Great Russian Movies: The Comedies

This’ll be quick–the only five comedies in all of Russian cinema! Actually there are lots but, linguistically and culturally, I can’t always follow the humour. Fortunately, the following five are very accessible, and very well known. They’re even on YouTube and the excellent Mosfilm site, so you don’t have to pay a cent. I have even more to say about Russian cinematic tragedies, which are numerous, so stay tuned.

Берегись автомобиля (Beware of the Car): Yura is a modern-day Robin Hood, an insurance salesman who steals cars from the rich and gives them to the poor. His best friend is the police officer working on the case. Very silly, but very well done.

Ирония судьбы (The Irony of Fate): Every year, on December 31st Zhenya and his friends go to the banya to relax and drink a bunch of vodka. His friends remember that one of their group has a plane to catch and so bring Zhenya to the airport to fly to Leningrad. As it turns out, it’s the wrong friend and when Zhenya arrives he is so drunk he takes the nearest taxi to his Moscow address: “Builders’ Steet.” This being Brezhnev-era Russia, the cities’ street names are standardized and Builders’ Street exists in Leningrad too. Mayhem and romance follow. A popular rewatch around New Year’s Eve, think of this as Russia’s answer to It’s a Wonderful Life.

Иван васильевич меняет профессию (Ivan Vasilievich Changes Professions): Perhaps you thought that time travel and Ivan the Terrible would never meet in the same film. Well think again! Ivan the Terrible was apparently quite the riot.

Москва слезам не верит (Moscow doesn’t Believe in Tears): Two college girls are house sitting for a family friend. They invite two gentlemen callers over, one thing leads to another, and Katya gets pregnant and becomes a single mother. Fast forward 15 years and she meets a nice man. Trouble is, he thinks that he’s the provider. What he doesn’t know is that, as a glavnii engineer, Katya is more than capable of taking care of herself.

Я шагаю по Москве (Walking around Moscow): I saw this only a few weeks ago, but it has quickly become one of my favourites. It depicts one day in Moscow, walking around, going to the shops, getting married, meeting a pretty girl. What can I say, it’s delightful, and at 75 minutes, goes down easy.