Posted March 19, 2018
JBFC Senior Programmer Andrew Jupin, responsible for programming for our Preview Club groups, recently shared his thoughts on February’s Preview Club screening, The Death of Stalin. Below you can find his thoughts on the film, which opens Friday, March 23rd at the JBFC (with advance tickets on sale now – click HERE to purchase!), as well as a list of films for Andrew’s “series that never was,” a spotlight on socio-political satire inspired by the work of Armando Iannucci, best known as the director of Death of Stalin, as well as the creative force behind In the Loop, and runaway T.V. hit Veep.
The Death of Stalin & Cinematic Satire
by JBFC Senior Programmer Andrew Jupin
The Death of Stalin had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September, 2017 and was released theatrically in the U.K. and other parts of Europe on October 20th, 2017. It had its U.S. premiere just a few weeks ago at the Sundance Film Festival.
The film is Armando Iannucci’s follow-up to 2009’s In the Loop, also distributed by IFC Films. That film, a scathing satire of the inner workings of the United States government, is loosely connected to Iannucci’s most famous work at the BBC, The Thick of It, a biting satire about the inner workings of, you guessed it, the British government.
The Thick of It is most remembered for giving birth to the charmingly profane Malcolm Tucker, a character immortalized by the great Peter Capaldi—probably best known now in the role of “The Doctor” on the last iteration of the classic British character. Capaldi’s Doctor “regenerated” at the end of last year, capping the actor’s four-year run as the beloved character. Additionally, Capaldi has a small role in both Paddington films and I have to say, those are two impossibly charming and beautifully funny films.
Stateside, Iannucci is best known for creating the hit HBO show, Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, for which he also acted as a showrunner from 2012–2015. One of the show’s former producers and writers, Ian Martin, helped co-write The Death of Stalin’s screenplay alongside Iannucci and additional writing partner, David Schneider, a successful writer and producer in his own right who has created several projects for British television, including a couple of “Alan Partridge” projects.
The Death of Stalin was adapted from a French graphic novel of the same name—La morte de Staline—which was written by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin. The graphic novel follows (more or less) the same track as the film; absent, of course, is Iannucci’s trademark rapid-fire dialogue and, yes, creative profanity. What the graphic novel does have that the film lacks is an opening disclaimer pointing out, if it wasn’t clear from the description, that the book is a work of fiction. Part of the disclaimer reads, “…the authors would like to make clear that their imaginations were scarcely stretched in the creation of this story, since it would have been impossible to come up with anything half as insane as the real events surrounding the death of Stalin.”
I think it’s a true credit to the reputation Iannucci has spent over a decade cultivating that this incredible cast was able to come together for the film. When you take a quick look, the amount of actors working here, coming from all acting backgrounds by the way—Simon Russell Beale plays a mean Richard II—is quite impressive: Steve Buscemi, Olga Kurylenko, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Andrea Riseborough (who is everywhere right now, having quite a moment), Paddy Considine, the aforementioned Simon Russell Beale, and even, in a fitting appearance considering the film partly plays like a big budget comedy sketch, the great Michael Palin!
Back when I came out of the industry screening for The Death of Stalin at least year’s Toronto International Film Festival, I was struck with the idea that it would be really great if, leading up to the film’s release, we did a brief retrospective of some great films featuring socio political satire of some kind. Unfortunately, since the film is being released right when we’re in the middle of our annual Westchester Jewish Film Festival, where screen space here at the Burns is already in short supply, it wasn’t in the cards. That said, I’d like to present you with the lineup of films I envisioned for the series that never was. If you see and enjoy The Death of Stalin and wish to start a journey down the rabbit hole that is cinematic satire, here are some other films you might enjoy:
*Please Note: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, the JBFC will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you*
- Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
- Wag the Dog
- Get Out
- In the Loop
- The Great Dictator
- Bob Roberts – Not available online. Check your local library!
- Duck Soup
- The Spook Who Sat by the Door
- The Candidate
- The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!
- God Bless America