Mikhail Khodorkovsky was once considered the richest man in Russia, one of Putin’s original oligarchs, served a ten year prison stint in a Siberian gulag for fraud, became a generous philanthropist and an exile from his Motherland, Documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney explores the life of this complex man in “Citizen K.”
After watching Gibney’s latest doc, I felt the strong urge to look into the man’s life. While the filmmaker does delve into the details of Khodorkovsky’s colorful existence and many careers, I did not have the feeling I was given enough information on the guy – and far more than I expected on Vladimir Putin.
I suppose that a documentary about the man who was once a Putin ally and now a staunch opponent would have a bunch of info about the real richest man in Russia. The first half of “Citizen K” does adhere to Khodorkovsky rise, fall and rise again. The second half, though, is a cautionary note against the power that Vladimir Putin wields in Russia and the threats he poses internationally. The focus of the film, at a little before the halfway mark, switches gears from Khodorkovsky and his life to scathing treatise on Putin and corruption.
I wanted more on the former oligarch and less on the dictator of Russia, whom I already know and loathe. Gibney, maybe, should have given us two, companion docs – one on the former oligarch and another on the most dangerous man in the world, I give it a B-.
Alex Gibney’s documentary may be named after Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest oligarch after taking control of Siberian oil fields and forming the very successful oil company Yukos, but Gibney uses Khodorkovsky’s story to illustrate how the communist Soviet Union turned into Putin’s dictatorship after flirtations with democracy. Khodorkovsky is a fascinating figure, quite credibly accused of murder yet now a hero of the anti-Putin movement. “Citizen K” is a fascinating piece of work, at once a highly unusual biopic and a solid primer on recent Russian history. It is also a cautionary tale...some of the parallels to what is happening in the U.S. are alarming.
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