A little over seven months ago I completely flipped over Andrey Zvagintsev‘s Leviathan, which finally opens today. My 5.22 mini-review was titled “Crushes It — Almost Certain to Win Palme d’Or.” Two days later the Cannes jury gave Leviathan a piddly screenwriting award and handed the prestigious Palme d’Or to Nuri Bilge Ceylan‘s Winter Sleep, which I’ve since seen and quite enjoyed. The Ceylan is a mesmerizing, superbly constructed character piece — I was completely in its spell and barely noticed the running time — but it lacks the epic, symphonic power of the Zvagintsev (which is pronounced ZivYAHgintsev). Leviathan is a drop-dead brilliant, awesomely-composed-in-every-respect melodrama and moral tale that concurrently serves as a microcosm of (or metaphor for) a morally compromised, ruthlessly malevolent, bare-knuckled Russia. Political corruption, lust and infidelity, way too much vodka, blackmail and thuggery, gunshots, bromide-dispensing priests who kowtow to powerful scumbags, huge whale skeletons, crashing waves, rotting ships — this puppy has it all plus the aura of a majesterial art film plus opening and closing musical passages by Phillip Glass plus the most beautifully lighted, handsomely composed widescreen photography (by Mikhail Krichman) I’ve seen in a long time. And the acting — Elena Lyadova, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Dmitri Seleznev, Aleksey Serebryakov, Anna Ukolova — isn’t ‘acting’ but rooted, rock-solid behavior that kicks ass all the way around the block and back to your driveway.”