When I asked my students what movies they watched at Novi God, they named two. The first was "Irony of Fate." (scroll down)
The same director, Eldar Ryazanov, made their second favorite film, which was broadcast on Russian television yesterday—the 1958 musical comedy "Carnival Night."
Released in 1958, "Carnival Night" reflects a post-Stalin thaw during the 1950s, and like "Irony of Fate" pits human warmth—love, romance, beauty, charm, humor, entertainment of all kinds—against an inhuman and rigid bureaucracy, in this case represented by the pompous and clueless commissar in charge of a Dom Kultury (community cultural center) responsible for staging a New Year’s carnival show. But the commissar wants jazz musicians replaced by pensioners, ballerinas to cover their legs, a lecture on whether their is life on Mars instead of a comedy act, and so forth.
Of course hilarity ensues, in best MGM musical fashion. The commissar is tricked numerous times by the rest of the gang, who put on their show despite his attempts to stop it. They get the better of him in every way, to the point that the commissar appears after the film’s final credits to announce to the audience: "I am not responsible for anything that you may have seen on screen."
"Carnival Night" reflects the hopeful side of the Russian soul: romantic, charming, and beautiful. Now wonder it is shown every New Year. Indeed, I recognized one of the musical numbers, "5 Minutes to Midnight" from the Novi God variety TV special that preceded Putin’s televised address—at 5 minutes to midnight.
The themes of "Carnival Night" are timeless and universal.
Two other holiday favorites seem to be "The Three Musketeers" and "Sherlock Holmes." The French adventures are running in some kind of marathon on a number of channels in Russian and dubbed versions, serials, and musicals. "Sherlock Holmes" is on DTV, sponsored by Ahmad tea, which gives you “a taste of London.” The ads show a London couple playing a grand piano duet, then pausing for a cup of tea before glancing at Big Ben to check the time, and then romantically at one another, a rather Russian perspective on tea-drinking rituals in Britain.
Meanwhile, outside, our local Hermitage park, which contains the Hermitage theatre where Chekhov’s "The Seagull" was performed, has put up two ice-skating rinks. The Russians just fence in a snowy area, then flatten the snow into ice with scrapers. Result: one can ice skate along paths through the park, and sit on benches as skaters dance around you. Absolutely charming.
We saw this sort of scene on TV in the Novi God film "Pokrovsky Gate". A Moscow communal apartment is demolished to make way for a high-rise, and the film shows what life was like in the old Moscow. All the colorful characters who lived in the apartment, their romances, and their conflicts. One scene, set at Novi God, featured ice-skaters around a couple of characters on a park bench. Another had hospital patients dancing on crutches! Not quite Ryazanov, but not a bad imitation.