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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they desert the apartment and embark on a road trip across Moscow to find him, taking in a casino (one of the few out-of-date jokes), an office party at a bloated bank (slogan: The crisis missed us!)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

Monday, Oct. 20


Amateur pictures from World War I are on display for only one more day at Rosphotos exhibition On Both Sides, chronicling the conflict through the eyes of observers on both sides of the trenches. The price of entrance to the exhibition is 100 rubles ($2.50).



Tuesday, Oct. 21


The Environment, Health and Safety Committee of AmCham convenes this morning at 9 a.m. in the organizations office.


Take the chance to pick the brains of Dmitry V. Krivenok, the deputy director of the Economic Development Agency of the Leningrad region, and Mikhail D. Sergeev, the head of the Investment Projects Department, during the meeting with them this morning hosted by SPIBA. RSVP for the event by emailing office@spiba.ru before Oct. 17 if you wish to attend.


Improve your English at Interactive English, the British Book Centers series of lessons on vocabulary and grammar in an informal atmosphere. Starting at 6 p.m., each month draws attention to different topics in English, with the topic for this months lessons being visual arts.



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