Of Freaks and Men (1998)

Sergey Makovetskiy, Dinara Drukarova, Anzhelika Nevolina, Viktor Sukhorukov,
Dariya the maid getting a boy to touch her large breast is just one incident that occurs when Yohan and Victor infiltrate two families, forcing young Liza and blind Ekaterina to appear in porn, but they are not so innocent themselves
  • 7.1 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Writer:
  • Aleksey Balabanov, Director:
  • Oleg Botogov, Sergey Chliyants, Sergey Selyanov, Producer:

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10 / 10

Cynical, dark, beautifully shot

This is one rich movie of one of the most respected Russian directors of the turn of the millennium (Cargo 200, Brother 1 and 2), in his most stylistic edition.

The movie has a Dostoevskian feel to it, and is extremely cynical. A psychopathic and art producing pimp and his menacing henchmen, his evil murderous sister, a corrupt girl and adulterous wife meeting their fate, a seemingly innocent but ultimately plagiarizing thief of a youth, a pervert maid and dirty old nanny, an alcoholic perverted kid who has a Siamese brother, perhaps one of the only three moral characters, who are all met or faced with death, all inhabit this fictional universe. Unloved unselfish husband and famous doctor, a good engineer with a weak heart and several other characters die or are offed in most leisurely and fun ways. This bleak but realistic portrayal of the human condition is a reflection of the Yeltsin perverted era in which this masterpiece was produced.

The movie is very reflective and well done. It has a well placed and impeccably paced misanthropy for which the now deceased director is famous, director who despite of his immense talent, probably rots in Hell. Not because he is necessarily evil, but because he is exactly the kind of amusing character Devil would like to have a company of. He feels quite at home there, if indeed there is such a place, observing the inhabitants of doom with the same detached amusement and artistic wit he demonstrated aptly in his cinematic gems.

7 / 10

Marvelous Psycho-Sexual Film With Authentic Period Atmosphere

OF FREAKS AND MEN is a constantly interesting story and film-------very well photographed---------about a strange, psychopathic pornographer who makes movies of women being whipped by a "nanny" for the underground market at the turn of the century. The film is shot in a sepia tone to give a nice authenticity to the proceedings. If you've seen photographs from the fin-de-siecle, you realize what marvelous recreations of those romantic-------though risqué--------photographs the filmmakers have achieved. Many of them look very much like the photographs of Julia Margaret Cameron----------one of the finest photographers working after the Civil War, who specialized in photographing women in dream like, highly romantic, almost spiritual scenes. She never did photos like this, of course, but the same care was taken in the art direction of this film.

But most interesting of all is the psychological workings of the minds of the very respectable middle class characters who find themselves drawn to this seedy business against their wills, but are quite willing to pursue their newfound inner freedom after the pornographer has left. This is one of Image Entertainment's most artistic releases for 2001. More please.

Jay F.

7 / 10

A Russian oddball

Every so often one has the pleasure of discovering a film so unusual that it seems that nothing has influenced it in its creation of a world all its own. One such was David Lynch's "Eraserhead", another, Charles Laughton's "Night of the Hunter" and now to join the august company is Alexsei Balabanov's "Of Freaks and Men". By dressing up a most scurrilous plot in images of extraodinary elegance and beauty the director has created an astonishingly original entertainment. Turn of the century St. Petersburg is hauntingly captured in beautiful sepia visuals of waterways and bridges, classical exteriors and upper class salons. But behind this facade the very devil is at work in the form of a gang of pornographic photographers who insinuate themselves into the lives of two respectable families whom they summarily proceed to corrupt. In due course the daughter of a highly respected engineer is enjoying having her naked buttocks spanked by an old crone in front of the camera, while the blind wife of a doctor in the other household becomes infatuated with another member of the gang who is only there to satisfy his paedophiliac fascination with the adolescent boy Siamese twins she and her husband have adopted. And this only for starters! As things go from bad to worse and goings on become more depraved - although admittedly we see no more than the odd spanking - the visuals become ever more beautiful particularly when the twins travel to the snowbound east and the girl travels west to wander a townscape of blowing autumn leaves. I think Balabanov is trying to say something about the voyeuristic nature of the camera and the progress of photography from still to moving pictures. To probe for deeper meanings wound not be very fruitful from a film whose raison d'etre, I suspect, is simply to intrigue and delight.

8 / 10

Bleak but refreshingly different and evocative

In an era in which the video shop shelves and TV schedules are dominated by formula-pap, it is refreshing to find a film that stimulates thought for days afterwards. The question is: what's it all about? Is the film commenting on life in pre-revolutionary Russia, on the exploitation of 'freaks', on the corrupting power of pornography, or perhaps none or all of these? I came away from it thinking that the film was primarily about the ways in which film-making can be misused; that it examined the role of those drawn into 'the pornography industry' whether exploiter, exploited, or idealistic artist more interested in technique than subject matter. In thinking about that interpretation I found myself pondering the role of Putilov, seemingly an idealist; would it not be more accurate to describe him as amoral, as the artist determined to remain aloof from the degradation and humiliation required for completion of his projects?

I think the film raises questions about the extent to which the film-maker can remain untarnished by the moral issues that he purports to examine objectively and from a detached perspective. If Putilov agrees to co-operate in the filming or photography of the naked, frightened Siamese twins or of the whipping of a young woman can he really escape responsibility for their plight? Is he really entitled to walk away with his reputation intact? The immoral Johann is easier to condemn: he is a sadist who will kill at the drop of a hat to preserve his way of life and business. A jury would take much longer to decide its verdict on Putilov.

8 / 10

Fascinating use of colour, breathtaking cinematography

I've seen this brilliantly directed Russian movie at the 18th Istanbul International Film Festival and I was mesmerized by the beauty of it. It's definitely not a movie for all tastes. It's crammed with sick ideas. But the film is very rewarding, for those who are willing to watch it. The use of colour (sapia) is fascinating and the cinematography is breathtaking. The film also has a unique sense of humor, it's very absurd and sometimes really funny. I think it may gain a cult status in time. This film makes you think, that the movies from the early era could have been nastier or maybe they were not that innocent at all. And of course that the art of movie-making (and also photography for sure) is highly connected with voyeurism. Well at the end I'd like to say: If you are familiar with these themes and if you are a devoted cinema lover then stick with this one, because it is a unique masterpiece and in my personal opinion it's one of the best movies of this decade.