Friday, June 15, 2018

The Sniffer

This is a Russian series shot in the Ukraine. The bad thing about it is that it must be read to be comprehended, the good thing about it is you can learn a lot about how Russian language is spoken naturally just by following along. You know, da means yes and nyet means no and dasvidaniya, don't get any on ya, means goodbye, but here you get to see how common words are used in natural speech, how the phone is answered, how people say "well..." to move conversation along. It is an excellent language course that works by osmosis, by natural interest. The show makes being Russian seem natural as being American. Scenes of Ukraine look like scenes shot in America. The Russian bureaucracy looks nothing at all like everything we've seen to this point. Russia is updated. Russia is depicted like America is depicted, with too many guns and way too many gunfights. Far too much hand-to-hand fighting to be anywhere near realistic. The show has a Marvel cartoon quality to it. There is quite a lot of stretching of possibility, for example the last episode of second season the main character researches his adopted father that leads to encountering his real father who is an outrageous super villain set up unrealistically in his own unrealistic lab who uses the hero's stem cells unrealistically to 3-D print a new heart unrealistically. The timing of various separate choreographed fights all conclude unrealistically at the crucial last second bring all to a comic book-like satisfying conclusion.

I watched poorly. You must pay attention and I did not. I missed more than I took in and I was still mesmerized by what I saw. Russians are great story tellers and now they're telling stories as Americans do, I must say, a bit better.

The settings and locations are breathtaking. Unrealistically so. Too clean. Too simple. As comic book drawings, every element in each scene is put there for purpose. The hero's apartment is unrealistically large and far too simple. His character possesses super smell sense, greater than bloodhounds and with exceptional analytical ability. He comprehends chemical compounds, their purpose in manufacturing and their locations and years of production. He wears a nose filter that he removes with a pinch so that he can analyze a scene. When he does a picture forms from residual odor particles of a previous event as if from smoke that appear then disappear and move to re-form in another area of the room, so that outside his personal experience, he is viewed by others as a nutter looking closely into something that isn't there.

The garage in his apartment basement is too large for one vehicle, to high a ceiling to be a garage in real life, his windows too expansive looking out onto a cityscape that is too glorious and too pure. It cannot be Moscow, it cannot be New York or London or Paris, nor Tokyo, no, the windows and the cityscape are a cartoon. His ability is superhero ability. His wife is super-bitch wife. There is no wife that sharp, that short, that demanding, that dismissive, that accusative, that obnoxious who lives. You despise her instantly then marvel at the actress who can pull it off. And you know her extremism is presented so the opposite can be shown, so you wait for the moment she becomes vulnerable. Sure enough, she gets hurt and needs help, but the viewer is inured by her abuse so gives her no sympathy. No matter how long she puts up an act of being vulnerable by being pregnant, the viewer is waiting for her to revert to form and she satisfies that expectation too. A bit predictable, but still very good acting, and the actress makes you despise her just for being the character she plays. I love this actress because her range is so fantastic.

All these characters appear harsh at first because they are Russian, the police officer friend of the hero, their boss in his own splendid and unrealistic office, an architectural thing of brutalist beauty, unlike depictions of Russia we've seen. Everywhere that they go, the airport, the docks, medical institutions, restaurants, are all splendidly worked out, each one down to the last detail. There is never anything extraneous in any single frame. The whole thing is put together that tightly.

The imagination is impressive. Like Dune, the writers take one thing, increased sense of smell, and allow their imaginations to run rampant around the ramifications stemming from that, how that affects a man's relationships, how that would interfere and prevent relationships from happening, what others would have to tolerate from him, how he would fashion his life around this ability, how it would help him and others, how it would hurt him and hurt others, what happens when it's shut off by injury, the unwanted intimate things it reveals, how that messes him up just getting along. How his simple statements of fact shock other people imagining they have privacy. What foods he can eat, which foods would repulse him. How that affects living with others. How his wife barging in on him and removing her shoes drives him nuts, and how he handles such things. How the simple presence of cats completely messes him up. It's fascinating just watching how the writers develop this one single change. They're brilliant by all the subtle touches they toss into the script. He makes a perfume for his girlfriend that is perfect for her, his ex-wife befriends her and leans in to smell it. "Nothing. I think he's just messing with you." His best perfume matched to a woman with perfection is so subtle that it doesn't even exist as scent for other people. Come on! That's hilarious.

Nearly every location has electronic surveillance, an array of monitors and guards watching. Quite a lot of reliance on electronics, technology and especially cell phones. There is a futuristic quality to locations, automobiles and costuming.

The opening scenes grab your attention and make you want to stick with it. Each episode is long. Nearly an hour.

Use settings to turn on subtitles.


Sixty Grit said...

"do svidaniya" - I noticed that because I thought it was "dos" whatever, but instead it has the "sv" construct at the beginning of the word, which is not that common in English.

Or as my coworker Victor would say "до свида́ния". And he meant it. Have a good day until we are meeting again, or else!

chickelit said...

Sounds like horrorshow series. I’ll give it a go.

Trooper York said...

I have been watching this. It is hilarious.

I also highly recommend "Marcella" which is a English cop show made by a Swede so there is a bunch of psychological craziness. Well worth it.

William said...

I watched about fifteen minutes. Apparently his superpower is his sense of smell. Not much crossover potential for the Marvel universe. Maybe his nemesis has extreme body odor and eats raw garlic.,...I saw Catherine the Great on Amazon. The first series was terrific. The actress who played Catherine was witchy and beautiful. The actor who played her husband , Peter, was another dimension of good. The historical Peter was part retarded, part crazy, and part evil and the actor who played him didn't miss a beat on the chord changes. Maybe acting is something the Russians are good at. Land of Stravinsky.

chickelit said...

As promised, I watched a couple episodes of this last night. It’s a keeper. Reasons to like: It’s set in Russia and you get all sorts of visuals of tha5 part of the world, some obviously modern, glimpses of ol’ factories which must be from Soviet time or even earlier.

The sniffer protagonist is sort of a chemist sleuth. I sat chemist because he uses his nose like a gas chromatograph, detecting trace this and trace that. He interrogates people in an instant, much like Cumberbunch does in “Sherlock” deducing all sorts of facts and even motives from one whiff. “You recently had sex with the stewardess not one but twice in the cabin.”

The women in “The Sniffer” so far are pretty 2-dimensional: either bitches or eye candy. Kudos to the redhead physician who can’t keep her blouse buttoned. Are you listening, Sixty?

chickelit said...

Lots of typos in that post. I blame the keyboard settings in a new iPad.

Sixty Grit said...

Well now that show just got a lot more interessovatsky to me.