Aug 312007

Maybe I didn’t give Brilliantovaya ruka quite enough credit. I only gave it a Netflix rating of 3, but there is an interesting part played by Nonna Modryukova.

It took me a while to remember where I had seen her before. She was the Komissar in the movie Komissar, and did a great job in that film. Some googling informed me that she had also been in the film Vokzal dlya Dvoikh. Of course. Now I remember. She was the “Uncle” who gave that subversive little talk about the virtues of private property and private enterprise.

In this film she plays a “house manager”, where she is a busybody pest who minds other peoples’ business, looks out for residents who are living beyond their means, and puts up public denunciations of people who don’t live properly (in the form of signs posted in front of the buildings where they live). Is she a parody of a type of character who was extant in Russia in 1968? I don’t know, but wish I understood more of how that worked.

I previously said the movie managed to show the police and other authorities as noble, virtuous people — very competent at what they were doing, and almost omniscient. It’s kind of hard to make a comedy/James Bond-type movie if you have to play the cops that way. But if this house manager was an authority figure, then we can say that not all authority figures were portrayed sympathetically. (Her response to the statement that a dog is a man’s best friend. “Man’s best friend is the superintendent.” I presume that’s another term for her character’s job.)

Was this part of the movie a bit subversive for 1968? I don’t know. But it’s fun trying to learn about things like that. I do know that I’ve enjoyed watching Nonna Mordyukova every time I’ve seen her so far.

I’m not sure if she is still alive or not. I saw one news item from a couple of years ago that suggested she was in bad health then.


  • Natan Kumanov

    Omniscient to the point of being funny. I guess that was the point: to be funny. Certainly the movie did not intend to teach how omniscient militia were. If it did, then it would have done it differently, there it reminded a joke too much. Russia is not Korea, here people are not so serious… I personally did not like this movie because it overall (including the representation of militia and of that monster dame as well) was too flat and full of stamps (let me translate the word штампы this way).

  • John B Gorentz


    Does your word штампы have anything to do with what we call caricature?

    By the way, I mostly cannot stand to watch American movies. I detest everything that has to do with the narrow, cramped worldview of Hollywood movie makers. But I recently went on a binge of viewing noir crime movies from the years just after World War II, and found one extolling the virtues of the omniscient, omnipresent FBI that reminded me of some of the movies that were sponsored/supported by the KGB (or maybe it was the MVD). (And by this I don’t mean Brilliantovaya Ruka). It’s hard to create a drama out of catching the bad guys if the bad-guy-catchers are so infallible, but this movie tried! Unfortunately, I can’t find it in my YouTube history now.

  • Natan Kumanov

    Well, maybe, maybe. I don’t know English enough to judge. I think there is a greater “social” part to the concept. Say, if they usually state, when they discuss some concept, a well-known string of words or a well-known idea on the topic of that concept. It’s kind of accepted in the society. It gets repeated with no scrutiny, either for laziness or for some kind of bon ton. The word has to do with those dies that officials use when they make a resolution; the idea is one of repetition with no inventing new words and new ideas. For example, there are national штампы: things that are usual to say about representatives of some nations. Say, “Russians drink vodka and drive bears”. 😉 Also there are simply fixed phrases or ideas on anything. The film appeared to me too focused on fixed ideas: what you mentioned about militia, also the representation of the criminals (nothing exact to say, but overall my impression — I can’t analyse why now — is too “stampy”). And so on. “Руссо туристо облико морале” is a good signature to the movie, if not in its sense, then in its style. Even the song about those island folk, while entertaining, is also “stampy”.

    As to omni-science, those militia appeared to me more omniscient in appearance rather than in action, i.e. for the sake of making stamps in the dialogue… But I have watched the movie a long time ago and don’t remember a lot, so I may be mistaken.

  • Reticulator

    Maybe “stock character” is a little closer to “stamp”.

  • Natan Kumanov

    I would add that this word is most typically used when discussing writing style, quality of writing, and so on; in this case, it mostly refers to well-known strings of words, but may also refer to ideas, that are only repeated and not really reflected upon by writers who employ them. For example: газетный штамп (an expression that journalists often use without thinking, like “гидра революции” in the 19th century). I used this word in an extended meaning; usually, it’s not used when discussing movies.