Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
This adaptation of Lev Slavin's play was notable for its humorous treatment of the Russian Civil War and foreign governments' involvement in it. The film was shot in 1968 but not completed until 1987 due to the intervention (no pun intended) of the authorities. It was intended to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the October revolution and at the same time be an entertaining film. One reviewer (for Variety) likens the resulting film to what might have happened had directors Jean-Luc Godard and Federico Fellini teamed up with the Red Army in 1968 to put on a cabaret show. Farce is liberally mixed with slapstick. This is far from the kind of stodgy film that was usually produced for official celebrations. After the government stopped the production, the cast sent a letter to Soviet Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin defending the film and its director, quoting from Lenin that "the Revolution is a jolly thing, and revolutionary art can't be routine, dull, cliched." The letter didn't help. The show opens with a chorus of very fat girls in tight-fitting band uniforms singing while an army unit goes on maneuvers and a general does bookkeeping on an abacus. In the story, Brodsky, (who is also sometimes called Voronov), is a communist agitator in Odessa, which has not yet fallen to the Bolshevik regime. The local police and military are trying to hunt down the communists. Zhena is a wealthy woman who hopes to escape before the Bolsheviks take over, but she falls in love with a good-looking lad named Sasha, who is involved with the communists. When Sasha works out a deal with the local "bourgeois capitalists" (all made up like clowns) to cover his gambling debts, he becomes an official "Enemy of the Working Class." Meanwhile, Brodsky has landed in the capitalist's prison and is declared a hero of the revolution when he dies there. The entire story is told in Odessa slang, liberally mixed with heavy swearing and underworld lingo.
gambler-compulsive, hero, capitalism, civil-war, Communism, Russian [nationality]