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Russian poet, singer and actor Vladimir Vysotsky was an idol of the 1970s and '80s. In 1980, at the age of 42, he passed away during the Moscow Olympic Games. This is the story of his last ... See full summary »
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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
This movie really has 1 thing going for it, which is the unusual cultural element presented. The Russian style and music movement this film is about is extremely eye opening, and the crew did an specular job visualizing it. It follows a typical Russian youth's discovery of and assimilation into a movement to expel the monotonous, monochromatic lifestyles of Soviet Moscow by extremely obsessing with Western fashion and music. Imagine Happy Days interpreted by someone on the other side of the world. The film features some musical elements and some modern songs.
From my older Russian relatives comments, sets and wardrobe were not extremely over the top. Stilagi means something like "stylish obsessed people" - it comes from the word stil' meaning style.
The film was not written for a western audience for the most part, but it could lead to some interesting discussion afterward. For instance, vinyl records were really bootlegged on x-ray sheets and certain musical instruments were extremely illegal!
I thought the actors did a nice job especially the young leads. But they did not sing the songs, nor were the songs from the proper era. The film felt more like a story with musical elements thrown in like Miike's Happiness of the Katakuris - except no zombies, claymation, etc.
However, unless viewing the film with some Russians you probably won't get the full potential presented here. Many of the older actors are extremely famous. The lead female is an actress with some Western recognition. Also some cultural elements like communal living, youth groups, social status, and relevance of characters' names were not explained for Western viewers.
On the negative side, the story itself is at times predictable and other times just absurd. Granted, this is a musical! The writers could have easily set up a straight forward love story set in troubled times, but they chose to extend the third act too far. If the film ended 40 minutes earlier, maybe I would enjoy it more. The plot has multiple loop holes, but addressing them would not help the narrative.
Overall, this can be equated to one of those weird Asian cinema offerings where since you can't get much of the language you ignore the ridiculous story and just focus on the vivid, excellent visuals. It also helps that there are some creative intimate scenes.
15 of 41 people found this review helpful.
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