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they desert the apartment and embark on a road trip across Moscow to find him, taking in a casino (one of the few out-of-date jokes), an office party at a bloated bank (slogan: The crisis missed us!)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

Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Centers Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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