Friday, 1 April 2011

Russia rejigs Soviet comedies in hit remakes

In search of sure-fire hits, Russian film directors are turning to Soviet comedies, updating the action to the present day and adding modern concepts such as product placement.

The latest film to be remade, 'Office Romance', is a 1970s romantic comedy poking fun at the Brezhnev era. It led the box office on its first weekend, despite a drubbing from critics, with one even urging a boycott of cinemas.

The Cinderella story of a dowdy statistics expert who finds love may be unknown in the West, but it was watched by 58 million viewers when it was released in 1978 and still gets regular showings on television.

The new version, 'Office Romance: Our Time', released March 17, transports the action to a commercial ratings agency in a Moscow skyscraper and takes the characters on a corporate outing to a Turkish beach resort.

In its first weekend, the film topped the Russian box office, earning $5.8 million, Kinobiznes magazine reported, a strong result in a market where Russian films struggle to compete with Hollywood.

Another well-loved romantic comedy by director Eldar Ryazanov, "Irony of Fate" was updated in 2007 and became the highest grossing Russian film, earning around $50 million.

Script writer Nikolai Kovbas said the makers hoped the formula would work again, with the familiar title attracting older viewers who would not normally go to to the cinema.

"Of course we hope for this. Naturally there are some expectations linked to this," Kovbas told AFP before the opening, adding that his film lacked the huge promotional backing from state Channel One, which remade the "Irony of Fate".

In the original, drab official Lyudmila has a chauffeur-driven limousine and a central Moscow apartment, but her high position comes with a severe image: clumpy shoes, a brown suit and no hint of makeup.

In the new film, she is a yuppie in Chanel glasses with an elegant chignon, a gold-plated cell phone and a chauffeur-driven Bentley.

Kovbas told AFP he spent weeks thinking how the story could be updated and decided Lyudmila's dowdy image had to go. ...


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