Set in the late 1920's Soviet Union, Ostap Bender and Ippolit "Kisa" Vorobyaninov are after stash of diamonds hidden in one of the chairs in 12-chair set. They are forced to go on a cross-country chase when the chairs are auctioned of.Written by
I don't speak Russian (though Russia accounts for 100% of my ancestry) but I've had occasion to get familiar with those works of Ilf & Petrov that have been translated into English. I've read and own every translation and while I was at it, decided to acquire as many of the cinematic adaptations as I could, which wound up being most of them, through various online sources.
12 CHAIRS has given rise to 15 available video versions (some for TV, one the recording of a stage musical) with one from India yet to follow. Some just use the basic plot as a springboard, eight are relatively faithful to the novel and differ primarily in tone and approach. If you know the novel well, they're easy to follow, even without Russian fluency. This miniseries being among them.
While I agree with the posters who believe the 1971 Gaidi feature film is superior -- it may be the iconic adaptation of the story, plus it's simply brilliant filmmaking -- this 1977 miniseries has its advantages and charms. It seems clear that director Mark Zakharov was very interested in channeling the spirit of the 20s in which it is set, and in doing so by emulating styles of performance, comedy, music and cinema of the period. He doesn't emulate them so much as put them through a filter to form a coherent contemporary film with an old school sensibility. The controversy (in these IMDb reviews) about Andrey Miranov's interpretation of Ostap Bender stems from (what seems to me) the fact that he's fulfilling Zakharov's 1920-esque vision. The look and the style are very consciously reminiscent of high-style, yet somewhat cool, romantic leading men like Valentino (in fact I'm willing to bet that Valentino was a conscious model). And I think whether or not you dig the miniseries will depend on whether or not you sign on for the particular ride the director wants to take you on. I was happy to go along.
My caveat is that despite the brilliance of individual sections, over the long haul the pacing seems slow-ish. (The '71 Gaidi film is perfectly paced, by contrast.) But it's still a fascinating miniseries, for its cultural perspective alone.
Also highly recommended for followers of Ostap are the two Russian adaptations of his second adventure, THE (LITTLE) GOLDEN CALF. Check out the stunningly brilliant 1968 film starring Sergei Yursky, and the periodically brilliant but always very good (and wonderfully cast) 2005 miniseries starring my favorite Ostap of all, Oleg Menshikov.
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