Eastern Promises

New movies! Old movies! B-movies! Discuss discuss discuss!!!

On a scale of 1-10, blah blah blah

10
2
6%
9
8
24%
8
13
38%
7
8
24%
6
0
No votes
5
0
No votes
4
0
No votes
3
1
3%
2
0
No votes
1
0
No votes
I'll wait for TV/DVD
1
3%
I will not be seeing this
1
3%
 
Total votes : 34

Postby colonel_lugz on Fri Nov 09, 2007 4:41 pm

Hype strikes again
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Postby DinoDeLaurentiis on Fri Nov 09, 2007 5:46 pm

John-Locke wrote:On a side note I found the hyped up naked fight to be rather disappointing, not even nearly as brutal as I was led to believe, it lacked both kinetic energy and a sense of urgency, I also found it lacking (not devoid) in tension.


Inna'teresting, eh? The Dino, he found it quite a realistic, eh? Inna the sense that a you basically gotta the knife fight anna you see alla the cuts anna slashes onna the Viggo's body, no? It seemed brutal enough a to me, eh?

Plus, there was a that whole thing with a the eye, no?

Iffa only they hadda let a me make a the Conan like a that, eh?
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Postby colonel_lugz on Fri Nov 09, 2007 6:19 pm

Old JL is a blood thirsty son of a bitch.
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Postby Pacino86845 on Sat Nov 10, 2007 4:24 pm

Wow I saw this earlier today and it kicked my ass completely... what a terrific film. I thought it was definitely better than A History of Violence, and the comparison is undeniable really since they share many of the same themes.

I don't know anything about any hype regarding the bath fight scene, but it was brutal, very difficult to watch without squirming or looking away from the screen. The fact that it wasn't built up beforehand was intentional on Cronenberg's part, that's very clear. The fight jumps at you out of nowhere, pounds into your senses at such a frenetic pace, and yet it's filmed so clearly (down shaky cam, down!!! None of that bullshit here...) that I believe Cronenberg to be the master of fight scenes. I also find that this is a very suitable evolution for him as he forays into the mainstream. He retains his carnal sensibilities but has transformed them into acts of violence to appeal to a broader audience.

As for the lack of build up, to back up my insistence that it was an intentional move on Cronenberg's part, you have only to refer to the opening barbershop scene and the post-Chelsea-vs-Arsenal match scene to see how he can build tension up like a mofo.

A very solid 8/10 from me, kudos to Cronenberg!!!
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Postby Zarles on Sat Nov 10, 2007 5:16 pm

tapehead wrote:
Zarles wrote: I got the whole Russian mob/sex slave thing, but what exactly happened at the end? Did Nikolai and Kirill whack Semyon and take over? There was a lot I missed near the end thanks to the brain-dead jackasses I was fortunate enough to share a theater with, so please - fill me in.


*Whole end of movie Spoilers*
There was a brief scene, I think just after we find out that Nikolai/Viggo was a FSB spy, involving Seymon and Kirill. Nikolai has already suggested to the English Agent that Seymon can be arrested for statutory rape if they can prove with DNA that the baby (Christine?) was his - because,as we have heard in the voice-over from the pregnant prostitute's diary, Seymon raped her, and she was only fourteen. In that scene With Seymon and Kirill in the kitchen, Seymon has had a blood sample taken and is muttering about Aids and drug users. That's why he sends Kirill to the Hospital to get the baby. They save the baby, Seymon gets put away, and Nikolai is second in command in London's Russian Mafia, with Kirill as his puppet - and he doesn't blow his cover, even with Anna.


Thanks, tape. The next trip to the taco bar is on me.
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Postby Keepcoolbutcare on Sat Nov 10, 2007 7:23 pm

tapehead wrote:Abjection maybe? or 'abject horror'? (it's a little 'psychoanalytic', I know)

You never did get to delving.


no, not quite abjection, though the word I'm looking for is similar in it's connotation. More like anaphylaxis, but instead of the reaction being from an allergen, it's comes just by looking at/being in contact with "alien-ness"? For all I know, I could be searching for a made-up word from the X-Files or some sci-fi source material. I'm familiar with "abject horror", it's just the word I'm searching for sounds far more clinical.

no need to delve, I hadn't read the tiny text yet, didn't know ya'll were going on about Nikolai's past, which I thought was made pretty clear.
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Postby tapehead on Sat Nov 10, 2007 8:02 pm

Pacino86845 wrote:(down shaky cam, down!!! None of that bullshit here...)


agree - it's stared at, no blinking or epilepsy, and all the better for it.

Keepcoolbutcare wrote:I hadn't read the tiny text yet, didn't know ya'll were going on about Nikolai's past, which I thought was made pretty clear.


I thought so too, unless I missed something.
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Postby Dee E. Goppstober on Fri Nov 30, 2007 12:54 am

After hyping myself up about this movie for a while now- I hyped myself down today- and watched it. I didn’t want to raise my expectations too much, since I recently saw two excellent Cronenberg movies –in a way I expected to like this one less. On the other hand- the topic, cast and trailer made me salivate again. The end result of this balancing of my expectations was satisfying. I thought it was a great movie that left little to desire- but it didn’t leave me as ecstatic as AHOV or Videodrome.

Maybe one of the reasons for this was my preoccupation with the subject at hand: to my knowledge no big movie about the Russian mob has yet been made –and I thought it a brilliant idea that this was to change. The Russian mob must by now occupy such a prominent presence in the hierarchy of all mobs – that they deserve their own film –maybe even their own genre. This film should spawn many a vodka-soaked tale of crime, passion, treason, tragedy and violence, just as The Godfather did the same for the Italian Mafia.

