Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Moms / Mamy (orig. мамы) [2012]

MPAA (PG)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
KinoNews.ru listing*
KinoPoisk.ru listing*
Kino-teatr.ru listing*
Megacritic.ru listing*

Gazeta.ru (S. Sinyakou) review*
KinoAfisha.ru (O. Egerova) review*
KinoNews.ru (R. Volohov) review*
Kino-Teatr.ru (M. Milian) review*
OVideo.ru (V. Kavalevich) review*
OVideo.ru (A. Trunov) review*
RusKino.ru (S. Stepnova) review*
UralWeb.ru (O. Petrov) review*
Volgograd.ru (R. Aprelev) review*
VsiSumi.com (A.Prikazchik) review*

Moms / Mamy (orig. мамы) [2012] [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KP.ru]*[KT.ru]* is a FUN Russian family comedy built around the celebration of Mothers' Day (err, International Women's Day, March 8) in Russia with which I chose TO BEGIN my 2015 Russian Film Tour an initiative of mine whose aim is to offer Readers here a better sense of the diversity of the film scene in Russia today than one would get if one relied solely on the relatively few Russian films that make it to "art theaters" outside of the country / in the West.

Intertwining the stories of eight mothers (and their children/loved ones) across Russia on that day, American / Western viewers would find the film's structure to be similar to light recent Hollywood holiday-themed productions such as Valentine's Day [2010] and New Year's Eve [2011].  As in the case of those Hollywood productions, the (Russian) film spawned two (Russian) sequels: Happy New Years Moms! (orig. С Новым годом, мамы!) [2012] [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KP.ru]*[KT.ru]* and Moms 3 (orig. мамы 3) [2014] IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KP.ru]*[KT.ru]* ... to similar (Russian) critical exasperation ;-) as that which greeted the New Year's Eve sequel to the fresher/more successful Valentine's Day film in the States.

Russian films of this sort, while both common and popular in Russia -- just look-up some of the reviews listed above, machine translation if not altogether satisfying is no longer horrible using the Chrome browser / translate.google.com -- are often _not_ particularly easy to find in the West.  YET I DO BELIEVE IT IS IMPORTANT FOR AMERICANS / WESTERNERS TO SEE THEM  or AT LEAST TO KNOW OF THEM.  Why?  Because the ONLY Russian films that find their way to the United States tend to be PONDEROUS "EPICS" that I do believe reinforce a A VERY PROBLEMATIC American stereotype of Russians as a backward, often filth-covered, utterly incomprehensible and above all _humorless_ people ... hence worthy of enduring MISTRUST and arguably HATE.  I recently reviewed one such PONDEROUS Russian "epic" Hard to be a God [2013], which while CERTAINLY AN ACHIEVEMENT -- the poor Russian director worked on this/his "sci-fi" epic for 18 years including 6 years of filming, before DYING before completing the work in the final editing phase -- PLAYED "HOOK, LINE AND SINKER" INTO THAT "utterly humorless, filth-covered people" STEREOTYPE.

So after seeing and reviewing that film and even talking to a number of the people at the Gene Siskel Film Center (generally sympathetic to my complaints, but arguing "What can we do? We can show only what's available.  There are distributors to deal with, etc ...") I went online looking for recent Russian films that were both "UNEXPECTED" (from an American/Western point of view) and  LIGHT.

Of the various Russian Film Databases that I generally list at the top of my reviews (of Russian films), MegaCritic.ru IMHO proves to be the most useful in this regard because it can sort films according, year, genre, nation of origin and POPULARITY.  In this way, I first discovered Moms (orig. мамы) [2012].

Then, Russian films, probably pirated..., are actually quite easy to find (IN RUSSIAN) online.  The difficulty is finding subtitles for them.  For Moms (orig. мамы) [2012], I found a SERBIAN .srt (subtitle) file (! ;-) using the opensubtitles.org website.  After downloading the Serbian .srt file, it proved not particularly difficult to (machine translate) the file using translate.google.com to create an (machine translated) ENGLISH .srt (subtitle) file.  Yes, the translations are often "imperfect" (LOL ;-), but they're much better than nothing ;-).  Then with a Russian version of the film and English subtitles created this way, I was able to see the film.

