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The Death of Stalin

WINNER! FIPRESCI Prize, TIFF 2017, Nominated for Outstanding British Film of the year

“Veep” creator Armando Iannucci has spent enough time sending up America’s politics, he told the Toronto International Film Festival audience at the premiere of his new satire.

The new locale? Moscow circa 1953 for “The Death of Stalin,” a delicious black comedy based on a French graphic novel, with easily as much bite as his HBO series (and “In the Loop” and “The Thick of It,” its British predecessors).

The title refers to the galvanizing event, after which Stalin’s team of cronies scrambles to figure out who’ll fill the power vacuum and who’ll end up dead.

And what a team it is. Steve Buscemi leads as Nikita Khrushchev, and while his take on the future Communist Party leader is, well, a fair amount like every other annoyed, cringing Buscemi role, that doesn’t make it any less funny.

Jeffrey Tambor is equally riotous as the pompous Georgy Malenkov, whose outfits and hair gradually become more elaborate as he oozes closer to power.

Michael Palin does some Pythonesque toadying in the role of Vyacheslav Molotov, who’s willing to endorse any state-written version of the truth he thinks might save his skin — even when it comes to throwing his own wife under the bus.

And Jason Isaacs is a strutting general (his medals bounce dramatically off his chest as he walks) who’s all too ready to foment some military insurrection.

While they plot, the team also juggles the arrangement of Stalin’s funeral and the arrival of his children: Rupert Friend of “Homeland” is the drunken, petulant son, while Andrea Riseborough (“Bloodline”) is the oblivious daughter.

As with “Veep,” this is essentially a round robin of elaborate, obscene insults punctuated with sight gags — though “Stalin” also includes quite a few (mostly mercifully unseen) gunshots to the head. But of course, with its plot about a circle of coddled, petty yes-men formed under a mercurial tyrant, it’s far from anything we can imagine here at home.

Courtesy: Sara Stewart, New York Post

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Directed by: 
Armando Iannucci
Running Time: 
U.K., France, Belgium
Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jeffrey Tambor, Michael Palin, Jason Isaacs, Rupert Friend
Official site: 
Screenplay by: 
Fabien Nury, Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin, Thierry Robin

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