Apr 122014

The chase begins I’m not sure what the filmmakers were thinking of when they made this car chase scene in “Vory v Zakone” (1988).  Gangster #1 (played by Valentin Gaft) has his driver take off at high speed after Gangster #2, who tries to get away.

A long goodbyeGangster #1’s girlfriend, Rita, was in his car when he started, so after getting up to speed he stops the car to interrupt the pursuit and let her out, tell her he loves her (in none-too-speedy a fashion) and then resume the chase.

The chase resumesAmazingly,Gangster #2 didn’t use the interruption to lose Gangster #1, because immediately thereafter Gangster Gaft sans girlfriend is is still on his tail, and the usual sort of mahem ensues (including running over a baby in a carriage).

This wasn’t a slow-speed comedy chase like the one in Eldar Ryazanov’s “Beware the Car.”

Maybe the explanation is in parts I couldn’t understand, which is a lot of them.

Rita (played by Anna Vladlenovna Samokhina) later betrays Gaft’s gangster character, but I don’t think it’s in revenge for such an awkwardly-put-together scene.

I wonder if this 1988 film was the first of the long run of violent Russian gangster movies about the post-Soviet days, mostly tiresome ones.  I can’t think of an earlier one of this genre.

The title can be literally translated as “Thieves in Law.”  I gather from the Wikipedia Article, “Thief in Law,” that this title phrase itself goes back a lot further than the modern gangster/mafia-type days.  (The “talk” page is perhaps more interesting and informative than the article itself.)  Given the role of the militia and procurator in the film, I thought it might in this case be referring to the corrupt entanglement of the police/legal system and the criminal establishment outside the prison system, even though the original “Thief in Law” phrase seems to have referred to criminals within the prison system.

Mar 212008

I knew I had seen that guy who plays the NKVD chief before. He appeared tonight while I was watching Part 4 of Master i Margarita. The NKVD is finally involved — trying to figure out this Professor Woland character (who is Satan) — Who is he, really, and how did he get to Moscow? The NKVD guy gives orders to arrest anyone on the slightest suspicion.

Finally I remembered. It’s the same person who played Lavrentiy Beria in “Balthazar’s Feasts, or Night with Stalin.” Well, I guess he has found a role. His name is Valentin Gaft.

I have mentioned before how movies from the Soviet era always portray the police as virtuous and almost omniscient. It’s difficult to have much of a plot when one party already knows everything and can do no wrong. How do you make a movie under those conditions? Answer: You do slapstick where an innocent person has to get involved with the crooks as an informer in order to obtain the final unknown detail — as in Brilliantovaya Ruka (Diamond Arm) or Gentlemen of Fortune. There can be some entertainment value in that — I understand that those two movies were very popular in Russia.

Master i Margarita is of course a post-Soviet movie. And in this one, the almost-omniscient characters are Satan and their sidekick, who know how to use their knowledge to destroy people.

Omniscience in the wrong hands is not a good thing.