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In the Spotlight: 17 Moments of Spring

Published: May 12, 2009 (Issue # 1473)


This week, the countrys newspapers have been obsessing over the 1970s spy series 17 Moments of Spring, which the clever people at Rossia television have carefully changed from the original black-and-white film to color. Were only talking a small dash of gray to Shtirlitzs eyes and scarlet to his Nazi armband, but the new look has caused wails of outrage. Not to mention a new crop of impenetrable Shtirlitz jokes.

The show is set in Germany during the last months of World War II. The hero, Shtirlitz, is an undercover Soviet agent who is trying to outwit the Nazis and stop them from holding secret talks with the Western powers.

Its hard to understand why 17 Moments is so popular at first glance, despite the stylish photography and stunningly handsome lead actor, Vyacheslav Tikhonov. The show is heavy on long dialogues and scenes of the hero gazing into the distance. The spy story is also pretty confusing, given that the Soviet agents and the Nazis all wear the same uniform and are all speaking Russian.

If you do manage to watch the whole show, though, it will be a passport to understanding punning headlines playing on the phrase, Shtirlitz, Ill ask you to stay behind no, me neither as well as countless jokes involving Shtirlitz and his Gestapo nemesis, Muller. It also might help to explain Russians affection for a certain former Soviet agent in East Germany.

You have to be careful about the comparisons you make, however. A Saratov newspaper was threatened with court action after it published a collage showing Vladimir Putin in the noble role of Shtirlitz perhaps forgetting that showing the then-president in a Nazi uniform was not the best idea.

The show gets a regular airing round Victory Day, but this year Rossia decided to spice things up by showing a new colored-in version, which apparently took three years to complete. A nice change, you might think, but Komsomolskaya Pravda even devoted a front page to disgusted comments about the heros brown makeup and the terrible, childish coloring-in.

KP also printed a topical joke about a new book of Shtirlitz jokes The jokes are still the same, but the letters are multicolored.

Looking at Shtirlitzs face, which is usually a noble pearlish-gray color, but is now covered in a light colonial tan, as if the Standartenfuhrer had got addicted to a tanning salon, you think that you might as well paint a marble statue with foundation and blusher, Kommersant wrote.

Goblin, the famous translator of Western films into Russian, who likes to add his own jokes, went even further in his blog, saying Shtirlitzs appearance reminded him of the colored-in photographs that they put on grave stones.

One blogger, Yefim Diky, even suggested that the whole coloring project was actually an attempt to divert attention from the Mikhail Khodorkovsky trial.

The Communists of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region also announced one of their regular campaigns against popular culture this youth group has already attacked the Russian characters in the last Indiana Jones and James Bond films as perverted Western propaganda. This time, they are calling for viewers to just say no to the colored version.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Nov. 28


Join table-top game aficionados at the British Book Centers Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test ones intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only mans best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during todays reenactment titled Winter War: How it Was. More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie Black Cat, White Cat, as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of Takoy Festival, a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonights festival finale is Fathers and Sons, a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenevs classic about familial relations.



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