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Grymovs Strangers Accused of Anti-Americanism

Published: November 18, 2008 (Issue # 1426)



  • An image from the new film Strangers by Yuri Grymov, a former television commercial director. In the film, Americans abroad are portrayed as entirely unsympathetic.
    Photo: Strangers

  • Despite stories to the contrary in the Russian press, Strangers is not banned in the United States
    Photo: Strangers

Russian filmmakers are not known for their glowing portraits of American culture. From the 1948 Soviet propaganda film The Russian Question about a communist-bashing American newspaper editor to the immensely popular film Brother 2, in which a young Russian man rampages through back-stabbing hoodlums in Chicago, there is no shortage of anti-Americanism in the countrys cinema.

Now in 2008, filmmaker Yury Grymov adds his film to the genre.

Americans place themselves higher than all other peoples of the earth, said Grymov in an online journal written during the shooting of his new feature Strangers, which opened in Moscow on Thursday.

They forcibly attempt to inculcate their morality and their modes of behavior. And what is most frightening of all, they sincerely suggest that they are committing a charitable act.

Strangers was shot in Egypt but is set in a deliberately vague somewhere in the East, where an American medical team arrives to provide vaccinations to children living near a war zone. The vagueness of the films location inevitably suggests connections to the current U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After this par-for-the-course Hollywood setup, though, the script and acting become so loopy and exaggerated that the directors agenda of showing the folly of letting Americans into any country with a desert becomes overwhelmingly apparent.

When the ragtag group arrives on screen in its Toyota Land Cruisers, they are shown as culturally inept fools, blasting music from their SUVs and starting to dance before splashing each other with buckets of water from a nearby desert lake.

After settling into their miserable quarters, the female lead, Jane, played by a Texas actress named Scarlett McAlister, starts flirting with their Arab security guard, quickly seducing him despite the presence of her husband Tom, also played by an American, Mark Adam. Meanwhile, Tom, the leader of the culturally crass band, finds a group of Russian military engineers and begins flinging insults at them about their totalitarian minds when they refuse to let the group into the village.

The other doctors a gay couple who befriends a young Arab boy only to traumatize him when he sees them having sex and a spiteful, awkward older woman make up the collection of utterly unsympathetic people that Grymov sees as typical American abroad.

Without giving the rest away, the Americans continue to be not very nice, do something especially not nice and get away with it.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 21


Time is running out to see the fantastic creations on display at the 2014 Sand Castle Festival on the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Adhering to the theme of Treasure Island, visitors can wander amongst larger-than-life interpretations of pirate life or attend one of the workshops held to educate a future generation of sand artists. The castles will remain on the beach until Aug. 31.



Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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