Cannes 2018: Soviet Rock Biopic ‘Leto’ Finds Parallels with Russia Today

This review/interview is by our guest writer, Redmond Bacon.

Leto (Summertime) is a combination of the traditional rock biopic and arthouse film; an auteuristic tale of love, optimism, melancholy, and loss told against the backdrop of a rapidly developing musical scene. It’s as if Almost Famous met Walking The Streets of Moscow. Set in the early ’80s, the star of the show is Viktor Tsoi (played by Teo Yoo), who would later become Russia’s most iconic rock star. Dying at the young age of 30 in a car crash in 1990, he carries in Russia the same kind of counter-cultural weight as Kurt Cobain does in America.

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Roman Bilyk plays his mentor Mike Naumenko, the lead singer of the less famous Zoopark, while Irina Starshenbaum plays Mike’s wife Natasha. Based upon the memoirs of the real Natasha Naumenko, Leto is a story characterised by its naivety, optimism, and the very real belief that, for one brief moment, music could change the world. This message of rebellion comes at a time in Russia in which many artists feel their artistic freedoms imposed upon. This is especially true in the case of the director of Leto himself.

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