Spout Mavens Disc #5: Коктебель [Roads to Koktebel] (2003)

Writing about this disc would have proven to be a far simpler journey, had all of the Roads to Koktebel, trod upon by a homeless father and son on a sojourn through the lonely expanses of Russia, not crossed against my own personal Jetstream to Orlando and Roads to Anaheim Via Similarly Barren and Somewhat Dull Routes Through Idaho, Oregon, Nevada and California. You see, this disc arrived just as I was returning from my first vacation at Walt Disney World and its various and sundry neighboring parks, from which I slunk back to my abode with a rather sullen attitude at the prospect of returning to a life where I actually had to work to earn my keep, as opposed to lounging about a cabin in the woods, through which I strode happily every morning, and then spending each day riding rollercoasters and each night eating at 4-star restaurants.

This despondency was displaced swiftly, as I drifted unluckily into a week-long bout of the flu, which left me able to watch movies, but unable to really recall anything that I watched, because I would drift in and out of things at ten-minute intervals, give or take five minutes here and there. An early attempt to watch Roads to Koktebel found me watching the father and the son (hereafter referred to as The Father and The Son, as they are called in the credits on IMDB; it might say the same thing in the credits of the film, too, but the credits are in Russian, and I cannot read Russian, so there you have it) hop aboard a cargo car on a freight train -- and then waking up to find the father throwing sheets of bent roofing tin off a two-story hovel in the woods. Suffice to say, I quickly surmised, even through my clogged sinus haze, that I had some backtracking to do.

A week later, and two entire weeks after receiving the film, I took the opportunity to watch the first half of Roads to Koktebel, recovered and fully cognizant of my surroundings. First half only, though -- the next morning, I had to fly up to my father's new home in Idaho, only to hit the road the very next morning and begin a road trip back to Anaheim, carrying with us in a (as it turns out) heavily overloaded 16-foot Penske rental van, the bulk of my belongings from my old environs in Anchorage, Alaska. Zipping though the first half before I left made me realize that I was not really concentrating on the film, but thinking rather of the journey ahead of me. I had to admit that the rather stubborn attempt at story mystification, keeping the past of The Father and The Son gloomily obscured, making us guess deeply along the way regarding the motivations of the two main characters, did not suit my mood at that moment, and while I was enjoying the measured pace and cinematography, I could not accurately give the film the attention it probably deserved. Plus, since my own journey would involve a two-year reunion and road trip with my own father, I felt that combining a fresh viewing on my return with whatever emotions overrode me on the drive down would prove to have the most optimal of rewards.

Following that fresh viewing, I realized how wrong I was. In fact, I came out realizing how little I identified with any single character in this film. Despite having a contentious relationship with my father while I was a teenager (how many kids don't, really?), and despite always feeling that I knew better than the adults in my life in all regards (a feeling which I was actually right about... oh, only 17 percent of the time), something which The Son is certainly portrayed as exhibiting in the film, at no time during its course could I identify with the little scheming, whiny shit. I understood that there is a certain place where the knowledge which he gained through his complete trust in his all-knowing father gets derailed by the realities that they stumble upon, including leaping past the hazards of his father falling back off the wagon in one situation and onto a kindly though sweaty doctor in another. Besides, my father, who is extremely knowledgeable (and correct) on a great many subjects, has never been an alcoholic (hell, he doesn't even drink at all), and is a stand-up guy in nearly every regard. Back to the actors portraying these characters, I cannot knock them, for the acting of the lead pair is exemplary, especially given that the characters are barely fleshed out, even through the course of the movie.

Perhaps the film's lack of clear motivation in most cases reflects the lack of apparent motivation in real life, and while this is normally something I embrace in a film, coming off a lot of back-breaking loading and unloading, a couple of long days on the road, and then a dive back into a job with which I am no longer enamored, I found myself not caring in the least about anything in the film. I watched it, told myself, "Well, I sure have a lot of stuff to sort through," and hopped back into giving my household some semblance of normalcy amongst all the clutter. I filed the movie in my head under the section "Russian Would-Be Malick," not a bad place to be, but clearly derivative and hard to pull off properly, even for Malick. And then I spent five days deliberating on exactly what to write about it. I thought about railing against the seagull-strangling scene near the film's conclusion, but then I felt myself wishing to delve into its creation deeper before going off the rails about it.

So, my apologies to any readers who have gotten this far, only to find that while I touched feather-like on certain points of the film, my mindset right now is on organization within my own life, and that mindset bears little regard for reviewing a film with which I have struggled to pay any attention to whatsoever. The film is beautifully shot, even in settings that are intermittently ugly in conception, and perhaps at another junction I will slip it into the player to take another crack at peeling away layers of depth that may or may not be there. My apologies, too, to Christi, the kindly head Spout Maven who has apparently suffered through a goodly amount of stumble-footedness on the part of some of her charges, and I am sorry if I was one of those who contributed in some small way to the changing of the review time from a week to a month.

I also am not sure if perhaps this is my last post for a good while on Spout, for I have certainly lost the concentration level I had before I hit September. Sitting about watching DVDs, while one of my favorite things to do, is actually far down on my list of concerns right now, personally, physically, financially and emotionally. I have many roads to travel right now, and not a damn one takes me anywhere near Koktebel.


My pleasure at seeing a new post on your site(and spout) was quickly undone by that final paragraph. This past couple of weeks without regular Pylon postings has been torture. Torture!

Not that I dont understand, and I hope you get things situated comfortably.
Rik Tod said…
Thanks, Aaron. But don't worry... I said it might be my last post on Spout for a while, but not on the Pylon. I need the Pylon to keep me going, and there are things I write about on here that don't get mentioned on Spout. I'm looking to rev up the Rik machine (yes, I just referred to myself in the third person, Ricky Henderson-style, but I am fully aware that I did, so it is not a case of ego run amok), I just don't feel up to reviewing films without personal intent right now. Actually should have another lengthy post up here on the Pylon in a couple of days.

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