But whereas with the Italian gangster movies I never once wondered whether the Italian dialogues and customs were real – I did here. That’s probably just because it is a bit closer to home. Not as close in the sense that my real name is Anastasia Pawlowna and I hold a side-job as subjugated peroxide hooker or anything. But enough to be sensible to wrong portrayals of Eastern European language and culture. The English-speaking part of the world rarely has to deal with things like this- but I can tell you – it’s really awkward and annoying when films get these things wrong even in the slightest. I’ve sat through movies with grotesque portrayals of the Polish, German –and… yes, the Dutch too – and it can be awful. So I was really wondering what Russians would think of the an American, a Frenchman, a German and a Pole playing the lead roles and stereotypes of vodka-at-every-hour, fur hats and Russian bigotry were being elaborated upon.

But then- I thought- it’s not a film about Russians- it’s a film about the Russian mob. And- stereotypes are often largely – or at least a little- true –so maybe some stereotyping isn’t so bad –as long as it is done with a well acted story and on a beautiful set. And this Cronenberg, as usual, managed perfectly. It may not be authentic to the detail, and Armin-Mueller Stahl’s accent is German, just as Jerzy Skolimowski’s is detectable as Polish- but the essence is right. And the acting is superb. As I said, I’m not Russian- but both Cassel’s as well as Mortensen’s efforts seem excellent. They play their roles as perfect opposites in the gangster spectrum perfectly: the weak one- corrupted and delirious of all the wealth, drugs and power – the other calm, cold and calculating. These two characters are essential in any gangster movie. Armin-Mueller Stahl with his wise-grandpa-with-piercing-eyes manner was convincing as well. I didn’t really see any fault with Naomi Watts performance at all– she fitted well into the role of concerned English nurse, who was in a way so fascinated by her roots. And, finally, all secondary roles were filled very aptly too.

As always, I was a fan of Cronenbergs depiction of violence – harsh, upfront and realistic. The scene in the bathhouse was gruesomely fantastic. The bit with Viggo and the hooker I found a little hard to stomach –but it served its purpose.

All in all – this was another Cronenberg classic –and in my opinion holds a worthy place as it’s genre’s first.

8/10
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Postby Seppuku on Fri Nov 30, 2007 12:59 am

Any Arsenal fans here slightly irked that Croney completely goofed their colours in that scene where Stepan gets spoilered after the Arsenal VS Chelsea match?
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Postby tapehead on Fri Nov 30, 2007 1:02 am

Nice review Dee - the accents weren't always quite right? which cast member seemed to get it wrong?
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Postby Dee E. Goppstober on Fri Nov 30, 2007 1:10 am

tapehead wrote:Nice review Dee - the accents weren't always quite right? which cast member seemed to get it wrong?



Well -Ze German- Armin Mueller-Stahl was... well, Ze German. But because he's such a sympathetic actor- I forgive him.


And - thanks! :D
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Postby Dee E. Goppstober on Fri Nov 30, 2007 1:13 am

seppukudkurosawa wrote:Any Arsenal fans here slightly irked that Croney completely goofed their colours in that scene where Stepan gets spoilered after the Arsenal VS Chelsea match?



Hahaha -yes, you're right- they were orange??? Stupid mistake to make, really. I wonder if Nick Hornby has reviewed this film...
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Postby Seppuku on Fri Nov 30, 2007 1:48 am

Dee E. Goppstober wrote:
seppukudkurosawa wrote:Any Arsenal fans here slightly irked that Croney completely goofed their colours in that scene where Stepan gets spoilered after the Arsenal VS Chelsea match?



Hahaha -yes, you're right- they were orange??? Stupid mistake to make, really. I wonder if Nick Hornby has reviewed this film...


Just got this from the Observer website.

Observer wrote:David Cronenberg's excellent Eastern Promises opened the LFF and, set among the Russian mafia, it's a fine addition to classic London underworld films. One detail bothered me greatly, though. In a murder scene set outside Chelsea football club after a match with Arsenal, one Gunners fan has his throat slit through his football scarf. However, the scarf is clearly not an Arsenal one, wasting an opportunity for what could have been a classic London movie moment. 'I know,' sighed Cronenberg when I broached the issue with him. 'I wish I could have had the scarves more accurate. But my lawyers and producers said the club would never agree to have their merchandise used in this way, so I had to run with it, even though I'm not happy with that scene because of it.' He added: 'I'm an Arsenal fan myself - I don't really like football but over the last few years I've been filming in London I fell in love with the way they play.'


Move over Lynch, Cronenberg just stole your number 6 spot on my list of Favourite Living Directors after reading that.
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Postby DaleTremont on Fri Nov 30, 2007 9:52 pm

Dee E. Goppstober wrote:my real name is Anastasia Pawlowna and I hold a side-job as subjugated peroxide hooker


You heard it here first, folks.

And I hear you about the representation of cultures thing. Intellectually, I don't have a problem with people taking on roles that aren't of their own ethnicity, but then I always feel a smidge of irritation watching something like "Memoirs of a Geisha" where most of the main roles are played by non-Japanese actors.
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Postby Dee E. Goppstober on Fri Nov 30, 2007 10:10 pm

DaleTremont wrote:
Dee E. Goppstober wrote:my real name is Anastasia Pawlowna and I hold a side-job as subjugated peroxide hooker


You heard it here first, folks.

And I hear you about the representation of cultures thing. Intellectually, I don't have a problem with people taking on roles that aren't of their own ethnicity, but then I always feel a smidge of irritation watching something like "Memoirs of a Geisha" where most of the main roles are played by non-Japanese actors.


Ah well- I guess that has to be the fate of us cultural bastards... Soooo -what about you then: Paprika - one-night geesha girl with an opium habit?
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Postby DaleTremont on Sat Dec 01, 2007 2:46 pm

Dee E. Goppstober wrote:
DaleTremont wrote:
Dee E. Goppstober wrote:my real name is Anastasia Pawlowna and I hold a side-job as subjugated peroxide hooker


You heard it here first, folks.

