Russia's (Faux) Silver (Plated) Screen
The Moscow Times reported on Wednesday that a Russian movie called "The Irony of Fate II" (a/k/a "The Continuation") is on track to become the highest-grossing Russian movie in history, perhaps exceeding $50 million at the box office (in the photo at left, a couple sits on a bench below a billboard advertisement for the film in Moscow).
The story is noteworthy for four reasons.
First, it's a nice insight into the nature of the "resurgent" Russian economy. The MT states: "The previous record was held by the 2006 supernatural thriller Day Watch, which earned just under $35 million, trailed by last year's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," with $31.8 million." So the number three "Russian" movie is actually American, and the number one movie's take wouldn't put it in the top 1,000 U.S. top-grossers. The MT states: "Total ticket sales were $565 million in 2007, compared with $412 million in 2006, according to Russian Film Business Today." That's nice. But U.S. box office receipts were also up in 2006 for instance -- nearly 1.5 billion tickets were sold that year and revenues were nearly $10 billion, up 5% from the prior year. These numbers are in almost exact alignment with the disparity between the two countries' overall economies.
Second, the MT states: "The new box-office champion is a sequel to Eldar Ryazanov's 1975 television film The Irony of Fate, a story of love and mistaken identity that has become a holiday tradition, having been broadcast every New Year's Eve since its premiere." Yes, that's right, this is a remake of a Soviet film, one that Russians show every year on TV the way Americans show It's a Wonderful Life. And "modern" Russians are flocking to see it in droves. Do Germans fondly recall the feel-good films made during the reign of mass-murderer Adolf Hitler,and show them every year at holiday time with fond nostalgia for the good old days gone by? We don't think so. It's odd, therefore, that Russians would even think of doing this. And it's pretty telling that there is such a strong vein of this nostalgia in Russia even today, and that so few people in Russia are willing to say they have a problem with it.
Thirdly, the MT states that the film was produced by a company owned by Russia's Channel One television -- which in turn is owned and operated by the Russian government itself. The MT states: "Irony of Fate II" was made on a budget of $5 million, with an additional $4.5 million spent on promotion. State-owned Channel One made heavy use of its television resources to promote the film, airing documentaries about the making of the film and mentioning it in news broadcasts." So it's not just anyone that is dredging up this Soviet nostalgia, it's the government itself -- and apparently it is moving into the movie business just as it has completed to total takeover of television and print media establishments. How neo-Soviet can you get?
And fourth, the MT states: "Industry experts warned that Russian box-office results should be taken with a grain of salt because they come from self-reporting by producers and distributors, who have an incentive to overstate the success of their films. 'Companies want to sell the television rights to their films, so naturally they inflate the figures. There is no electronic system for confirming the results.' said Sergei Lavrov, head of statistics for Russian Film Business Today, a trade publication. " In other words, as is almost always the case in Russia, this is pseudo-data, a best-case scenario, and totally unreliable. Russia is fully neo-Soviet. Just like the USSR, it is virtually incapable of even collecting meaningful, reliable data about itself, and on the rare occasions when it does so it then perverts and twists the data for political reasons until it is just a sick joke. Thus blind, it is incapable of reform and doomed to destroy itself.
We report today that Russia's place on the list of countries ranked by economic freedom fell fourteen places this year compared to last. At #134 in the world, Russia's position is much the same on that list as it is on the list of countries ranked by male adult lifespan. The fact that Russia cannot even manage to crack the top 100 nations of the world in either category is startlingly bleak proof of how backward and barbaric Vladimir Putin's Russia really is. If one then considers that the Russian people laud him with 70%+ approval ratings in polls and elections, one can only see the people of Russia as lemmings rushing madly towards a cliff.
But you don't have to review complicated statistics and data in order to see what a mess Putin's Russia is. All you have to do is simply go to the movies.