Nikita Mikhalkov — whose “Burnt By The Sun 2” is part of the competition line-up of this year’s Cannes — is that increasingly rarest of creatures, a genuine nationalist filmmaker whose loyalties are so old-school and patriarchal it can be difficult to like him.
Mikhalkov boasted in his official bio for his last film, “12,” of his ancient noble lineage and the fact his father rewrote the words for the Soviet National Anthem twice and updated it for the Putin era in 2000, something plenty of others wouldn’t necessarily be proud of. When asked by a journalist whether McDonald’s or Stalinism was preferable, he responded it depended on the person. And his “12” turned “12 Angry Men” into an allegory for strong leadership in Putin’s Russia, with an approving ending in which Mikhalkov himself (playing the chairman) takes charge and begins issuing summary justice ducking around the judicial machine.
So it’s not entirely surprising that the poster for “Burnt By The Sun 2,” which features Mikhalkov (who also stars) and the grandiose tagline “A mighty film about a mighty war,” has been the source of much derision on the web. It’s spawned a meme, led by blogger Artemy Lebedev, of spoofs of the poster, with variants comparing Mikhalkov to a Nazi or changing the tagline to “A mighty piece of shit about a mighty war.”
Mikhalkov has not taken this well. According to a report from March 26th (I’m afraid you’re just going to have to trust my translation) his daughter, in an interview, claimed Mikhalkov is upset and contemplating a lawsuit — which seems like an overreaction to a bunch of folks with above-average Photoshop skills and no real power, but what do I know.
All this is worth keeping in mind at Cannes, where “Burnt By The Sun 2” will represent Russia in competition alongside “You, My Joy,” the first narrative film by documentarian Sergei Loznitsa, which chronicles the life of a truck driver whose life “seems to be a never-ending nightmare, a spiral of violence and abuses of power […] A dark parable about the situation in deep Russia today.” Which definitely marks it as the kind of film Mikhalkov would never make. Those watching the two at Cannes might want to remember which is state art and which — with what looks like foreign funding — is an actual independent voice.
[Photos: “Burnt By The Sun 2” poster, Studio Trite, 2010; “You, My Joy,” Sergei Loznitsa, 2010]