What is the film “Odessa Steamboat” about?

The film “Odessa steamboat” was directed by Sergei Ursulyak in 2019. The picture includes a cycle of miniatures by Mikhail Zhvanetsky, but this is a free interpretation of his works, an improvisation film. The picture includes miniatures “Odessa steamboat”, “Two apples”, “Baba Yaga”, “How they joke in Odessa”, “Meeting at the distillery” and others.

The plot and structure of the film “Odessa steamboat”

The film consists of a cycle of miniatures not connected by a common plot. Each miniature has its own story. These scenes are connected by an “undercurrent”, a “plot” of the second plan – a single style, music, Odessa dialect, a common meaning. Everything ingenious is simple, and Zhvanetsky’s miniatures are extremely simple. But these small satirical pictures briefly characterize the era.
Gorgeous in the film is the miniature “Two Apples” performed by Chulpan Khamatova and Vladimir Mashkov, about how an unbridled parent, burning with anger, teaches his son to count, eating apples and carrots, and asking: “How many apples do you have left ?!” The son watches with curiosity and interest as dad eats a dirty carrot.
Very colorful Mikhail Porechenkov, who, dancing to the song of Polad Bul-Bul Ogly “You told me yesterday that you would call today,” wants to start a romantic relationship with married Tanya. Tanya is bored and doesn’t seem to care.
It is impossible not to mention the excellent actors Lika Nifontova, Pavel Dobronravov, Svetlana Kryuchkova and others – the cast is stellar. And inimitable, as always, is the great artist Roman Madyanov, who played the director of the distillery.
The episodes are connected not by the plot, but by the atmosphere of Soviet Odessa, songs performed by Valery Obodzinsky, Polad Bul-Bul Ogly, the ensemble “Gems” – the artist (Timofey Tribuntsev), who appears in each short story, sings for them all.

The meaning of the film “Odessa Steamboat”.

One semantic aspect is in nostalgia, in longing for the past, our homeland is always in the past. Everything comes from childhood. Look at the past century, breathe in its aroma – in this case, also bright Odessa, southern, sea – but also critically evaluate that century (more precisely, late Soviet life) from the height of time, understand how it relates to the present, what mistakes we repeat from epoch to epoch, and are these mistakes – maybe features?
The picture has a kind look into the past – Ursulyak’s films are always shot in bright colors, there is a lot of air in the frame, beautiful architecture, bright everyday details of seaside houses and apartments. A separate admiration is the suits of the 70s, turn-down collars with sharp corners, body shirts, bell-bottoms, short skirts.

This love for the past era is quite harmoniously combined with a harsh satire on Soviet customs. A well-known distillery, a steamship, which, with such an organization, is surprising that it does not sink; with a crowded communal life – the internal isolation of people and misunderstanding of each other. The Odessa communal apartment immediately evokes associations with the communal apartment from Pokrovsky Gates, and the scene on the plane is a mini-parody of Mitta’s heroic Soviet disaster film The Crew.
The humor of the scene on the plane is in contrast to the impressions of the crew at the beginning and at the end of the episode. First, the viewer sees how the crew dreamily sings along with the “Gems” “Young rain sways in the sky, the winds fly across the sleepless plains …” – all the romance of flights and travels in these shots. And then – the drunken commander of the ship, the plane crashes, the crew members, knocking down the beautiful stewardess (the magnificent Marina Alexandrova), run with some kind of bucket and ask the passengers for a screwdriver, then a rope – here is already the sharpest satire in the style of Zhvanetsky, what already here “on the sleepless plains …”
Zhvanetsky was considered in the Union to be a very harsh critic of Soviet morals, but to us, from our distance, Zhvanetsky’s satire seems almost kind. This is not surprising – Zhvanetsky’s critical miniatures have never been harsh. He simply moved away from the Soviet literary canons, from the idealization of life.
Rigid canons were also in the Soviet stage – the film shows the choir of that time, singing cheerful and slightly hippie songs of the Gems ensemble, like arias from classical operas.

The meaning of the finale of the film “Odessa steamer”

The picture ends with an episode of a wedding in the Odessa courtyard – all the actors are gathered here, at the end they sing “Oh, my beloved Odessa …” Here there is both the unity of all people, and a bright perception of our past. Then Mikhail Zhvanetsky appears, looks inquiringly and leaves. Here is sadness about the past time, about the fact that some part of life will never happen again.
But there is another semantic aspect in the final episode of the wedding. At the wedding, the head of the funeral band (Sergey Garmash) appears, to whom a friend (Viktor Suprun) approaches and asks in a whisper to bring him to the director of the cemetery (Mikhail Porechenkov), because. he needs three graves. Here immediately there is an association with “Gangster Petersburg”. This suggests that our ship is sleepily and slowly driving straight to the 90s. And that this stagnant, half-asleep life of people who do not participate in managing their own lives at all (which, of course, they are not to blame, because everything has its time) – it turns out, is not eternal. And yet, the ship must always move forward, it cannot stand still.

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