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Envisioning Russia: A Century of Filmmaking

Thursday, October 16, 2008
8:20 p.m. Carnival Night
Eldar Ryazanov (U.S.S.R., 1956)

(Karnavalnaya noch). Some of the first cracks in the brick wall of Stalinist culture were caused by this marvelously witty comedy that transformed its debut director, Eldar Ryazanov, and its young star Lyudmila Gurchenko into overnight celebrities. New Year’s Eve is fast approaching and the employees of the Economics Institute are planning a big night, with lots of singing, dancing, and holiday cheer. But it’s announced that the new director, Comrade Ogurtsov (Igor Ilyinsky), will be arriving shortly. Ogurtsov has his own ideas about how to ring in the New Year: reading end-of-the-year reports, a few chamber pieces, maybe a speech out of Chekhov . . . but the kids really just want to rock and roll. Still a great favorite in Russia, where it’s always broadcast on television during the holiday season, Carnival Night is a delicious send-up of bureaucracy, as well as a genuine celebration of people’s power.

—Richard Peña

• Written by Boris Laskin, Vladimir Polyakov. Photographed by Arkadi Koltzaty. With Igor Ilyinsky, Lyudmila Gurchenko, Yuri Belov, Georgi Kulikov. (78 mins, In Russian with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Seagull Films)