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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.





 


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Friday, Apr. 18


Teachers and students alike shouldnt miss the opportunity to establish lasting contacts with Russian and foreign institutions during the 21st Education and Career Fair at LenExpo, beginning today and finishing tomorrow. Learn more about education in Russia and connect with your fellow scholars.


The Tromso International Film Festival, Norways largest, brings a short festival to St. Petersburg for one day only during Scandinavian Oddities, starting at 7 p.m. today at Rodina Cinema Center. Tickets for the event are 100 rubles ($2.80).


Sunday, Apr. 20


Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianitys holiest day.


Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the deserts most iconic plant.


Monday, Apr. 21


Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDAs Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.


Tuesday, Apr. 22


SPIBAs Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.


The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.