And I hear you about the representation of cultures thing. Intellectually, I don't have a problem with people taking on roles that aren't of their own ethnicity, but then I always feel a smidge of irritation watching something like "Memoirs of a Geisha" where most of the main roles are played by non-Japanese actors.


Ah well- I guess that has to be the fate of us cultural bastards... Soooo -what about you then: Paprika - one-night geesha girl with an opium habit?


Nope. Asa Fukitomi. Side job as a fetish schoolgirl to entertain incoming Japanese businessmen. The opium habit is incidental.
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Postby Dee E. Goppstober on Sat Dec 01, 2007 11:29 pm

Oh, I agree -the Polish for instance always complain about being associated with drinking wodka all the time- but then: they do! It's just these minor subtleties that are irksome. Not very, in Cronenberg's case though -I really do think he did a pretty good job.

But no matter - it was a great film. And - join our ranks! - do you have a side job too?
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Postby Lady Sheridan on Sun Dec 02, 2007 2:00 am

Dee E. Goppstober wrote:
But no matter - it was a great film. And - join our ranks! - do you have a side job too?


I came here as Russian bride--I have been bilking many a sad loser for his life's savings, which I then turn over to my cruel brother, who may or may not be mafia.
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Postby Fievel on Sun Dec 09, 2007 2:24 am

Saw this tonight.
Loved it.

It wasn't the movie I thought it would be, and that was a good thing.
The fact that Nikolai is a badass deep-undercover agent... a good guy, is the most amazingly cool twist. I thought that he would have been an insanely wicked man with somewhat of a conscience - perhaps someone who wanted the Mob to become more honorable.
Thoroughly entertaining film for me.

Reading back here and seeing that Kirks was in it... Is there a Zoners In Movies thread?
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Postby Keepcoolbutcare on Fri Dec 28, 2007 8:12 am

liked it the first time, and it improves upon repeating viewing, as I picked up some context clues I missed or glossed over the first time.

Noticed this time, for example, how the color red often appears in any scene with Semyon (Mueller-Stahl) - from the beet soup he serves Anna (Watts) in their first scene together, to red patterns of the dining room proper, to the red label on his vodka bottle, to a red fruit (cherry/strawberry) Cronenberg shows him dropping in a kitchen scene with Nikolai (Viggo)...and his final scene, a complete flip from his stately, serene introduction, as he rants to Kirill (Cassel) about having had his blood drawn from what he claims must've been a used needle, in the process picking up "the disease" from the *insert minority group here*, revealing the utter vicious demon behind that initially benevolent demeanor. That red motif throughout is a constant reminder that behind the smile, behind the kindness lurks his true self, the nasty s.o.b. who murdered with impunity and severely warped his son's fragile psyche.
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Postby Lady Sheridan on Fri Dec 28, 2007 6:15 pm

I caught it again last night too, definitely one of my favorites of the year. I think Cronenberg really caught more of the Russian culture than people give him credit for. The movie feels like Russian literature--it has that dark, oppressive, claustrophobic feel. It's even evident with the soundtrack, which I got for Christmas, as the same theme repeats over and over quite deliberately. Just a tight film all around.

The DVD extra on the tattoos is a keeper, too. AND it convinced me Nikolai's tattoo'd background is genuine and that he was recruited out of prison by FSB.
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Postby Keepcoolbutcare on Fri Dec 28, 2007 6:39 pm

Lady Sheridan wrote:AND it convinced me Nikolai's tattoo'd background is genuine and that he was recruited out of prison by FSB.


whoa, what makes you say that?

i had the extras on as background noise while I was doing stuff around the house, so I wasn't really paying attention to it, but was it explicitly said that he was indeed a convict, then recruited?

even if it was stated, I still don't buy it - why would someone who has been imprisoned three times (according to the tats), who obviously hadn't ratted on anybody, why would he suddenly turn do-gooder? And then what of the taunting anecdote related by one of the vor v zakone, about his father being a KGB ratfinkovich, and his mother being a whore? (if true, it would explain why he's made it his life to go after "the organization", why he helps, in the process possibly blowing his cover, that one girl who he was forced to fuck get out of the brothel.) And why would the Scotland Yard detective bow to a mere undercover operative and not some uber-FSB-badass?

if, by the end, Nikolai is in charge of the London operation, how could anybody in their right mind trust the running of that to someone of the background you purport he had?

sure, the notion that he was FSB his whole life raises some questions as well, but not as many, and it kinda makes more thematic plausibility...least to me.
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Postby Lady Sheridan on Fri Dec 28, 2007 7:38 pm

Keepcoolbutcare wrote:
Lady Sheridan wrote:AND it convinced me Nikolai's tattoo'd background is genuine and that he was recruited out of prison by FSB.


whoa, what makes you say that?

i had the extras on as background noise while I was doing stuff around the house, so I wasn't really paying attention to it, but was it explicitly said that he was indeed a convict, then recruited?

even if it was stated, I still don't buy it - why would someone who has been imprisoned three times (according to the tats), who obviously hadn't ratted on anybody, why would he suddenly turn do-gooder? And then what of the taunting anecdote related by one of the vor v zakone, about his father being a KGB ratfinkovich, and his mother being a whore? (if true, it would explain why he's made it his life to go after "the organization", why he helps, in the process possibly blowing his cover, that one girl who he was forced to fuck get out of the brothel.) And why would the Scotland Yard detective bow to a mere undercover operative and not some uber-FSB-badass?

if, by the end, Nikolai is in charge of the London operation, how could anybody in their right mind trust the running of that to someone of the background you purport he had?

sure, the notion that he was FSB his whole life raises some questions as well, but not as many, and it kinda makes more thematic plausibility...least to me.



No, there wasn't anything explicitly stated, if anything they left it purposefully vague even on the featurette.

