Friday, February 03, 2012

Generation P: Grade B


Generation P (2011)

Vladimir Epifantsev, Mikhail Efremov, Andrey Fomin; Co-writer andDirector Victor Ginzburg. (Russian, subtitled).

This weird, dreamlike, hallucinatory film is nominally about the rise of the advertising industry in modern Russia. The protagonist, Vavilen, is an ex-literature student working in a newspaper kiosk when he gets an opportunity to work for an advertising agency that specializes in Western products. The main thrust of the ads is to identify and tap into the “Russian mentality,” whatever that is. Vavilen takes LSD, magic mushrooms, and plenty of vodka trying to fathom the Russian mind. The resulting ads are bizarre nonsense, usually very funny.

The substory, actually the main one in the end, is that nobody knows who is in charge of the ad agency. Powerful yet shadowy figures control all the money, and competition is routinely handled with murder.

So underneath the silliness of the advertising theme is a dark satire about the collapse of Russian society along with The Wall. The business world is lawless, corrupt, and violent. Vavilen learns that advertising creates not just an alternate reality for products, but also for politicians. There is no difference between news and advertising, between politics and products, between truth and spin. Ultimately then, the film is a scathing satire advertised as a surreal and farcical comedy. If I recall the "P" in the title stands for "Putin." This is a commentary on life under his regime.

The movie does not make a lot of dramatic sense, and some of that could be due to the fact that some of the cultural references are no doubt lost on a foreign audience. Still the translations are good enough to provoke laughter and understanding. The cinematography is excellent and the acting far above average.

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