lenin once said. – Vasiliy Stepnov, Seance
The parallel with Assa became especially obvious when Outlaw took three awards (best cameraman, best musical design and the best Russian début) at the Khanty-Mansiysk Festival, presided by Solovyov; its cameraman award carries the name of Pavel Lebeshev, Assa’s cameraman. The parallel is absolutely justified: for modern high school students, Outlaw could become a film of the generation, just like Assa was for those who lived in the time of the perestroika. There is one difference, though: back then, in the times of the Vzglyad programme, the television was so unbridled that it quickly spread the word about Assa, while today’s TV will definitely not utter a single word about Outlaw. However, the audience of the film does not watch TV at all; the news of the Outlaw will be spread by bush telegraph of Instagram accounts…
Ratushnaya sure has genius; her genius has already manifested itself to its utmost in this unstoppable, all-conquering cheekiness. Think of it as of her Chien andalou: it was made in 1928, therefore, she still has as much as 45 years to devote to the delights of comprehending the film language. – Alexey Vasilev, Kinochannel
Not a crime in itself, but it not enough to have a pure intention to film boldly and sharply – sharply as the actor Kalyuzhny’s cheekbones. If we employ the well-known amateurish dichotomy that divides film directors into exhibitionists and voyeurists, Ratushnaya is definitely an exhibitionist. But at the same time, she is so shy when she shows her vision of a mephedrone turbo stay-over party where she would probably not be welcomed that she seems voyeuristic in relation to the fantasy she generated, as if the bashful director spied upon her own sexuality through a small peephole. Russia needs to be kicked in the face. But you have to swing harder. – Egor Belikov, Iskusstvo Kino
However, one does not have the heart to say that Outlaw is a slap in the face of the public, a flick on the nose of the boomers, a protest against the system, or an attempt to make a loud statement: the film is too vulnerable for this. It is made about one’s own folk and for one’s own folk, it tells about the search for love and understanding, about the wish to be accepted and not broken, about the desire to emancipate from the parental control, the army and the priests, representing the church and the authorities who wish to crush and subjugate all the living things. It is not known whether the film will be shown in cinemas (the distribution certificate has been obtained) but young people will somehow watch and accept it because almost nobody speaks to them in their own language. Ekaterina Vizgalova, Kino-teatr
“Sure it would be nice if a gay filmmaker would have made this Russian LGBT-film. But they didn’t. So I did.” – Ksenia Ratushnaya to Anna Lillioja, PÖFF23
The hell. Ksenia Ratushnaya’s film OUTLAW makes one think about the famous line by Sartre: Hell is Other People. These people are really ‘other’, not the ones we are accustomed to meet in our everyday life. Transgender people, gays, sadists, military people. This brave and shocking BDSM drama inspired by the classic images of Marquis de Sade and Pasolini, was rightfully unable to obtain the support of the Russian Ministry of Culture: its characters do not wear too much clothes, their manner of speech is not fanciful, and the main torturer, the privileged daughter of a great boss, mockingly rides a vintage Soviet Moskvitch. However, the film did obtain a distribution certificate, which undermines the faith in the omnipotence of censorship in the Russian Federation. It also reminds of an unspoken pact concluded by the authorities and the creative community during the untroubled 2000s: you may enjoy yourselves as you please as long as you keep your hands off the President and the Church… I thought those glorious times were long gone. – Artemy Troitsky, Echo of Moscow
A drama like this, innocent even by the standards of 2010s Russia, today becomes a clear political statement, though one devoid of an addressee, since the Russian state itself forgot long ago why it began to target so-called “gay propaganda,” or what threat it believed it posed. – Oleg Kashin, Republic
The film’s LGBT subject matter is set to attract controversy in Russia where the distribution of a film that depicts a homosexual relationship can attract heavy fines.
Victor Tarasenko, Lisa Kashintseva, and Gleb Kalyuzhny star in the film that takes place in modern day Moscow and the Soviet Union of the 1980s. It tells the story of a high-school student who is coming to terms with his awakening homosexuality and a mysterious girl he befriends. Both are trying to attract the attention of the most popular boy in the school. – By Martin Blaney, Screendaily
“The main theme in Outlaw is inner and outer freedom, which has always been important for me. The second theme is the impossibility of reciprocal love lasting for longer than a single happy moment. The fact that my protagonists are gay, transgender, a psychopath-philosopher, derives from my desire to find the most personally interesting way of expressing that idea. Of course, I truly sympathise and empathise with the problems of LGBTQ people, inasmuch as in Russia they are subjected to this day to injustice, patriarchy, wild and blind discrimination”. – director Kseniya Ratushnaya to Samuel Goff, The Calvert Journal