But the tattoos are intricate, prison-given...the odds of Nikolai just going out and marking himself up is pretty slim. For one, he'd have a shitload of new and professional tattoos that are going to raise eyebrows within the vory v zakone.

I don't buy that you could take a FSB agent and throw him into deep undercover and not have him killed in a week. I think Nikolai's background has to be genuine--and I don't think a prison sentence necessarily makes him someone untrustworthy, especially not under the Soviet system.

I think, given the hints he drops about Tatiana's village and his sympathy for the prostitute, that there was something tragic in his background (mother, sister, even old girlfriend) that made him receptive to working for FSB. Or maybe it was something just practical, they cut him a deal, and the further he went, the more sympathetic he became.

I think the key is that the vory v zakone have to trust him, and Scotland Yard and FSB would be willing to overlook a lot in a person's background to get someone who could infiltrate. Law enforcement overlooks a lot when it comes to informants.

As far as the taunts by the old guard, wasn't that all part of the initiation? It's deliberately meant to provoke him. He isn't allowed to have any ties or familial feeling, he's a vor, they are his "family" now. That's why the stars go over the heart. Anything else is a sign of weakness.

Nikolai remains an enigma for the entire movie, even to the last scene. I don't think you can really make any judgment as to who he really is, I don't think the character himself knows. To just go "oh, he's FSB badass, it's totally clear, there's no question" is just whitewashing the entire movie.
I guess it could be nothing but the Russian version of "Donnie Brasco," but I saw Nikolai as having a bit more to him than that.
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Postby tapehead on Fri Dec 28, 2007 7:57 pm

I agree it's left inconclusive, and your interpretation is pretty valid LS. Speculation about the FSB aside, you do have a point about the tattoos. They 'age' over time, the colours fade and the edges get less distinct. I'm still not entirely convinced, as it seems clear that Nikolai has been undercover for a many years, no doubt with a new identity for each assignment.
To me the big question that still remains with thinking he's a 'turncoat' is why there are no connections; no Russian gangsters who knew him from before to vouch for him appearance in London, which is why Nikolai has to work to hard to gain the confidence of Kirill and then Semyon to begin with.
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Postby Lady Sheridan on Fri Dec 28, 2007 8:18 pm

The lack of connections is weird no matter what--it would be too dangerous for him to be undercover and switch identities, because he would risk someone recognizing him from a previous "life." I think he's been slowly and surely working his way up through the ranks.

I think it's possible he's new to London which increases the suspicion--and he's not family, which is Semyon's big thing. I know the case here in the US is that the Russian mafia often leaves their past behind when they move here...they're untraceable. No one here knows who they are or what they've done. It's what has the Russian-born cops absolutely terrified.

If that's true that has to be one of the major points of the tattoos--you vouch for yourself, whoever gave you the tattoos is vouching for you. That's your connection.
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Postby Conroy420 on Fri Dec 28, 2007 9:32 pm

Saw this for the first time the other night.

A nice surprise. Brutal in its violence. I know Cronenberg started in horror, but it's interesting to see such gorey elements (like this and History of Violence) presented in different genres. I suppose one could argue that these are both of the 'crime' genre.

Great preformances all around. The pacing was quick and kept me intrigued. There was not any scene that wasn't effective in either developing character or story. No waste here, a very tight and well done film.

I havn't seen 'There Will Be Blood', (and I'm told Day-Lewis's preformance in that is the best of the year) but Viggo's is probably the best I've seen this year.

7/10
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Postby Ribbons on Wed Jan 02, 2008 2:18 am

Did anybody else get the impression that the prostitute Nikolai chose to have sex with for Kirill bore a very strong resemblence (arguably too strong to be a coincidence) to Naomi Watts's character?
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Postby tapehead on Wed Jan 02, 2008 2:47 am

No doubt - I guess I just presumed that was Kirill's intent, as he knew by then that Nikolai was into Anna. He was trying to fuck with Nikolai's head and get off on it by watching at the same time. As important though to us was her similarity to Tatiana, from the beginning of the film.
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Postby Ribbons on Wed Jan 02, 2008 4:45 am

Yeah, I definitely got that impression, and it's something that I thought was going on in A History of Violence as well, which is that Cronenberg would tweak certain scenes that I picture being pretty straightforward in the script and load them with subtext in the process (the prostitute looking like Anna, the narration of the dead girl overlapping with scenes of Nikolai's). I think it adds a lot to the movie.
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Postby Spifftacular SquirrelGirl on Wed Jan 02, 2008 5:40 am

tapehead wrote:No doubt - I guess I just presumed that was Kirill's intent, as he knew by then that Nikolai was into Anna. He was trying to fuck with Nikolai's head and get off on it by watching at the same time. As important though to us was her similarity to Tatiana, from the beginning of the film.



I noticed that right away also. There is a lot of little subtle things in this movie that I'm sure that there's still a few things that I probably missed from only watching this movie once.
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Postby DinoDeLaurentiis on Thu Jan 03, 2008 10:26 am

Alla you putzes might a find a the joint inna'terview with a the Viggo anna David about a the making of a the film, onna the NPR's "Fresh Air" with a the Terry Gross, eh?

Iffa you donna like a the goddamn RealPlayer, you can also listen to a the iTunes-friendly podcast, eh? It's a the show dated December 21, 2007, although I believe a the inna'terview, she is a the repeat from a the mid-September, eh?
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Postby Will Scarlet on Thu Jan 03, 2008 1:02 pm

Loved this film. I really hope it gets some nods from Golden Globe or better yet, Oscar. I absolutely hated History of Violence, but this film had me from the word go. Great cast. Even though Naomi Watts is bland, I think she was perfect--Her character, Anna, is after all, 1/2 Russian herself.

