Judge Michael Nazarewycz needs a Silkwood-grade shower.
Love isn't free.
Creating something from nothing, whether it's a movie or a book or an album or any other product of an artistic endeavor, and then putting that thing out there for all to consume and digest and judge, takes many things. It takes vision to conceive it, faith to believe in it, work to create it, determination to finish it, luck to produce it (for mass consumption), and most of all courage to put it before the world for any and all to criticize.
This is why, for as long as I've been doing this, I've always tried to find something positive in every film I review. That's not to say I go easy on films and their makers; I don't. It's just that I understand everything a filmmaker goes through to get their film to the point where I get to have my say about it, so when I find something good, I like to recognize it.
Unfortunately for the filmmakers of Aleksandr's Price, and more unfortunately for anyone who watches this film, there is not one single redeeming quality to be found here, so nothing positive can be said.
Facts of the Case
Aleksandr (Pau Maso, Haunted Poland) is a young Russian man who immigrated to the United States with his parents when he was a small child. His father left not long after they settled in New York, and for decades, Aleksandr's mother searched for her husband without success. After losing her job and turning to alcohol, and unable to bear the burden of marital loneliness (the blame for which she lays at the feet of her son), Aleksandr's mother commits suicide. His sister, in response, leaves home. Aleksandr, suddenly alone and without means of self-support (or marketable skills), turns to dancing in a gay bar for income. This quickly leads to a life of male prostitution. Aleksandr must navigate the dark recesses of this lifestyle while at the same time look for himself and his soul.
Aleksandr's Price is a disaster.
Normally, a film this plagued would have multiple people to blame, but here it all rests with the one man who wears (too) many hats: actor/writer/director/editor Maso.
The story is presented in flashback, as told by Aleksandr to his therapist (Anatoli Grek, Circle of Fury), and in the first minutes of the film, it is clear that Actor Maso is suffering from one of two problems: either he cannot act (note: squinting does not equal emoting), or he is so focused on nailing his fake Russian accent that he forgets to act and instead only recites his lines. I suspect it's some mix of both—that his acting ability is simultaneously limited and hindered. I'm a first generation U.S. citizen, and I was raised around family and friends who had thick Eastern European accents. Maso might sound like he has a Russian accent, but his speech cadence and inflection are all wrong; he essentially reads English lines using a Russian accent. (During his interview that is part of the extras, I wasn't surprised when he mentioned that he "learned" the Russian accent by watching videos on YouTube.)
The rest of actors are no better. Casting director Maso (not a credited title, but he makes it clear in the interviews he was part of the audition process) has chosen a collection of actors limited in range, devoid of nuance, and incapable of delivering believable lines while doing something else at the same time.
From a technical perspective, director Maso and editor Maso have conspired to combine shaky close-ups with randomly sporadic cuts and present them in such a way that the entire film seems to suffer from Restless Camera Syndrome. During montages, director Maso adds funky lighting a blurring effects to the mix. With all of those close-ups—shaky-and-diced or not—there is no shortage of director Maso fawning all over actor Maso. Narcissus has a mirror for the twenty-first Century.
Of course, direction is more than about shot selection and camera placement; it's also about storytelling and flow. Still, it's impossible for director Maso to establish any flow with the script that screenwriter Maso has offered. The dialogue is stale and the characters are grossly underdeveloped, but the greatest flaw in the screenplay is the fatal flaw of the entire film.
What is supposed to be a story about loss, and about the struggle for self-discovery, and about the downward spiral of someone forced to become a gay escort, is instead nothing more than a collection of dreadfully conceived and executed sex scenes. I'm no prude, but I struggle with the necessity of thirteen sexual encounters, one imagined fantasy, plus random masturbation that is described as a visceral reaction to stressful situations—all of which do nothing to advance plot or character development. It's as if the scenes were conceived first, and the story was poorly tangled within them.
Each scene is more masochistic than the last. This isn't just a character making bad choices; this is simply a random series of sexual encounters with varying degrees of predatory, including multiple scenarios where Aleksandr is drugged and raped. While I won't divulge its ending, the twist is straight-lifted from a very popular foreign film.
The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track and standard def 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer do nothing to dazzle, although the picture is sharper than I expected. As for the first of the two extras, the interview with Maso reveals, among other things, that his original cut was three hours long. I can't process that. In the middle of the interview are two random deleted scenes which offer more of the same, and the second extra, a 2-minute photo gallery, is nothing more than a handful of production stills mixed in with a larger handful of what appear to be Maso's Glamour Shots.
Aleksandr's Price is an exercise in endlessly repetitious masochism that is in such a hurry to get from one sex scene to the next that it fails to construct a coherent plot or present believable and sympathetic characters. If spending 108 minutes watching a character be repeatedly victimized is your thing, you really ought to find another thing.
Does infinite guilt exist? Is there a "Guiltfinity" or something like that? No? Well, there is now.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Breaking Glass
• Deleted Scenes
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