And IMHO it was definitely worth it ... because this was a LOVELY and often very funny Russian story about the celebration of Russian Mothers' Day (err, International Women's Day and some of the characters in the film were truly well-conceived producing a film that proved unsurprisingly to be multiple sequel-worthy "hit" in Russia, and one which Americans / Westerners really ought to know about.

So what were some of the characters / stories in the film?

Well, the film began with the story of an anchorwoman (played wonderfully by Anastasiya Zavorotnyuk [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*) of a early morning news program for a local TV station "Oryol/Eagle TV" out in the regional city of Oryol, pop. 317,000, a couple hundred miles SSW of Moscow and about 100 miles NE from the border with Ukraine (Note that "orel/oryol" means "eagle" in Russian).

Oryol is the capital of Oryol Oblast with a total population of about 786,000 and WW II buffs may recognize Oryol's name as it that was a significant regional city not altogether far from Kursk (the site of the 1943 battle which finally irrevocably turned the course of WW II on the Eastern Front).  To give Americans a frame of reference, Oryol's population is somewhat more than Amarillo, TX, Baton Rouge, LA and Birmingham, AL (which are around 200,000) and somewhat less than Colorado Springs, CO, Minneapolis, MN, Omaha, NE and Wichita, KS (which are around 400,000).

Anyway, people don't necessarily _dream_ of being the "early morning news anchor" at a TV station in _any_ of these places.  And yet, it is a job, and this anchorwoman (as a woman...) was doing her level-best to be _professional_ about it, even if everybody else was still asleep, including her camera-man who kept dosing off during her broadcast and the late-night staff that left her to work with the previous day's notes (she begins her broadcast not even realizing that it was Mother's Day...).

As she's interviewing some unfortunate local government official (played again wonderfully by Andrey Fedortsov [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*) who, like her, was of sufficiently unimportant rank to be sent by his higher-ups to get up and be interviewed on the local TV station at such an ungodly hour, she's delighted to see that there's _someone_ "calling on the line."

She interrupts the good-natured if half-asleep and not particularly important government official who's dutifully (and still somewhat enthusiastically) rambling-on about whatever his still-no-doubt-sleeping higher-ups had sent him to the station to talk about, to say "we have a caller."

BUT WHO IS THE CALLER?  It's her 12-14 year old son (played by Sergey Pokhodaev [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*), who's calling in to complain: "Ma' did you take my keys again?"  (She did).  Flustered, she tells him (on the air ...) "Just go to school son, I'll be home before you get back," where upon he reminds her, "But mom, it's a national holiday" ("Mother's Day") so there is no school.  (She herself forgot, and the NOTES !$#% she was left with by the previous night's staff didn't say anything about this either).  More flustered now (and thanking the Heavens that NO ONE IS WATCHING ANYWAY ;-) she tells him then to "just stay home" and "entertain himself" until she gets back, where upon, of course, the 12-14 year old son, kinda rolls his eyes.  What can he do?

WHAT HE DOES DO ... is send his mother an e-mail -- while she's still interviewing the good-natured, if still-half-asleep flunky of a government official -- wishing her a Happy Mother's Day.  She again, interrupts the government official, announcing: "We have an e-mail here" and as she reads the e-mail out on the air, she realizes that it's from her son ... wishing her a Happy Mother's Day ... AND SHE BEGINS TO CRY ... ;-).

She leaves the government official on air for a moment, telling him "just continue on talking" ... and then comes back, STILL CRYING, WITH A PHOTO ALBUM ... and starts showing the still talking, still good natured, government official (as well as a the TV audience) pictures of her son, when he was a baby, when he was 18 months old, when he "kicked his first soccer ball" and so forth.  NOW IT'S THE SON who's THANKING GOD that "NO ONE IS WATCHING THE PROGRAM" :-) ;-).

