Following up on Ross Dickie’s coverage of the first weekend of the Glasgow Film Festival, I’ll be covering its closing weekend. I managed to score a ticket to see the widely talked about Russian musical Hipsters (Stilyagi, its Russian title or Boogie Bones in the US) by award-winning writer/director Valery Todorovsky. It is unlike any other Russian film I’ve seen in that the subject matter is so untouched in contemporary Russian filmmaking; mostly, the only musicals released in Russia are adaptations of American ones such as Chicago and Cats. When something like Hipsters is released, (which looks like a clash between Grease and Hairspray) it is completely unexpected.
The film presents the youth culture of the underground jazz scene in 1950s Moscow, a generation seduced by the flashy razzle dazzle of America as an escape from the oppressed Soviet society around them. Their parents enforce respect and chastise their hedonistic living as disrespectful to their own hard-working lives in the cold war era. The guys fashion pompadours (Elvis/Jedward hair), sneakers and clashing cool cat suits while the girls don swishing skater skirts in pop colours, lipstick and drawn-on nylons. The vibrant aesthetic and fast paced catchy rhythms and dance routines were playful and fun-filled; by the half-way point I was desperate to cover myself in bows and attempt to do the splits. I now consider my wardrobe in dire need of a underskirt or three and mary-jane heels and headscarves (gosh really?)–you get the drift, I dig their style. Here’s one of the songs (I promise you’ll be learning the Russian lyrics in no time)
Although I found the film charming and hilarious, I didn’t find it particularly “Russian.” On becoming Hipsters, the characters changed their names from Russian names like ‘Polska’ to more American ones ‘Polly’, and left behind the ideologies of those around them, favouring the American dream. They continually talked about freedom, while drinking Jack Daniels, smoking Camels and playing Elvis records. At one point our hero ‘Mel’ is playing saxophone in his bedroom and then is magically transported to New York on a rooftop playing a duet with Charlie Parker, the skyline clear of smog and noise and a faint breeze blowing the hair from his eyes. One character eventually makes it to America, but is greeted only by disillusionment. The conclusion to the film is a kind of unsatisfactory ‘world peace’ type song with modern-day emos hugging 80s punks and 70s disco rats in a kind of all-time-is-connected confusing way. Despite all the political discourse which arises from a film like this, I found indulgence in the energy and liveliness of the performances and thought it was highly entertaining and would encourage you to watch out for it.
– Flossie Topping