Last Screening (2022) by Darezhan Omirbayev

According to Omirbayev, “where there is life there is no art and vice versa,” in a comment that suggests artists must embrace their loneliness to move forward. “Last Screening”, his latest work, is a 30-minute short film that revolves around this concept, but also, as usual in the work of Kazakhstan, many other social, political and economic comments.

The nameless young man who is the protagonist, appears as a typical “specimen” of his age, as we watch him, at the beginning of the film, in his bedroom, scrolling on Instagram, while his mother asks him to go to bed. In the morning, he attends his lesson, but he seems not to be interested in what the professor says. A little later, he is seen getting on a bus, in a relatively long scene that features most of the comments Omirbayev wants to make here. Capitalism, and how some nations of the “first world” exploit others and that the Kazakh people have not yet adapted to urban civilization are the most central, as well as the fact that everyone is on the phone, doesn’t communicate or even pay attention to the rest of the people there.

A little later, the young man arrives at a small cinema to watch an art house film, mostly revolving around a man at his desk reading, essentially featuring another round of commentary. The room is almost empty, while three soldiers who enter a little after the beginning of the film, are obviously there just to sleep a little. The suggestion of how (this type of) cinema has become a concept that only appeals to a few people is quite evident throughout this sequence. At the same time, a parallel montage between the young man and an elderly man in the room, which continues even after the end of the film, seems to suggest the fate of the former, that of certain loneliness, and which, perhaps , led to a path towards being an artist.

Darezhan Omirbayev has a chip on his shoulder, but has succeeded, once again, in turning it into art, as his accusations (critical if you prefer) on the modern way of life are as multiple as they are omnipresent in his filmography. The way he presents his comments is really excellent though, with the combination of remarks about the nose heard on radios, telephones or the film in the cinema and other more subtle ones, like those highlighted by people looking at their telephone. in silence, working quite well for the film. At the same time, The Empty Cinema, just like the Empty Theater in his previous film “The Poet”, is both a commentary on the arts which are dying due to the lack of interest of the masses (respectively poetry and cinema d ‘art and test) as a sample of his self-deprecating humor, since his films are definitely part of the second.

Boris Troshev’s cinematography follows a rather realistic path, to the point that some scenes almost look like documentaries, like in the bus sequence for example. At the same time, however, the finale’s night shots are quite beautiful, in a rather pleasing sequence that also functions as a “relief” of all realism. Additionally, the edit here features Azamat Altybasov’s editing, which, furthermore, resulted in a very appropriate and relatively slow pace for the entire film.

Illiyas Shakirov as the protagonist gives an almost silent performance, communicating his thoughts with his eyes and his body position for the most part, again in perfect resonance with the overall aesthetic.

“Last Screening” is another excellent work by Darezhan Omirbayev, who manages to present his rather interesting comments through a rather clever approach that will particularly appeal to the “thinking public”.

About Bernice D. Brewer

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