Cinema of the Stagnation

Cinema of the
Stagnation Period
(approx. 1964-85)
as a response to life’s dullness
 Under Brezhnev: no economic growth, no
positive social changes; free thinking (the
dissidents) suppressed.
 The reign of bureaucracy; bleak life.
 Lining up for food; “getting” clothes and
other stuff.
 Jokes and comedies as antidotes to the
monotony and hopelessness.
The differences of the Soviet
cultural system from the West
 Detached from the market place: money provided by the state.
 No reason to work efficiently.
 Interaction between the needs of the party and the creative
freedom of the individual - testing the limits of the permitted.
 “Familial" relations between the different camps (Dom Kino).
 Inefficiencies in the system of control (e.g., approval of script,
but no control over the production).
 Control over distribution. Filmmakers don’t get royalties.
The separate strands of film
production of the Stagnation
 “Opportunists” (commercial and political) who worked
for the system (Bondarchuk – War and Peace;
Menshov - Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears).
 “Messianic elitism”- Andrei Tarkovsky’sfilms.
 “Populists” who steered a middle course
(EldarRyazanov, Nikita Mikhalkov), giving good
middle-brow films.
 “Entertainment” classics (Leonid Gaidai’s comedies,
The White Sun of the Desert (Vladimir Motyl, 1970)
 Cartoons (the multfilms, мультфильмы) for children
Film, film, film!(1968)
by Fyodor Khitruk
The White Sun of the Desert(1970)
by Vladimir Motyl
Leonid Gaidai (1923-93)
 Scriptwriter and director
 Slapstick comedies with
elements of music
 Best comic actors
 Popular punch lines
 Smuggled irony and
social criticism
 Success (up to 76 million
tickets sold per film)
The great comic trio
(Vitsin, Nikulin, and Morgunov)
Kidnapping, Caucasian Style
 Patriarchal values,
money and power vs
youth, love, liberated
 Protagonists: young
 Villain: a party member
who hires petty
 Song about polar
 Features twist - a
“bourgeois” dance in
positive light
Kidnapping, Caucasian Style
Kidnapping, Caucasian Style
Ivan Vasilievich
Switches Profession (1973)
 Time machine,
Ivan the Terrible,
“back to the
future” theme
 Colour vs black
and white =
dream vs reality
(ironic comment
on the epoch?)
The Diamond Arm (1968)
Semion, a good family man, gets
a chance to go on a cruise and
travel abroad
Meets a “nice guy” who is a gang
Smugglers take Semion for that
guy and put diamonds in the cast
on his “broken” arm
Back at home, Semion
collaborates with the police as a
sitting duck while the gangsters
try to get the diamonds at all cost
Misunderstandings and
confusion; happy ending
The Diamond Arm (1968)
Food for Thought
 What type of comedy is this?
(slapstick/verbal; absurd; dark; farcical;
situational/character; screwball; romantic)
 How would you characterize this comedy?
 What is Russian about it? Is it different from the
comedies you know?
 Do you sense any irony?
 What is comic about it, where is the humour?
 What comic devices are used? (hyperbole;
misunderstanding; qui pro quo; culture clash; etc.)
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