Alexei Balabanov is a director from whom you can certainly never know what to expect next. Having had two monster successes in Russia with the taut gangster thrillers Brat (Brother) and Brat 2, the director then turned to a most unusual story indeed: the beginning of the Russian porn industry. But it's not a thriller, oh no, 'Of Freaks and Men' is a dreamlike lyrical film set in a marvellous sepia-hued St Petersburg. A local gangster, suffering from his own version of angst and some kind of oedipal longings, and his cohort invade the lives of two respectable families, including a blind matriarch and Siamese twins, forcing them to participate in 'spanking'movies. A kind of dream of turn of the century Russia is brilliantly evoked in the autumnal light, as the characters move silently through the deserted city on canal boats, horrible threat and aching beauty alternating with each other constantly. Of course, under Communism, porn was absolutely outlawed; with the fall of the Red Power, it's everywhere. Balabanov's fantasy story takes the sleaze out of porn and examinesit in terms of the psychological states of the characters involved. By the way, once you see this film you will want to visit St Petersburg - I did!