Thursday, 29 April 2010

Sergei Solovyov: Classmates - Одноклассники (2010)

Director: Sergei Solovyov
Writers: Sophia Karpunina, Sergei Solovyov
Cinematography: Sergei Machilsky
Composer: Anna Solovieva (II)
Artist: Sergei Ivanov (V)
Producer: Sergei Solovyov
Production: Studio Line Cinema, Nisko
Year: 2010
Premiere: 11 March, 2010
Actors: Konstantin Kryukov, Aristarchus Venesa, Sophia Karpunina, Andrei Rudensky, Andrew Mezhulis, Mikhail Efremov, Alyona Bondarchuk, Elena Drobysheva, Daniel Olbrychski
Genre: melodrama

Sergei Solov’ev: Classmates (Odnoklassniki, 2010),reviewed by Oleg Sulkin © 2011

Sergei Solov’iev is a brand—whether you like him or not. He is a brand without a system, a sovereign world with its own laws and lawlessness, its own vocabulary, its own ostentations and snarls. Everything within this brand is uniquely Solov’evian. This world is like a pendulum swinging between two obsessive ideas. The first is the desire to reduce Russian classics to a beautiful dialectical formula of triumphalism with the simultaneous destruction of the ‘beauty, intelligence and goodness’ triad. The second is a profound belief in some God-given and extremely subtle understanding of the maturing of Soviet and post-Soviet children.

In 2009-10, the Solov’ev pendulum made a full arc, producing two notable brand products. The ‘classical’ Anna Karenina featured the beautiful and intelligent sacrifice of Mr Karenin triumphing over Anna’s beautiful and reckless betrayal. Anna is played by Tat’iana Drubich, a completely different blood type to Tolstoy’s heroine. In a normal movie she would be considered terribly miscast, but in a Solov’ev film it promotes the thoughtful cocking of the eye and pronouncement: ‘There is something cool in this miscasting’. The second brand product was the teen film Classmates.

I believe the connections of the film’s title with the hugely popular social networking website were important for Mr Solov’ev’ in terms of PR. David Fincher’s Social Network (2010) fulfilled audience expectations by telling the history of Facebook. In contrast, Classmates is about entirely non-virtual people, many of whom have not come close to a computer. The deceit begins with the title and smoothly transfers into the first frames that feature a factory—the conventional launch-pad for many industrial dramas of Soviet cinema. The foundry does not appear anywhere else, or at least I did not notice it. The big boss comes to inspect his holdings, instantly recognizable by the expensive black car and robust minions who obligingly open its doors. The boss-oligarch is played by Andrei Rudenskii, an actor of noble, aristocratic and somewhat nervous appearance that oligarchs, if for some reason they condescend to see this movie, will be pleased to observe.

Next, we see the oligarch in the car, where he negotiates a restaurant meeting by mobile phone. There they sit: two couples talking about things oligarchic. They recall our common Soviet past, becoming excited when they recall the price of vodka as “2.87” in old rubles and remember the melted cheese “Druzhba” accompanying their drinking in doorways. The oligarch’s friend, a man of much simpler appearance, demonstrates to the great amusement of the women how from prolonged pocket storage this cheese melted and then stretched and stretched and stretched. Then the man begins to imitate trying to unglue his hands, just like the unforgettable Louis de Funès showed pulling a very long nose in one of the most popular comedies of the 60s. ...

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