Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Andrei Kudinenko: The Joke aka The Prank - Розыгрыш (2008)

Director: Andrei Kudinenko
Writer: Aleksandr Kachan
Stars: Ivan Alekseev, Yevgeni Dmitriyev, Dmitriy Dyuzhev

Selected in the following festivals :
- International debut film festival, Khanty Mansiysk (Russia), 2009
- Cinemania : World Film Panorama, Sofia (Bulgaria), 2008
- Russian Film Festival, Riga (Latvia), 2008
- Cinéforum ''Automne de l'Amour'', Blagoveshchensk (Russia), 2008
- Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Sochi (Russia), 2008
- Russian Film Week in New York, New York (USA), 2008

A remake of Vladimir Men'shov's popular comedy from 1977 of the same title, Andrei Kudinenko's film offers an interesting update on the theme of social relations in the Russian classroom. Unlike its Soviet predecessor, however, the contemporary version of  The Joke spares few clichés in its attempt to prove that Russia can also work within the John Hughes-inspired genre of teen melodramedy. Like other examples of the genre—Pretty in Pink (1986), Can't Buy Me Love (1987), Heathers (1990), Mean Girls (2004), etc. —The Joke draws on a number of familiar character types. To provide a laundry list: Here, we have the rich preppy (Oleg Komarov) and his yes-man (Korbut), the mean girl and her entourage (Tania, Alisa and Ekaterina), the dumb jock (Andrei), the smart, poor girl (Taia), the nerd who wants to be popular (Gera), the authoritarian dad (Komarov's father), the meek teacher (Vera Ivanovna), and of course, the new kid (Igor Glushko). With these ingredients, we need only cook it up in the traditional manner—public humiliation, a love triangle, consumerism, suicide attempt, the triumph of right over wrong and the final reconciliation via the school dance.

Set in an “ordinary Moscow school,” the beginning of  The Joke finds the reputation and social position of the handsome and popular Oleg (Evgenii Dmitriev) in jeopardy. Arriving to his English class late, the new teacher Vera Ivanovna (Iana Esipovich) assigns Oleg a “troika” after he botches an attempt to tell the class what he wants to do after graduation. Oleg is the son of a wealthy businessman who donates money to the school, and expects preferential treatment. To add insult to injury, he is outdone by Igor' (played by Russian hip hop artist, Noize MC), a new student from the Siberian village of Karymkary, who flawlessly talks about his hobbies (books and music) in English, and delights the class and Vera Ivanovna with some freestyle rhymes. ...

Reviewed by Joshua First © 2009 in KinoKultura

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