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February 19, 2013

Bullet Collector

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Sobiratel pul
Aleksandr Vartanov - 2011
Artsploitation Films Region 1 DVD

While Russian filmmaker Aleksandr Vartanov acknowledges the influence of Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows, and Artsploitation's Travis Crawford sees the influence of Lindsay Anderson's If . . , what I also saw was the studied experimentation of Ingmar Bergman's Persona with elements of opening montage of that film, some of the framing of shots (through a glass darkly, indeed), as well as some the elliptical narrative passages. That the film is also in black and white also makes the work appear closer to the kind of work that appeared from European filmmakers in the the Sixties.

I wish there were English language credits to the soundtrack, a mix of composers and types of music, parts which also recalls the kind of music used in films during that era, breaking away from the more classical influences. This would be music that was frequently atonal. This is the kind of music associated with modernist composers like Krzysztof Penderecki or Ingmar Bergman collaborator, Lars Johan Werle.

Bullet Collector is also much more brutal than its forebears. The fourteen year old boy at the center of the film, nameless, is immediately linked to blood, his own and of others. He is first seen cutting himself, he gets spontaneous bloody noses, and daubs himself as a kind of war paint. Not very big or strong, with an almost girlish face, he gets beat up by a bigger kid in school for money, and in turn beats up an even smaller, younger boy, He may, or may not, be part of a gang of thugs, the Bullet Collectors, who have a rivalry with the Wood Borers. Even when the boy tries to do something seemingly decent, like intervening when he sees a larger man (a pimp? a john?) pummeling a woman (a prostitute?) on the streets, the woman strikes back at the boy for interfering with "her business".

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Unlike the teen rebels of the earlier films, the boy of Bullet Collector is completely adrift, with only the most tenuous connections to his family and other people, with no interests other than to collect bullets, tokens of death that might be real but are more likely imagined. Where the bullets are very much real is in the reformatory, pegged correctly by the boy as a prison with machine gun carrying guards. The boy, with two smaller and weaker boys, attempt an escape from a hell with a hierarchy even worse than parents, teachers and other schoolboys.

Mention should be made that the DVD includes a deleted scene of the boy, alone, wandering through what I assume is a part of Moscow. There is also a booklet that includes an analysis of the film by Travis Crawford, as well as his interview with Vartanov. I would hesitate to use words like "retro" or "throwback", but Bullet Collector kept reminding me of the time when filmmakers made movies about angry (very) young men, and there was as much rebellion on the screens as in the streets.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at February 19, 2013 08:15 AM