Reviews, Reports + Comments

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Review of film: “HIPSTERS” [ = REPORT # 10 re CIFF ]

2009, 10-12:

Review of film:  HIPSTERS   [ =  REPORT # 10 re CIFF = Chicago Int'l. Film Festival  ]


Valery Todorofsky.


Yuri Korotkov
Valery Todorofsky  (libretto)


Anton Shagin

Evgeniya Brik
Oksana Akinshina
Maksim Matveev
Konstantin Balakirev
Igor Voynarovskiy


“Every hipster is a potential criminal!”
“The saxophone is one step from a switchblade.”
“Jazz is not OUR music!”

MY Rating: 

8.5 of 10 stars.  A film from RUSSIA (where it was called “STILYAGI”).

CONFORMITY is Norm-ity:  Rebels play HOT in the Cold War battles.

During the Cold War in the 1950’s & beyond, the government of the Soviet Union strongly pushed ANTI-Western attitudes and punishment for those who didn’t conform to following their stringent policies…

 Children were urged to turn in their parents if they didn’t adhere to the highly-propagandized Communist party-line, and Rigidity brought Frigidity in many relationships.  Times were so tough financially, many generations in a family tended to live together in crowded housing--  meaning that you could cause deep disturbances just by sneezing too loudly in the confined quarters!...

  This film (which I saw in an advance screening) is set in 1955.  It centers on a young man named Mels (excellently played by ANTON SHAGIN).  It turns out his strange name is an acronym for Communist theorists & rulers Marx, Engels, Lenin & Stalin…

  That’s very fitting, because he’s a lead member of a government-encouraged VIGILANTE group (led by a woman named Katya = EVGENIYA BRIK) that belligerently goes around attacking people who seem to be emulating the dreaded “Western” ways of liking Jazz & Rock music and un-Soviet colorful (rather than drab) clothing…

  As fate (& romance) would have it, in confronting a Western-loving “Hipsters” group, Anton is attracted to a pretty tho rebellious woman named Polly (OKSANA AKINSHINA) who regularly patronizes the Pompadour Club…

  In part hoping to impress her & her crowd-- including band-leader / lead-singer Fred (MAKSIM MATVEEV -- as seen in photo below), nerdish Dryn (KONSTANTIN BALAKIREV), & Bob (IGOR VOYNAROVSKIY) --, Anton suddenly sports a high pompadour & starts playing the prohibited saxophone…

  He begins swinging in boogie-woogie style with her associates (including joining the band), & is thus looked upon with increasing derision by the regimented “square” people around him (especially his previously-supportive Communist Party comrades).

  Anton starts to shack-up with Oksana as he becomes an integral member of her hip-shaking clique.  There’s a marvelous melange of joyful & well-executed musical & dancing numbers with Anton & the others, finely choreographed & infused with colorful costumes & sets that make it a special delight (which is probably why it won the Russian “Nika” award -- akin to our Oscar -- as Best film)…

  But, people begin growing up, & times start changing:  Fred capitulates to economic necessity, changes his outward persona, goes to the U.S. (with his straight-laced Party-higher-up dad)--  & eventually reports back to Anton that he was surprised to find America is no longer the “Hip” place the Russian hipsters had considered it to be…

 Oksana gets pregnant, Dryn is drafted into the Soviet military, & other onetime-Hipsters start to sport simpler more “acceptable” dress & conduct… 

  In time, Anton receives a shock about his intimate relationship with Oksana (who he considered marrying).  The resolution of that seemed a bit “pollyanna-ish” to me (given the history of Russian antagonism --  especially at that time -- to people of different & especially darker races);  but, overall, the film is a cheerful JOY to watch…

  As a means of trying to “sell” the film, a “promoter” wondered, “Could this romantic, infectiously fun musical be this year’s ‘Slumdog Millionaire’?”  It’s NOT quite that (in that, while the music words often rhyme in Russian, they do NOT do so in the English subtitles, & that makes it harder to achieve a full “S-M” feeling)— tho it is indeed contagiously REFRESHING and fun 

  When you see all the sly SOCIAL-COMMENTARY inherent in the film which “puts-down” the Communist Cold War era, it shows how much the world has “CHANGED” in certain respects-- because this movie was partly funded by the Russian governmental Ministry of Culture!…

  The actors are excellent overall, &, like “S-M”, this is a finely-done drama with musical over- & under-tones.

  This movie was scheduled to play 3 times during the Festival.  But, it proved so popular, it was scheduled AGAIN during the “Best of The Fest” as a “Back by POPULAR DEMAND” film…

  And, in the International Feature Film Competition, it was awarded a Gold Plaque for BEST ART DIRECTION because of its “infectiously colorful and imaginative sets and its stimulating counterbalancing of a modern generation set against Soviet darkness.”

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