Tchaikovsky’s Wife brilliantly opens the Cannes competition [critique]

Serebrennikov recounts the tragic love affair of a young Russian for the composer of Swan Lake. Alenina Mikhailova is already a serious candidate for the interpretation prize.

The Palme race got off to a strong start. For his third participation in the competition, the Russian dissident filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov gratifies us with a hell of a slap, while showing his ability to renew himself without losing any of the power of his staging. After the rock and black and white universe of Leto then the elegiac baroque trip of Petrov Feverhere he is at the helm of an impossible and therefore inherently tragic love story: the union between Piotr Tchaikovsky and Antonina Milioukova to which the composer of the Swan Lake consented in 1877 in an attempt to hide his homosexuality, which was beginning to seriously tarnish his reputation From the start, there was obviously no doubt about the outcome of this union, but through it, Serebrennikov signed a breathtaking portrait of a woman, in love until ‘to the greatest of unreason, ready to endure everything in her heart, in her soul and in her body to stay with a man who ends up dreading even meeting her and charges, out of cowardice, those around him to keep her away .

Clearer in its narrative than Petrov Fever, Tchaikovsky’s Wife is populated with scenes that will haunt you long after you leave the room. Scenes from dreams, nightmares or real ones like that of the signing of the divorce or the moment when, to convince Antonina Milioukova to give up this marriage, men are brought before her so that they undress completely in front of her and that she can judge on documents and choose a lover. The film does not suffocate at any time under the reconstruction of the time and it owes it to the way in which Serebrennikov distills dreams always wisely, at the right tempo, raising each of these 143 minutes without downbeat towards the heights of tragic romance. But none of this would have been possible without an immense actress: Alyona Mikhailova. The journey of Antonina’s character, her intensity, her multiple and inherently contradictory facets would not have the same depth on screen without the way she embodies them through every pore of her skin, through her entire body. Cannes- day 1 and already a more than serious candidate for the interpretation prize!

By Kirill Serebrennikov. With Odin Lund Biron, Alyona Mikhailova, Ekaterina Ermishina… Duration: 2h23

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