If you were one of the $180m worth of folks who took the robotic plunge this last weekend, you were able (forced?) to witness the latest manic antics of one John Malkovich. To me he seemed oddly in his element, getting to start off strictly menacing before becoming illogically insane before abruptly exiting the picture forever. While that may have been a fun paycheck gig, the latest project to have the good ole Malk sign-up sounds profoundly more interesting.
Based on a novel of the same name, Siberian Education is the story of a culture of eastern europeans once exiled by Stalin to the dinky little republic of Transnistria (which sounded made up to me, as I’d never heard of it before) and who formed their own mafia-like culture of crime. Within that culture is a dividing line of relative ethics and relative morality, and in the book Nicolai Lilin’s autobiographical story of his childhood and education provides a look into the “honest criminal” side of that line. Malkovich has joined as an old timer in the criminal community, Grandfather Kuzja, who takes the young protagonist through the ropes in the late 80s, early 90s.
The film is driven by an Italian director, Gabriele Salvatores, with Italian money financing an eastern European shoot. It’s hard to know what the real pedigree of the production is, as Malkovich is not necessarily a barometer of quality himself, and the director is not one I’m familiar with. There’s certainly an interesting story here to mine, so fingers crossed this turns out as interesting as it is intriguing.
Of course, the other layer here is that any mention of Russian Malkovich is going to bring Teddy KGB to mind, which in turn reminds me of the old Rounders story that after the first day of filming with him, the crew clapped and whistled for Malkovich. The actor had been using a recording of his dialogue spoken in-dialect to guide him through is affectation-filled performance all day, and despite the crew cheering, Malkovich supposedly leaned over to Matt Damon and flatly whispered, “I’m a terrible actor.”
Siberian Education will film throughout the rest of the year, but it’s hard to guess the odds on seeing it released theatrically in the US.
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