My take on Viggo's character was that he had been recruited at some point in his "prison" career. Simplest scenario would be it was simply a way out of Russia, but there certainly could have been any number of reasons he would agree. After watching the DVD extras, I am even more convinced that the tattoos and his background are real. Not only the age aspect, but the fact that each tattoo is unique in the most explicit detail. It is mentioned that the symbolism and wording in the tattoos is very specific. Not one thing can be wrong. You are "traceable" by your tattoos, which would tell you that his must have been "earned" and then done by an expert. Too many loose ends and chances of mistakes otherwise.

Excellent film. I've seen it 3 times now and am just as moved each time. It really grabs you and sucks you in. You get a twist ending, enough closure to make you content, but enough open ends to keep you mind turning. I'm going to make a point of looking for the documentary they mentioned about the Russian mafia.

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Postby Keepcoolbutcare on Thu Jan 03, 2008 2:24 pm

if it's so damn difficult and gosh darn near impossible to forge the tats 'cuz the Russian underworld is, at least the way ya'll are making it out to be, operating at a damn near mythic level of clandestine secrecy (The Freemasons, Illuminati and Skull & Bones combined apparently have nothing on those cagey Russians!)...

then how come there's a book about the subject?

and how come Viggo was able to find out anything about it in the first place?

Someone, in fact, multiple someones, have blabbed, have tattled, have ratted...but it's cute, this fetishizing of the foreign other.

and I love how ya'll are inventing all of these intricate rationals, and yet are convinced at the same time it's the most plausible explanation to boot.
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Postby Nordling on Thu Jan 03, 2008 2:53 pm

I loved this. Saw it for the first time last night.

My take on Viggo's character was that Scotland Yard would rather have the devil they know in charge than the crazy old rapist pedophile (Armin Mueller-Stahl) that they had. Viggo's character did not kill needlessly. I imagine SY thought that they could never get rid of the Russian mob, so at least get someone in charge who was a rational human being. I may be reading too much into it.
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Postby Lady Sheridan on Thu Jan 03, 2008 5:08 pm

Keepcoolbutcare wrote:if it's so damn difficult and gosh darn near impossible to forge the tats 'cuz the Russian underworld is, at least the way ya'll are making it out to be, operating at a damn near mythic level of clandestine secrecy (The Freemasons, Illuminati and Skull & Bones combined apparently have nothing on those cagey Russians!)...

then how come there's a book about the subject?

and how come Viggo was able to find out anything about it in the first place?

Someone, in fact, multiple someones, have blabbed, have tattled, have ratted...but it's cute, this fetishizing of the foreign other.

and I love how ya'll are inventing all of these intricate rationals, and yet are convinced at the same time it's the most plausible explanation to boot.


There might be a book on the subject, but it's not that easy to fake. The fact is, the Russian mafia IS that secretive, it's danger lies in that no one really knows how it operates. Read up on it. I have.

The tattoos aren't merely something you could pick out of a book and stick on yourself. They're something you can only get in prison. And those books and studies are very recent--too recent for a man Nikolai's age to pick up, stick on, and be able to account for. Not to mention, they would all be the same "age," and thus tip off any mobster he was trying to fake out. Get real.

It's not a mere fetishizing and that's simply insulting to say. Don't bring the discussion to that level. If we really want to go that route, your argument that "If he's really a prisoner, then he'd be real bad, so he can't be!" is lazy moral simplicity.

Why are you so determined that Cronenberg layered a film with color symbolism, but then did a quick-and-easy character job on Nikolai? Quite a disservice to the director and the actor, don't you think?

Viggo Mortensen has, if anything, given a clue as to what *he* thinks the character is. Those prayer/worry beads he flips around? They're made out of melted prison plastic. Mortensen got them from God knows where, but Nikolai probably got them off Ebay to add authenticity.
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Postby DennisMM on Thu Jan 03, 2008 6:01 pm

When dealing with a highly secretive organization it's almost always easier to get information out than people in. Members of a cult, a criminal group or a secret society may talk for money, for what they see as prestige in the apocalyptic moment, out of spite or to save themselves from death or prison in extreme circumstances. Thus we know some of the secrets of the Masons, Skull and Bones, the American mafia, etc. Getting someone inside is tougher. You have to create a false history as an established member, be initiated into the organization and work your way to a position of trust (a la Donnie Brasco) or be recruited by the other side and work as a mole. Just as it's easiest to get information out by finding someone to talk, it's easiest to establish a contact inside by finding someone who's already there. Sleeper agents are far less common than those who've been bought out.

Oh, and I was a little disappointed in the film as a whole. The Cronenberg intensity wasn't there, at least for me. More than a few solid moments and good performances, but the story didn't grab me.
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Postby tapehead on Thu Jan 03, 2008 6:26 pm

Lady Sheridan wrote:
Viggo Mortensen has, if anything, given a clue as to what *he* thinks the character is. Those prayer/worry beads he flips around? They're made out of melted prison plastic. Mortensen got them from God knows where, but Nikolai probably got them off Ebay to add authenticity.


Sure, the KGB / FSB could never source something like that!? Sorry, you lost me here. Up until then it had been a thoughtful discussion. Now it's just your insistence.
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Postby Lady Sheridan on Thu Jan 03, 2008 6:31 pm

tapehead wrote:
Lady Sheridan wrote:
Viggo Mortensen has, if anything, given a clue as to what *he* thinks the character is. Those prayer/worry beads he flips around? They're made out of melted prison plastic. Mortensen got them from God knows where, but Nikolai probably got them off Ebay to add authenticity.


Sure, the KGB / FSB could never source something like that!? Sorry, you lost me here. Up until then it had been a thoughtful discussion. Now it's just your insistence.


:roll: Thanks. Whatever. I provide a prop as evidence and we go back into fantasy land.

So much for thoughtful discussion indeed.
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Postby tapehead on Thu Jan 03, 2008 6:32 pm

Lady Sheridan wrote:
tapehead wrote:
Lady Sheridan wrote:
Viggo Mortensen has, if anything, given a clue as to what *he* thinks the character is. Those prayer/worry beads he flips around? They're made out of melted prison plastic. Mortensen got them from God knows where, but Nikolai probably got them off Ebay to add authenticity.


