Stars: Tee Yoo, Roman Bilyk, Irina Starshebaum, Philip Adeev
Completed by Russian director Serebrennikov while under house arrest, this striking and singular picture, about the rivalry between rival musicians in the early 80s Leningrad is part jukebox musical (featuring songs by David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, and Talking Heads, alongside Soviet originals), part love triangle, and part historical document. ‘Mike’ Naumenko (Russian musician Bilyk) is a celebrated new wave garage rock-style singer and songwriter on the Leningrad scene. Despite his rock star demeanour, he has a devoted girlfriend Natasha (Starshenbaum) with whom he has a child. When the Russian-Korean artist Viktor Tsoi (Yoo) arrives in town toting his Marc Bolan-style songs, Mike offers some guidance to the newcomer and a mutual admiration develops. Viktor begins an affair with Natacha which Mike, surprisingly, half-heartedly, seems to go along with. This is less thrusting drama than freewheeling evocation of an era in which pop culture-starved young Russians pored over Reed and Bowie albums while trying to emulate their favourite western stars. The hang-out scenes, in cramped communal apartment and at the beach (leto means summer) become a little repetitive and the gender politics are ‘of their time’, but the pristine black and white photography (redolent of that other recent Cold War--set drama er, ‘Cold War’) is gorgeous and the music scenes, sometimes embellished with swirling animated graffiti, are stirring fun.