Colors, rock’n’roll, Chet Baker and electric-loud suits and skinny ties. Must be Arthur Laurents country. In fact it’s the Soviet Union circa halfway through the Cold War and it’s a Valéri Todorovski movie called “Hipsters” (it was released in France under the name Les Zazous) which will hopefully come to a theatre near you, though likely under a different name (official release date in Russia was actually 2008 but the film had a single and unique screening in Paris recently at Forum des Images).
Todorovski’s influences are many but ‘Zazous’ does not replicate—no dissonant cliches or annoying double-entendres. Just the story, folks, and it’s a rousing one. Mels is a Moscow student and a passive member of the Soviet Youths who go out on raids against the Zazous, the anticonformists of the 1950s who dabble in obscene things like jazz and the kinds of suits that would make Buster Poindexter proud. During one of these face-offs between the dour Soviet militias and the Zazous on a Moscow street called Broadway Mels notices a girl from the other side; she’s easy on the eyes and wears red lipstick. The rest of the film is about those two people trying to make their worlds get right while still keep the Cold War going a while. Oh, and they fall in love, too.
Like any foreign cinema that isn’t coming from Europe or hasn’t had a sustained run on the international fest beat Russian movies, too, have had had a hard time getting seen outside of the usual circuits in the States. Hopefully Todorovski’s fantastic ride of a movie will be seen by as many people as possible in the U.S. Judging by the Parisian audience’s sustained amusement and final applause at the end, Zazous will be a crowd-pleaser. And it’s a good movie, too.