Sure, the KGB / FSB could never source something like that!? Sorry, you lost me here. Up until then it had been a thoughtful discussion. Now it's just your insistence.


:roll: Thanks. Whatever. I provide a prop as evidence and we go back into fantasy land.

So much for thoughtful discussion indeed.


It's cool the way you know what Viggo thinks.
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Postby Lord Voldemoo on Thu Jan 03, 2008 6:34 pm

what the hell just happened?

Can everyone act like adults for 5 minutes?

:roll: :roll:
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Postby Will Scarlet on Thu Jan 03, 2008 7:47 pm

Lord Voldemoo wrote:what the hell just happened?

Can everyone act like adults for 5 minutes?

:roll: :roll:



Apparently not. Who cares if Viggo's background was or wasn't real? You can agree to disagree and let it go. We each can take what we choose from the film and the extras and do what we want with them. This is simply a discussion about the film.

I wish we could get Viggo here so we had the truth, but unfortunately I don't think that's going to happen. Viggo does have his mystical way of fleshing out a character, and seeing his book of notes in English and Russian, hearing him telling about going to Russia and meeting people in this group, makes me believe played this guy as REAL as he could get him.

Let's not let our enjoyment in the film be ruined over the background of a character. Sheesh!

Having a husband who has met these guys for real, I can tell you they are unendingly polite and wonderful charming and cold as ice. They seem eager to have conversations, brag even. They know they hold a certain fascination. I think the cold Russian aspect only make them more so. I think they would be happy to tell you things to a certain degree, how much before they kill you? I don't know. My husband had no desire to delve any deeper than the basics of the investigation he was working on, which happened to involve the theft of some very valuable art. He said they scared the crap out of him.
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Postby Lady Sheridan on Thu Jan 03, 2008 8:23 pm

DennisMM wrote:WS, are you LS's mom?


No, but since you insist on bringing up any connection to me in public, Will Scarlet is my cousin. I encouraged a fellow fangirl to post here.

All dealings with the Russian mob and our respective families are coincidence. It is a cop family, I suppose.

Now, let the speculation as to who she is end here. She doesn't have any connection to me or my opinions otherwise.
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Postby DennisMM on Thu Jan 03, 2008 8:24 pm

It was meant to be a joke. Guess the winky was needed.
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Postby Lady Sheridan on Thu Jan 03, 2008 8:37 pm

It wouldn't have been funny with one. The last thing I need on this board (and in a discussion that has devolved so badly as this) is an insinuation my mother is backing me up. Or any relative, for that matter.

It's already been suggested that WS is one of my alts.

Though it was never anyone's business, now everyone can rest easy with the knowledge she IS a real person, she IS related to me, and she uses my wireless network. Heavens.

Now perhaps we can respect her and her posts on their own terms.
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Postby Lord Voldemoo on Thu Jan 03, 2008 8:38 pm

Noted, LS.

LS/Dennis/WS: If this conversation must continue...continue it via PM.
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Postby tapehead on Thu Jan 03, 2008 8:41 pm

Apologies if I contributed to the discussion going off track - there's more than enough interesting aspects in the film itself to keep this thread going, and a few interesting interviews with the lead and director I've been reading I might link to, like this quote on the tattoos, from ugo.com;

Viggo Mortensen wrote:I have - I don't know how many - four dozen tattoos or something on my body in this movie, and a lot of them are pieces of songs or out of Russian literature, poetry or just sayings that people know about but that have more than one meaning. And there's one that was on a Russian prisoner. Actually, I saw it twice; once on someone's torso and once on his leg, I think. But anyway, I have it on my back. It says, 'The important thing is to remain human,' in Russian. And to the people that had those tattoos, mainly I think the important thing is to remain human means be your own man. Take it like a man. Don't respect authority, be a tough bastard and don't forget, keep your dignity. It's all that, but it also has another meaning, in the face of this hideous existence for people and very severe way of life. It was almost like that was something I remembered or I thought of a lot, that phrase. For Nikolai, that's sort of a guiding principle, in the end, strange as it might seem at first, when you meet the guy. The important thing is to remain human in the face of all this.
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Postby Keepcoolbutcare on Thu Jan 03, 2008 9:08 pm

Lady Sheridan wrote:The fact is, the Russian mafia IS that secretive, it's danger lies in that no one really knows how it operates.


the mafia, the triads, the Yakuza - all "secret" organizations, all have had numerous, "realistic" films made about their inner workings as well, no?

so why, or how, are they soooo different than the Brotherhood?

Lady Sheridan wrote:And those books and studies are very recent--too recent for a man Nikolai's age to pick up, stick on, and be able to account for. Not to mention, they would all be the same "age," and thus tip off any mobster he was trying to fake out.


oh, so your an expert on KGB/FSB profiling too, eh? 'Cuz I'm sure those organizations have released all of there intel on their operations, knowing how forthcoming and open and honest the police-state of both Soviet and current Russia are.

Lady Sheridan wrote:"If he's really a prisoner, then he'd be real bad, so he can't be!" is lazy moral simplicity...
Why are you so determined that Cronenberg layered a film with color symbolism, but then did a quick-and-easy character job on Nikolai? Quite a disservice to the director and the actor, don't you think?


actually, the complete opposite. What Cronenberg has done with both of these "B", these genre pictures, is delve deep into the very schematics and foundations of what makes them tick and has applied his own clinical, detached eye to them. On the surface, on the level of the screenplay (neither written by DC), the pics play like typical, been there done that works, works that in other hands this (fatuous) debate wouldn't even be happening.

