[Originally published in Queen Anne & Magnolia News, June 9, 2010]
When it comes to cinema, for some of us (not naming names here), the terms “Russian” and “lugubrious” tend to be interchangeable. So encountering a movie like Hipsters is either liberating or deeply unsettling to one’s core values. This rollicking musical comedy, or comedy with lotsa music, is a hoot.
It’s 1955, and Moscowâ€”or at least a portion of its teens verging on 20somethingsâ€”does not believe in tears. On the other hand, quite a few party-line Communist youths do, and some of them are marshaling to conduct a night raid: a group of self-styled “hipsters” their age have gathered in a remote outbuilding to play jazz and dance. When the celebrants twig to the raid and try to escape, scissors-wielding apparatchiks lay hold of them and set about shearing their hair, which is done up in decadent fashion perceived to be Western. One gorgeous blonde (Elena Glikman) breaks free and runs into the adjacent park, with fervent reformer Mels (Anton Shagin) in pursuit. Even though the dance has been broken up, rambunctious jazz music continues on the soundtrack and scores their chase through the trees, tracked by a rushing camera in CinemaScope ecstasy.
Actually, Mels isn’t necessarily all that fervent in his commitment to repression. It’s more a matter of his having been browbeaten into it by his party supervisor and sorta-girlfriend Katya (Evgeniya Khirivskaya), a dark-haired zealot who gives every indication of being a stunner if only someone were to melt her severity a little. He catches up with the fleeing blonde, who identifies herself as Polza, which a second later isotopically transmutes into “Polly.” Even nicknames are vehicles for decadent Western influence, and it’s not long before Mels has become (say it isn’t so, comrade!) “Mel.”
Hipsters is one of two films representing SIFF 2010 Emerging Master Valery Todorovsky. The other, the 1998 Land of the Deaf, was not available for preview.