Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Irony of Fate

Ironiya sudby, ili S lyogkim parom!; romantic comedy, Russia, 1975; D: Eldar Ryazanov, Igor Petrov, S: Andrey Myagkov, Barbara Brylska, Yuri Yakovlev

During the Brezhnev era, all of the apartment buildings were designed in identical way, so that people would "always feel like home" no matter what city they go to. This went to such an extent that the same locks were installed in several buildings. Moscow: while celebrating his engagement to Galya, Zhenya drinks too much during the New Years Eve. His friends send him to a flight to Saint Petersburg instead of Pavlik. However, Zhenya is so drunk that he still thinks he is in Moscow. He boards a taxi, goes to "his" address, Three Workers Street 25, apartment 12, unlocks the door and falls asleep. When the real owner of this parallel Saint Petersburg apartment shows up, Nadya, it causes a lot of commotion, especially since her lover Ippolit and Zhenya's fiance Galya both break up with them. Still, while waiting for his flight back to Moscow, Zhenya and Nadya fall for each other.

One of the most beloved Russian films of the 20th century, running traditionally every New Year's Eve on TV, comedy "The Irony of Fate" is still a proportionally fresh and fun little film, despite some heavy handed moments. Screenwriter Emil Braginsky took an annoying local "trademark" of that time, the monolithic-identical apartment designs in Russia, and managed to make something pleasant out of it in the story about a hero mistaking a woman's Saint Petersburg apartment with his own Moscow apartment - the idea is perfect, the execution is lukewarm. Trying to create a Russian screwball comedy, director Ryazanov relied more on humor than on romantic parts which could have been more exploited in such a sweet situation, whereas the three hour running time is definetely overstretched for such a simple one-note story, yet the idea is so fascinating that it still "echoes" with charm even when the viewers get use to it, whereas Barbara Brylska is especially sweet as the confused Nadya. The first interaction between Zhenya and Nadya is the best, arguing over who is the intruder in the apartment ("I already organized a party here!" - "Why would you organize a party in my apartment?"), yet even later on does the film manage to extract a few good gags (while Ippolit and Zhenya are waiting outside on the snow, Zhenya suddenly shouts: "Hooray! I forgot my briefcase in her apartment! Now I have an excuse to go back!"), though the hero's behavior - one moment he is considerate towards Nadya, the other he is rude and impolite - does tend to be inconsistent. Overall, the story carries the whole film, still has its lure whereas it even covertly manages to criticize one aspect of the Soviet system with a synecdoche potential for something more.


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