The film is in many ways about initial appearances and how deceiving they are, about how surface guises are necessary to fit into ones social place and the push-pull with one's own true nature, about duality (constant Cronenberg theme), about (throat) slashing through layers of character to reveal a truer understanding of them; the smooth, kind, grandfather intellectualism of Seymon to the gradual reveal of his murderous, homophobic and racial screed - the wild, insensitive, don't give a fuck playboy Kirill to a sympathetic queer who, literally, can't hurt a child - the brusque, gruff, "it's not our affair" dismissive alcoholism of Stepan who says one shouldn't go through the lives of a dead person to a curious busybody, patient translator and stand up guy - Anna's push-pull between daughter of Slavic immigrants and assimilation into English culture - and the final one, the big one, Nikolai's smooth hit-man/cleaner menace to big reveal that he's a cop.

fits thematically, no?

This "fantasy" version you and your relative have concocted not only strains for credulity (as does, indeed, the other interpretation - this is, after all, a picture firmly in love with its "B" roots) but then would not only invalidate the very fucking theme of the piece, but would also invalidate the "B" picture roots - 'cuz what ya'll are suggesting simply has never been done on film before (precedent set with my interpretation with INFERNAL AFFAIRS); cops/Feds turning to a hardened (3 times!) criminal and setting him up to run a criminal organization! Must be some real, real trustworthy convict for them to put him at the top and think they can control him, eh? And that's soooooo like the police (of any nation) to just throw in the towel and admit defeat by handing the keys to the kingdom to someone not there own, not police...'cuz just like criminals, don't police (of any nation) have a code, don't they have a way of looking and dealing with the world that prohibits outsiders?

and, if, IF, one were to believe the story related during Nikolai's induction (which I too, at first, thought was just "part of the initiation"), that indeed his mother was a whore (explains his dubious, dangerous and possibly cover-blowing saving of the whore Kirill had him fuck) - that indeed his father was in the same line of work he is - then your argument collapses upon itself completely, no?

'cuz then everything makes sense, all the pieces fit (aside from the w/t/f timeline, how Nikolai got an "in" in the first place) - he's an undercover cop out to bust the brotherhood like his father before him - why he would be willing to sacrifice his entire life, his happiness, for his job. Neat, tidy, and, above all, "B" picture worthy.
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Postby TonyWilson on Thu Jan 03, 2008 9:27 pm

Keepcoolbutcare wrote:
Lady Sheridan wrote:The fact is, the Russian mafia IS that secretive, it's danger lies in that no one really knows how it operates.


the mafia, the triads, the Yakuza - all "secret" organizations, all have had numerous, "realistic" films made about their inner workings as well, no?

so why, or how, are they soooo different than the Brotherhood?

Lady Sheridan wrote:And those books and studies are very recent--too recent for a man Nikolai's age to pick up, stick on, and be able to account for. Not to mention, they would all be the same "age," and thus tip off any mobster he was trying to fake out.


oh, so your an expert on KGB/FSB profiling too, eh? 'Cuz I'm sure those organizations have released all of there intel on their operations, knowing how forthcoming and open and honest the police-state of both Soviet and current Russia are.

Lady Sheridan wrote:"If he's really a prisoner, then he'd be real bad, so he can't be!" is lazy moral simplicity...
Why are you so determined that Cronenberg layered a film with color symbolism, but then did a quick-and-easy character job on Nikolai? Quite a disservice to the director and the actor, don't you think?


actually, the complete opposite. What Cronenberg has done with both of these "B", these genre pictures, is delve deep into the very schematics and foundations of what makes them tick and has applied his own clinical, detached eye to them. On the surface, on the level of the screenplay (neither written by DC), the pics play like typical, been there done that works, works that in other hands this (fatuous) debate wouldn't even be happening.

The film is in many ways about initial appearances and how deceiving they are, about how surface guises are necessary to fit into ones social place and the push-pull with one's own true nature, about duality (constant Cronenberg theme), about (throat) slashing through layers of character to reveal a truer understanding of them; the smooth, kind, grandfather intellectualism of Seymon to the gradual reveal of his murderous, homophobic and racial screed - the wild, insensitive, don't give a fuck playboy Kirill to a sympathetic queer who, literally, can't hurt a child - the brusque, gruff, "it's not our affair" dismissive alcoholism of Stepan who says one shouldn't go through the lives of a dead person to a curious busybody, patient translator and stand up guy - Anna's push-pull between daughter of Slavic immigrants and assimilation into English culture - and the final one, the big one, Nikolai's smooth hit-man/cleaner menace to big reveal that he's a cop.

fits thematically, no?

This "fantasy" version you and your relative have concocted not only strains for credulity (as does, indeed, the other interpretation - this is, after all, a picture firmly in love with its "B" roots) but then would not only invalidate the very fucking theme of the piece, but would also invalidate the "B" picture roots - 'cuz what ya'll are suggesting simply has never been done on film before (precedent set with my interpretation with INFERNAL AFFAIRS); cops/Feds turning to a hardened (3 times!) criminal and setting him up to run a criminal organization! Must be some real, real trustworthy convict for them to put him at the top and think they can control him, eh? And that's soooooo like the police (of any nation) to just throw in the towel and admit defeat by handing the keys to the kingdom to someone not there own, not police...'cuz just like criminals, don't police (of any nation) have a code, don't they have a way of looking and dealing with the world that prohibits outsiders?

and, if, IF, one were to believe the story related during Nikolai's induction (which I too, at first, thought was just "part of the initiation"), that indeed his mother was a whore (explains his dubious, dangerous and possibly cover-blowing saving of the whore Kirill had him fuck) - that indeed his father was in the same line of work he is - then your argument collapses upon itself completely, no?

'cuz then everything makes sense, all the pieces fit (aside from the w/t/f timeline, how Nikolai got an "in" in the first place) - he's an undercover cop out to bust the brotherhood like his father before him - why he would be willing to sacrifice his entire life, his happiness, for his job. Neat, tidy, and, above all, "B" picture worthy.



