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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

Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekhov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekhov's books will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.



Friday, Jan. 30



The Lermontov Central Library, 19 Liteyny Prospekt, will screen 'Almost Famous in English with Russian subtitles at 6:30 p.m. Cameron Crowe's Academy Award-winning comedy from 2000 stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit, and tells the story of a budding music journalist at Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Admission is free.



Meet renowned Russian poet, journalist and writer Dmitry Bykov, famous for his biographies of Boris Pasternak, Bulat Okudzhava and Maxim Gorky, and winner of 2006 National Bestseller Award. Bykov will read old and new poems as well as answer questions about his works at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Main Hall, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at 1,000 rubles and are available at city ticket offices and the from the Philharmonic website www.philharmonia.spb.ru.



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of Repulsion at 7 p.m. and Rosemarys Baby at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy The Tenant, the cult comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers and Cul-de-sac among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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