Nov 3, 2014

Review: Luna Papa (1999)

Luna Papa is one of those relatively unknown movies that I love stumbling on. The less people have seen it, the better. It's a movie that relatively unknown in North America anyway. I had never heard of Luna Papa before and I had never heard of Russian director Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov either.

Luna Papa is definitely his most famous movie by far though and made the rounds through several film festivals around Europe. Khudojnazarov even won best director at the Russian Nika Awards which is like the Academy Awards in the US, so that's nothing to sneeze at.


Genre: comedy, drama
Directed by: Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov
Produced by: Philippe Avril, Karl Baumgartner, Thomas Koerfer, etc.
Written by: Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov, Irakli Kvirikadze
Music by: Daler Nazarov
Running time: 107 minutes
Production company: Euro Space, Les Films de L'Observatoire, NTV-PROFIT, etc.
Distributed by: Alfa Films, Arthaus Filmverleih, Euro Space, etc.
Country: Germany, Japan, Tajikistan, etc
Language: Russian, Tajik
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Chulpan Khamatova, Moritz Bleibtreu, Ato Mukhamedzhanov, Merab Ninidze, Polina Raykina, Nikolay Fomenko, Lola Mirzorakhimova, Sherali Abdulkajsov, Dinmukhamet Akhimov, Azalbek Nazriyev


Seventeen year-old Mamlakat (Chulpan Khamatova) loves theatre and aspires to be an actress herself one day. A theatre company is passing through her village and she's excited to see the show. She arrives too late however and leaves disappointed. Before being able to go home, she's charmed by an actor who says that she has talent and knows Tom Cruise himself. Mamlakat lets him have his way with her. It's no surprise when she discovers that her lover has disappeared the next day, leaving her in a pretty bad situation.


Luna Papa might sound like it's a really serious and dramatic movie from the synopsis, but it's got this really imaginative and weird tone going on at the same time. It's an odd combination but it really works well at keeping things light and not overly dramatic. A big reason for the weird atmosphere is probably because of Mamlakat's family. Her father (Ato Mukhamedzhanov) is definitely a strange, if unpredictable guy and her brother (Moritz Bleibtreu) seems to be mentally challenged.

When Mamlakat's father finally finds out the news about Mamlakat's pregnancy, he's understandably furious. His name will be ruined once the village finds out that is daughter is pregnant without a husband. So he makes it his quest to find the guilty actor who impregnated his daughter. Both him and Mamlakat's brother bumble about trying to find the guy, leading to some pretty funny situations.

Performances are all pretty strong, especially when it comes to Chulpan Khamatova as Mamlakat. She has a lot of energy and goes through a wide variety of emotions that she displays admirably.
Ato Mukhamedzhanov is just fine as the eccentric and explosive father. Moritz Bleibtreu also does a great job as well as Mamlakat's brother. Playing a mentally handicapped character always requires a delicate balance, but he succeeds. Nasreddin is not only just fun to watch. Bleibtreu brings a sense of nobleness to his character and does everything very respectfully.

Despite the comedy, Luna Papa still has some pretty serious and dramatic moments. In a village that is very conservative and very traditional, the situation is definitely pretty tense for poor Mamlakat. Without a father for the child, she risks being shunned which leads her to making some pretty drastic decisions. As the pregnancy goes on, the situation gets more and more dire. Along with some good cinematography and a unique sounding score, Luna Papa is interesting from start to finish.

Luna Papa could've been a real downer of a movie. Not that there's anything necessarily wrong with that, but I just really enjoyed the surreal feeling that Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov brought to this film. The combination of weird and dramatic is a nice marriage and makes for a lot of uncertainty because you never really know what's going to happen. Regular rules don't seem to apply to Luna Papa. The strong performance of Chulpan Khamatova also deserves to be highlighted.



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