The Vanished Empire
Time Out says
A pop corrective to stereotypes of life behind the Iron Curtain, Karen Shakhnazarov’s coming-of-age chronicle presents ’70s Soviet youth culture in full swing: Instead of a dreary world of babushkas and breadlines, Moscow is an urban fun house of vinyl-record parties, college-gym-cum-dancehall raves and late-night makeout sessions. Through this nostalgia-inflected landscape saunters juvenile delinquent Sergei (Lyapin), who borrows Mick Jagger’s swagger as he pops bubble gum and shags a girl during class lectures.
Sergei’s inconsequences may be tepid compared with Hollywood teen ribaldry, but the kid is quite the prick: He sells off his family’s books to buy black-market jeans and LPs, cheats on his girlfriend, then gets too drunk to attend their makeup date. His antics are graced by impeccable period design, tricked out lovingly in plaid shirts, polka-dot scarves and wood paneling, yet this vivid detail can’t surmount Sergei’s off-putting insouciance. Eventually, the film heaps on a borscht bucket of family and relationship problems to chastise him, turning into a cautionary tale that critiques Russia’s current epidemic of pop materialism and self-absorption. But the moralistic finale feels tacked on to the vivid celebration of Commie teen lust.
Cast and crew