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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 »
I don't want to be different
Because I don't imagine being better than others
You're not better, you're not worse. You're just different! Do you understand?
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The theatrical version was cut by ca. 12 minutes of more "dramatic" scenes. These scenes were restored for the DVD version and include:
A scene at the beginning where a sick patient is examined by Bob, who then uses his X-ray picture to create a bootleg LP.
Bob's arrest by the NKVD (predecessors of KGB) as he tries to buy jazz albums from an American.
The visit of Polza's mother at Mels' father, where she starts a fight with Polza.
Enjoyable and with insight into postwar Russian history
"Stilyagi" is one of the best Russian movies I have seen in the past 10 years. The director and actors did wonderful job. The movie is both romantic and fun, and at the same time it gives insight about a curious historical phenomenon.
The World War II not only devastated Russia, but also exposed the otherwise isolated country to Western culture through captured movies, vinyl LPs, art, fashion clothes, and other spoils of war. This was particularly valuable for people who wanted to express their difference from others. They started to copy perceived "American" lifestyle, especially the clothes, using films like "Sun Valley Serenade" and the covers of jazz LPs as primary references. Not surprisingly, the result was an outlook more typical for Western show business entertainers than for mainstream design. Although the group believed that their attire was the true definition of style, the rest of Soviet population labeled them "stilyagi" to show their disapproval. In the totalitarian regime "admiration for the West" was a felony, however, after Stalin's death state security was reluctant to take action and stilyagi were facing relatively modest retaliation, mostly from local Komsomol (Communist Party youth wing) activists.
Since the movie is about liberty and has elements of a modern musical, I feel like comparing it with "Across the Universe" (2007). In this comparison, "Stilyagi" is more dynamic and psychological, while actors' voices are just as good. The main duo of Anton Shagin and Oksana Akinshina, who are playing a Komsomol activist Mels in love with a female stilyagi member Polza, are delivering excellent performance, which is especially striking given their young ages. (It is ironic that Mels is an acronym for "Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin," and "Polza" in translation from Russian means "use.") A scene of a Komsomol meeting is truly memorable and in my view is a masterpiece. The music is mostly modern Russian pop and alternative rock, with lyrics adapted to the plot. The ending, which makes a connection between liberty ideals of stilyagi and modern youth, sounds like a bold statement in the nation that is still re-thinking its past.
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