ROCK IN THE USSR
12/13/11
Four White Shirts - 7:30 pm
Sideburns - 9:30 pm
5$ for each
@ the Spectacle Theater
124 South 3rd @ Bedford Ave.
L train to Bedford

A double-feature exploring the influence of Western rock-and-roll music on film in the Soviet Union through two films, one produced in 1960s Latvia and another in glasnost’ and perestroika era Russia. Rock music filtered through the Iron Curtain unevenly and haltingly, yet had an influence that was undeniable and manifested itself in a number of interesting ways, including in these films.

Četri Balti Krekli/Four White Shirts (1967; Latvian SSR; directed by Rolands Kalniņš)
A perceptive work on the concerns of 1960s youth, who in Latvia dealt not only with the normal youthful angst and intergenerational conflict, but also with the added complications of life in an authoritarian regime where artistic freedom was a distant notion and a national culture was under assault from the Soviet state. In the film, singer Cēzars Kalniņs (Uldis Pūcītis) of the rock band "The Optimists" faces a crisis after middle-aged culture worker Anita Sondore (Dina Kuple) complains to the authorities that a performance of his featured “inappropriate” lyrics. Completed in 1967, the film hit too close to home for the authorities, who shelved it until 1986. By then its songs had already made their impact on Latvian culture, achieving cult status and forming the names of several music venues in Riga. (Also known as Elpojiet dziļi ["Breathe Deeply"])
Latvian with English subtitles

Бакенбарды/Sideburns (1990; Russian SFSR; directed by Yuri Mamin)
This film opens with a survey of life in a Russian city in the late USSR, where glasnost’ and perestroika and a receding authoritarian state have allowed Western influence in. In the town the youth are divided into the “Cappella” (punk rockers who embrace sex, hooliganism, and Western decadence) and the “Bashers” (pro-authority bodybuilders) until Viktor (Viktor Sukhorukov) and his friend wander into the picture. Viktor heads a club that extols the virtues of legendary Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, which absorbs the Bashers, defeats the Cappella, and gradually morphs into a totalitarian combination of a literary society and the Sturmabteilung. This black comedy, though absurdist, directly addresses the rising Russian nationalism and simultaneous directionlessness of the early 1990s; perhaps because the critique was on point, it has never been released in Russia.
Russian with English subtitles

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