five ways to leave your lover: #4 brighton beach

Last night, Lukas screened Five Ways to Leave Your Lover, shot on 16mm film. It went to the Short Film Corner at Cannes this May, and I finally saw Way #4: Brighton Beach. Watch it.

In less than ten minutes Lukas, a pro-snowboarder turned filmmaker from Vermont, somehow captures the essence of Brighton and Russian relationship dynamics (leave and come back, anyone?). It’s almost amazing. Inna is in the red dress, and her own father plays her father in the short. Watch.

Lukas was my student while he was at Columbia. Last spring he asked me if I knew any Russian actors for one of his shorts. I did, and told Danchik’s Inna about it. The short was meant to be filmed out in the Rockaways, but the location had to be changed to Brighton. Perfectly so.

At some point when filming, Lukas asked Inna how we knew each other and Inna replied, “We share the same boyfriend.”

Lukas was intrigued. I can just picture his expression, head slightly lifted, eyes sparkling, mouth open in “ahHHhh.”

“Uh, not exactly,” I laughed, much later. Definitely meaning was confused in her translation.

Initially Inna did not get why I connected them. I explained that Danchik is now like a little brother to me. I love him but am not in love with him. If Danchik loves you and has for some years now, clearly I love you, too. And why not introduce one amazing artist to another? (I’m not being douchey. They are amazing. Watch it.)

Nevertheless, Danchik and I aren’t really speaking at the moment. He’s annoyed with me for reasons I find mysterious and tiring, and I’m annoyed with him. Danchik can be an asshole. He knows it. He owns it. Unlike most people, he doesn’t pretend to be a good person, nor does he need to rely on such pretense as a mode of seduction. Yet he can be a very, very good person. I admit my acceptance was based on his not being an asshole to me, or in front of me, and recently he was. And I was offended. Whatever. I’m over it.

Seeing Inna fanned my current frustration about people, relationships, and how we view the world. We live in such little boxes of thought and expectation that we do not really perceive or understand the world around us. Inna and I discussed Russian men and American men, the pros and cons of each, and I admit I see her relationship with Danchik as being completely Russian in its patience and execution. My lack of this “womanly” patience (yes, to my American view, doormattery) is inherently why Danchik is annoyed with me. Yet it’s our difference and we won’t talk about it. We will let time heal us or we won’t.

Now, we will size life up as it fits our stories, not ever pulling our projections off the world to see it as it is. It is exhausting and the root of all misery. Danchik probably does not know or care that I am annoyed with him, and I am exhausted by his story around why he is annoyed with me. We are so attached to THE WAY WE SEE, the way we think and understand (not least because it is how we define ourselves), that we don’t give life a chance.

How to stop? Dunno. I think I’ll watch this for the 41st time for clues and comfort.

And this too, more kind of unbelievable student magic in film art & yoga: Purva’s Kumaré opens this week at IFC. How am I so lucky as to have such amazing people in my classroom and life? The list goes on and on. At risk of wanking, I will say I am hugely grateful. I never wanted to teach yoga, but it’s brought me the best of everything.


12 thoughts on “five ways to leave your lover: #4 brighton beach

  1. It IS amazing. I gotta admit that I teared up, when they all started to walk away and she just sat there with the plate…

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    1. Right? And who proposes to a Russian girl at the mother’s birthday party? Dumb american boy! 😉

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  2. It’s not bitchiness coming out. It’s just this general dissatisfaction with life and depression and tiredness of living a poor life, disconnected and uprooted. Living an immigrant’s life is tough. Especially once you are in that transitional age, when you look back and don’t see a sense in the life you are living.

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    1. Lukas, a 10 minute recon of Brighton would have clued him in. Seriously, nice to see Polina explaining your own character to you! You are mighty protective of this American boy. Wait a second. Is this semi-autobiographical? Is THIS how you got Russo-brooklyn so right? Remember, it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to… (Friday’s your day!) xoxo

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  3. I guess it is a little ridiculous to argue with the creator about his own characters, but sometimes your creation get a life of its own =) I felt a very deep connection with this family and I think you captured the dynamics really well, so that it got a deeper layer) I also think the work is really great and I’d actually be really interested in seeing them in a chronological order, like you meant for it to be! =)

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    1. Oh, P, I wasn’t saying you were ridiculous. I was saying Lukas was ridiculous for not getting his own character. 😉 And I agree. I told Lukas that one of my students who grew up in Brighton (Nina) said, “wow, intense! too, too true.” He really gets it. Yes, all of the pieces are great. When do we get to see them in order?

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  4. Ha, ha I was joking! The American dude obviously has met her before, since they have been dating a while. His character is a bit self-absorbed, so he’s gonna propose if he wants to. I’m glad it’s working for the Russian crowd. It was co-written by a Siberian immigrant friend of mine,Tamriko Bardadze-Shaffran. She knows the story well. I’ll make sure the full FIVE get online sometime, but it won’t be for a while, until we are off the festival tour. Thanks for the kind words and creative encouragement!

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