But of course there is ... It turns out that there is a TV exec from Moscow (played by Igor Vernik [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*) just getting out of bed and still dressed in "South Park" character emblazoned boxer shorts ;-), who's in Oryel visiting his own mother for Mother's Day, who sees this lovely regional TV announcer showing pictures of her boy on regional TV and ... has "an idea for a new show" ... ;-)

How can one NOT LIKE that story? ;-) ;-)

And there are 7 others:

There's one about a lovely family that's "gift challenged" ;-).  They are all nice people, but have no idea what would be an appropriate gift for their lovely mother.  So they wake her up (she played again wonderfully by Marina Golub [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*), they make her breakfast and then announce ... that they got her a ticket to go ... skydiving ;-).  Apparently, the son (played by Ivan Dobronravov [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*) was a local, again in some regional city somewhere, skydiving instructor.  She protests: "But all I wanted was a crock-pot" ;-).  The dad / her husband (played with wonderful, sincere cluelessness by Fyodor Dobronravov [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*) answers: "Honey, we can get you a crock-pot anytime.  This is something that you'll be able to remember your whole life.  10-20 years from now, your grandchildren will be saying 'We have one cool grandma'" and their smiling 10 year old daughter (played by Polina Stremousova [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*) appears to agree ... much has to play-out ... ;-)

Then there's a tough guy boxer (played by Mikhail Porechenkov [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*) enforcer for the local, well, "powers that be" (mafya...), WHO GREW-UP IN AN ORPHANAGE (never had a mother) ... who starts getting phone calls on his cell-phone that day from an older, somewhat confused grandmotherly woman (played by Yekaterina Vasilyeva [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*) asking for her son Kolya. "I'm not Kolya!" he keeps telling her, but she keeps calling.  So there he is, IN A MEET LOCKER, ABOUT TO BEAT-UP SOMEONE WHO "OWES THE BOSS" MONEY, when she calls AGAIN ($#!).  She needs Kolya, to her help her with some plumbing.  At this point he's tired and having extracted at least some money from the guy he had, hands-tied up to a meat hook, to "make the boss happy" decides that he'll try to help the poor, somewhat confused lady.  After all, he may not be Kolya, and he never had a mother, but ... he did have "some skills and some connections" to fix whatever "needed to be fixed" for her ... ;-)

Then there's some SUPER BUSY, high powered, big shot Moscow exec (played wonderfully by Sergey Bezrukov [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*).  When he "comes to the office" that day, his super-efficient / perfectly-for-her-position drop-dead beautiful administrative assistant (played again, perfectly for the role by Elena Korikova [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*) has "all his gifts" ready for the day (it is "International Women's Day" after all).  So she's arranged gifts to be sent out: (1) to his two ex-wives, (2) for his four current mistresses, (3) six gifts for "the second bench" ;-), and then (4) random gifts then for other "potential future prospects."  He looks at them, approves, tells her to send them out and ... then tells her that _he's_ taking the rest of the day off.  (Honestly, "where's HER GIFT?" ... ;-).  BUT ... he has a place to visit ... which (spoiler here) ends up sending him on a much better course than it would originally seem.

There are two sets of stories about children of divorce.  One is actually very interesting because the boy (played by Semyon Treskunov [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*) is from a rich family.  His dad (Yuriy (Gosha) Kutsenko [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*) is a record producer, his mom (Kseniya Buravskaya [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*) apparently an artist, and he talks to his guard (played by Sergey Badyuk [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*) who's a "former paratrooper" who left his own family after coming back from the service because he felt he was "too messed up to be a good father."  The boy tells the depressed guard that his daughter would probably prefer a "messed up dad" to none at all ...

And there's a silly/funny story about a tough "under-cover anti-narcotics FSB agent" (played by Dmitriy Dyuzhev [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*) who "learned all that is really important" from his school teacher mom (played by Liya Akhedzhakova [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*) ... who's actually learned all that SHE NEEDS TO KNOW about "his way of life" ... "watching TV" ;-)

Finally, there's a perfectionist father (played by ), who's really tough on his son (played by ), but then softens up to his no longer perfect (gettting older ...) mother (played by ).

It all makes for some VERY INTERESTING REFLECTIONS ON MOTHERHOOD, FAMILY and VALUES in general.  And it's sweet ... and it comes from our once decades-long enemy (and perhaps soon to be enemy once more ...) ... Russia.

So folks, you don't need to hear it from me: but good job, honestly good job. 


* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser.  

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