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Nasha Russia, the Movie

Published: February 5, 2010 (Issue # 1545)




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Ravshan and Dzhumshud arrive at Sheremetyevo Airport packed neatly in a suitcase and are promptly set to work redecorating an oligarchs apartment for the princely wages of 500 rubles ($16) each. Speaking broken Russian, they are forced to fend for themselves in Moscow, armed only with a plastic bag full of power tools.

The two gastarbaitery, or guest workers, from an invented but presumably Central Asian country are the heroes of Nasha Russia: Balls of Fate, the first feature film about Russias most downtrodden class. They originated as characters in TNTs television show Nasha Russia, a sketch comedy similar to Little Britain. In the show, they are incompetently repairing an apartment for It-girl Ksenia Sobchak, although theyve been doing it for a couple of years and theres no sign of her moving in yet.

The full-length film has had pretty good reviews in the broadsheets which resolutely ignored the television show. Thats probably because although it goes for easy laughs there are many jokes about toilets there are some sharp points, too. And even some sympathy for the people who shovel the snow in your yard every morning.

Ravshan and Dzhumshud are working for a moustachioed Russian boss played by Sergei Svetlakov, who also plays numerous other characters in the film who pockets 70,000 euros ($98,000) for their job and insists on confiscating their passports. Despite this, they have misplaced devotion for him. When they believe mistakenly that he is injured in a car crash, they desert the apartment and embark on a road trip across Moscow to find him, taking in a casino (one of the few out-of-date jokes), an office party at a bloated bank (slogan: The crisis missed us!) and the Sklifosovsky hospital, where doctors are bleary-eyed from overdoing the medical spirit.

The gastarbaitery dont really speak Russian which does limit the script opportunities although they talk to each other fluently in a made-up language that is translated. Theyre naive, trusting and easily shocked by male models or massage chairs. A lot of the jokes are slapstick, such as when they gatecrash the banks party and short-circuit the sound system as a pop singer is performing live, a joke that was probably a bit old in Singin in the Rain.

Theres some topical humor, too. Discussing what theyll do with their 500 ruble windfall from repairs, one says hell buy the next village, while the other confides, Ill invest in nanotechnology, the hobby horse of former energy chief Anatoly Chubais and President Dmitry Medvedev.

In my least favorite joke, they encounter a gay pride parade, where the marchers run away at the sight of police, only for a po-faced journalist to say to camera: Doesnt this make us look terrible to the European Union? Misguided they may be, Moscows defiant gay pride organizers are definitely not cowards.

The balls of fate of the films title refer to the golden balls of Genghis Khan, which the oligarch keeps in a box in his apartment. He demonstrates to his dinner guests that all he has to do is rub them and oil prices go up. While inquisitively exploring the apartment, the gastarbaitery find them and pop them into their plastic bag. The film ends with a standoff between the ludicrous oligarch his catch-phrase is I punish cruelly and an army of orange-clad gastarbaitery wielding spades and brooms around the Lenin statue on Kaluzhskaya Ploshchad.

It may not be the kind of orange revolution that keeps Prime Minister Vladimir Putin awake at nights, but the film does have a happy ending.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Aug. 20


AmCham gets back to business after a summer hiatus with todays EHS Committee Working Group Meeting. Check their website for more details.



Thursday, Aug. 21


Time is running out to see the fantastic creations on display at the 2014 Sand Castle Festival on the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Adhering to the theme of Treasure Island, visitors can wander amongst larger-than-life interpretations of pirate life or attend one of the workshops held to educate a future generation of sand artists. The castles will remain on the beach until Aug. 31.



Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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