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While the Cold War heats up on the world stage, rebellious youth in 1955 Moscow wage a cultural battle against dismal Soviet conformity, donning brightly colored black-market clothing, adopting American nicknames and reveling in forbidden jazz. Straight-laced 20-year-old Communist Mels finds these brazen 'hipsters' shocking until he falls under the spell of one, namely Polly, and joins the new revolution. Soon he's a peacock, cavorting in the latest flashy fashions, sporting an enormous pompadour and wailing on the saxophone. Written by
On 24 December 2008, one day before the official theatrical release, an exhibition called "Vremya stilyag" ("The Time of Hipsters") opened in Moscow as part of the film's promotion campaign. Admission was free. The exhibition was divided into two parts with a very large board made of iron. On the one side were 'artifacts' pertaining to the age of Soviet hipsters, such as anti-hipster articles and caricatures from the Soviet press, old TV set called KVN, rarity radio gramophones, a round advertising column etc. as well as costumes from the film, while the other side represented America of the early and mid-20th century, "the world of Soviet hipsters' dreams", featuring, for example, rare photos of Grace Kelly and Charlie Parker. There were over 150 exhibits in total, taken from private collections or provided by the Russian State Library. The exhibition lasted until mid-January 2009. See more »
You're worse than an enemy, Mels. You're a traitor.
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I saw this last month at the 2010 Palm Springs International Film Festival and of the 23 films I saw there this year I would put this at the top. The time is post Stalinist era Moscow 1955 and Mels (Anton Shagin) is a typical 20 year old member of the local youth Communist party where his girlfriend Katya (Eugeniya Brik) is one of the youth leaders. Co-existing in the gray cold war world of the USSR are the Stilyagi, an underground youth movement of no-conformists who wear outrageous bright colored black market western fashions and wear high pompadours and listen to underground subversive jazz and rockabilly music. Mels is attracted to the Hipsters and in particular the lovely Polza (Oksana Akinshina) who has westernized her name to Polly. Mels adopts their lifestyle and westernizes his name to Mel. He is eventually accepted as a Hipster by Polly and her friends Betsi (Ekterina Vilkova), Bob (Igor Voynarovsky) and their leader Fred (Maksim Matveev) a dashing young son of a wealthy diplomat. The scene for all the Hipster action is out in the open in an uptown district called 'Broadway' where the Pompadour Club is located and where underground records, clothing and musical instruments can be bought in dark alleys and safe houses. Directed by Valery Todorovsky and adapted for the screen by Yuri Korotkov, the author of the novel 'Boogie Bones' about the hipsters and bootleg western recordings this film blends drama with sly comedy and wraps them around a bright colorful musical that is indeed a cinematic event. Fantastic music score from Konstantin Meladze that is reminiscent of the music of the group Manhattan Transfer with wonderful clothing costumed by Aleksandr Osipov that are reminiscent of the Stray Cats and West Side Story this is a lavish production with a beautiful production design by Vladimir Gudilin and richly photographed by Roman Vasyanov. Lots of veteran Russian actors in supporting roles like Sergey Garmash, Oleg Yankovskiy, Alexsey Gorbunov, Irina Rosanova and Leonid Yarmolnik. A very original film chronicling a movement that would lead the way to the acceptance of jazz and rock and roll and future movements like hippies, punks and hip hop rappers. These counter-culture Hipsters of yesterday are the ultimate round pegs in a square world. I would hope this gets distribution in American art house theaters. The story itself isn't all that compelling but I don't think it's meant to be. It's more of a visual and auditory experience and it's a cinematic event. I would highly recommend it and give it a 10 out of 10.
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