Russia, 2002, 86 minutes, color
In Russian with English subtitles
Director: Denis Evstigneev
Screenplay: Arif Aliev
Camera: Igor' Klebanov
Set design: Vladimir Aronin
Music: Dmitrii Atovmian
Sound: Ekaterina Popova
With: Kirill Malov, Andrei Novikov, Evgenii Tsyganov, Ul'iana Lukina, Eva Kolomiets, Antonina Komissarova
Studio: Angel Films
The most significant novelty of Denis Evstigneev's film Let's Make Love has nothing directly to do with the artistic quality of the film but rather with the nature of its intended audience. The film is the first deliberate attempt by a Russian director to make a film in the genre of the American teenager comic melodrama. The film is not only about teenagers but targeted directly at a teenage audience. Consequently, the film's themes have to do with concerns of the present moment (making money, finding love, getting sex) and of the future (finding a career, gaining financial security, getting married). Conspicuously absent is any concern with the past, whether that of political history or personal origins. Inasmuch as this film, like all works of new Russian cinema, must also be commercially profitable, the spirit of the film is unabashedly and at times not quite credibly optimistic. Critics almost universally compare this film to its contemporary western variant, American Pie, and nervously worry that Evstigneev may have sacrificed the national character of his film for the sake of its commercial success.
Despite the fact that a large part of the action takes place in a student dormitory, a locus particularly appropriate for an all too familiar Russian cinematic chernukha, the cinematography makes not even the faintest gesture towards this post-Soviet tradition. The dormitory is chaotic, disorganized, and noisy, but the constant movement elicits no feeling of claustrophobia, but rather the sense of youthful exuberance and energy. Although the protagonist and his comrades (the context of the film liberates even this word from its political connotations) inevitably encounter the less attractive realia of contemporary Russian life (mafiosi, the lot of military conscripts, the sex industry), these elements remain external to the spirit of the film and are unable to alter the atmosphere in any lasting way. Not even the murder of one of the heroines (by the order of her new tycoon husband) brings the main action of the film to more than a temporary pause.
This main action centers around the protagonist's search for both his first sexual experience and for true love. Seal (his nickname is derived from his surname but also confirms a general agreement among his neighbors that he completely lacks any ability to attract sexual partners) stubbornly insists that sex and love ought somehow to be related, although he sees all around him that his entire world is made up of people having "just sex." His quest to find a girl who will bring his intolerable sexual innocence to an end is a comedy of errors and defeats. Despite social humiliation, physical assaults, and a close call with military conscription, Seal's unflagging determination and youthful optimism may test the willingness of some viewers to suspend their disbelief. Nevertheless, the film is more about believable feelings than believable plots and it reproduces the preoccupations, concerns, and desires of a cohort of 17-year-olds very convincingly.
The plot is as predictable as it is incredible—Seal's only real potential love interest, briefly introduced in the first half of the film, returns near the end as surely as the proverbial rifle, introduced in Act I, must be fired in Act V. The film is not completely devoid of national cinematic characteristics: the atmosphere is reminiscent of Riazanov's early comedies and there are several echoes of Marlen Khutsiev's young protagonists from Lenin's Guard. Seal's search for true love gives the film's story a bit of a philosophical twist, although there is a bit too much artifice in the symbolism of the apple that passes from girl to boy. The ultimate resolution seems to contain a kind of authorial message about the interrelationship between sex and love, but it is safe to say that conversations about this film will not revolve around the details of Seal's budding intimacy with Marina at the end, but around the hormonally induced antics that make up most of the action. Let's Make Love is the closest thing Russian cinema has yet produced to a genuine sexual revolution.
Denis Evstigneev was born in Moscow in 1961. He graduated from VGIK in 1983, where he studied in the Department of Cinematography. He has been involved in many different aspects of cinema both as filmmaker and as producer. In addition to his three feature films, he is also the author of a series of "social advertisements" made under the auspices of Russkii pro"ekt. His has worked as cinematographer on a number of notable films, including Vadim Abdrashitov's The Servant (1988) and Armavir (1991) as well as Pavel Lungin's Taxi Blues (1991) and Luna Park (1992).
|2002||Let's Make Love|
|2004: Prophets and Gains||Debut Films at Pittsburgh Filmmakers||STW [СТВ] Film Company||Pygmalion Productions||NTV-Profit Film Company|