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Postby Lady Sheridan on Thu Jan 03, 2008 9:53 pm

Keepcoolbutcare wrote:
the mafia, the triads, the Yakuza - all "secret" organizations, all have had numerous, "realistic" films made about their inner workings as well, no?


The Russian Mafia isn't like any of those. That's been one of the problems law enforcement has had with it--they base it on previous models.

I don't know HOW it is different, because there hasn't been enough study on it. That's the whole point.

The movie itself is wrong in the sense that leadership is not passed down father to son, leaders seem to be elected. So already the idea that Kirill will inherit the business is wrong.

oh, so your an expert on KGB/FSB profiling too, eh? 'Cuz I'm sure those organizations have released all of there intel on their operations, knowing how forthcoming and open and honest the police-state of both Soviet and current Russia are.


Chill out. I never said anything of the kind, nor did I say I was an expert on the mafia. The stuff I read has been a mix of intel from all over. If anything, the FSB knows as little about it as anyone else, but with typical Russian secrecy, wouldn't admit to it. It's far more unlikely that FSB, with their "blame the Chechens!" mentality, would even have their act together to train up an agent like that.

Basically, I don't buy that any law enforcement agency, be it Scotland Yard or FSB, would be able to develop a tight enough backstory for their operative. Not in an organization they know so little about that they NEED an deep operative in place.

KeepCoolButCare wrote:
The film is in many ways about initial appearances and how deceiving they are, about how surface guises are necessary to fit into ones social place and the push-pull with one's own true nature, about duality (constant Cronenberg theme), about (throat) slashing through layers of character to reveal a truer understanding of them; the smooth, kind, grandfather intellectualism of Seymon to the gradual reveal of his murderous, homophobic and racial screed - the wild, insensitive, don't give a fuck playboy Kirill to a sympathetic queer who, literally, can't hurt a child - the brusque, gruff, "it's not our affair" dismissive alcoholism of Stepan who says one shouldn't go through the lives of a dead person to a curious busybody, patient translator and stand up guy - Anna's push-pull between daughter of Slavic immigrants and assimilation into English culture - and the final one, the big one, Nikolai's smooth hit-man/cleaner menace to big reveal that he's a cop.

fits thematically, no?


As does the idea that Nikolai might not be just a cop, but someone who has had to shift who he was. Again, I don't think Nikolai even knows who he is by the end, look at the expression on his face. If anything, a convict who became an operative would fit just as neatly into your grand theme. Considering that, at the end, we don't know if Nikolai might have played the cops just as easily as he played Semyon in order to become head of the organization.

This "fantasy" version you and your relative have concocted not only strains for credulity (as does, indeed, the other interpretation - this is, after all, a picture firmly in love with its "B" roots) but then would not only invalidate the very fucking theme of the piece, but would also invalidate the "B" picture roots - 'cuz what ya'll are suggesting simply has never been done on film before (precedent set with my interpretation with INFERNAL AFFAIRS); cops/Feds turning to a hardened (3 times!) criminal and setting him up to run a criminal organization! Must be some real, real trustworthy convict for them to put him at the top and think they can control him, eh? And that's soooooo like the police (of any nation) to just throw in the towel and admit defeat by handing the keys to the kingdom to someone not there own, not police...'cuz just like criminals, don't police (of any nation) have a code, don't they have a way of looking and dealing with the world that prohibits outsiders?


And does any mention of my relative need to be made? No. :roll: Don't be petty.

The thing is, Nikolai didn't go to prison for rape or murder. He went to prison for stealing car parts from the Soviet government. People did that all the time--my Polish friend said that while his family wouldn't stoop to it, most government workers didn't consider it stealing. But if you were caught, you were fucked. This WAS a government that gave 10 year gulag sentences for political jokes.

Nikolai probably went in at 15, got out, and went back in numerous times for stealing from the Soviets. Again, you're putting alot of faith in the fact that a prison sentence makes him guilty of truly rotten crimes, whereas I figure he was a victim (and opportunist) of the Soviet government. It fits with his age and was regrettably common.

Anyone with prison sentences under the Soviets probably wouldn't be persona non grata to American or British police, and probably not to FSB either. Tons of people went to prison under the Soviets. Only a few probably deserved it.

KeepCoolButCare wrote:and, if, IF, one were to believe the story related during Nikolai's induction (which I too, at first, thought was just "part of the initiation"), that indeed his mother was a whore (explains his dubious, dangerous and possibly cover-blowing saving of the whore Kirill had him fuck) - that indeed his father was in the same line of work he is - then your argument collapses upon itself completely, no?


Where are you getting this? His father was a government worker--which means anything from offices to factories. It does not mean he was a cop. Part of the vory v zakone code (and you can look this up) is that a man forsakes his family--mothers, fathers, siblings--and will never have one himself.

So the fact that they call his mother a whore, and his father a weakling (for willingly working for the government, and not engaging in thievery as Nikolai did) is part of the initiation. They're insulting his family, and he forsakes them. He doesn't defend them. A lesser man would go "No, they were good people!"

So, what were you saying about my argument again?

KeepCoolButCare wrote:'cuz then everything makes sense, all the pieces fit (aside from the w/t/f timeline, how Nikolai got an "in" in the first place) - he's an undercover cop out to bust the brotherhood like his father before him - why he would be willing to sacrifice his entire life, his happiness, for his job. Neat, tidy, and, above all, "B" picture worthy.


And you say my explanations are fantasy. The idea of Nikolai following hin his father's footsteps? Where on earth did you get that from the movie?
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Postby Lady Sheridan on Thu Jan 03, 2008 9:58 pm

Further details on the tattoos. I'm quite eager to find the documentary too:

http://www.filminfocus.com/essays/when-the-ink-dries-the-legacy.php
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