Courier (1986)

Directed by Karen Shakhnazarov
Written by Karen Shakhnazarov, Aleksandr Borodyanskiy
Starring Fyodor Dunayevsky, Anastasiya Nemolyaeva, Oleg Basilashvili, Inna Churikova, Svetlana Kryuchkova, Aleksandr Pankratov-Chyornyy, Vladimir Menshov, Aleftina Evdokimova, Yevdokiya Urusova, Vladimir Smirnov, Andrei Vertogradov

In the backwash of his parents’ divorce, a sullen, straying, flippant, pseudophilic messenger (Dunayevsky) for a periodical shirks work, pranks adults, dreams of imparlance with a mausoleum’s bust of his distant father (Vertogradov) and tribesmen with whom he fraternizes in Africa, frivols with the lovely daughter (Nemolyaeva) of a prominent preceptor (Basilashvili) who can’t abide him, and awaits conscription and the grim possibility of deployment to Afghanistan. As much and often as its protagonist does Shakhnazarov’s hit dither from cavalier comedy to broody rumination, delineating divisions of reciprocally uncomprehending generations and classes (that latter a novelty in late Soviet society) with a subtlety unobserved in John Hughes’s coeval teen fiction. The zeitgeist of the U.S.S.R.’s final years perfused for preservation a handful of Mosfilm’s movies, but this is a cut above most for a cast who unerringly hit their marks, Nikolay Nemolyaev’s exceptional cinematography, and percussive electropop tunes by Eduard Artemyev more memorable than his ambient passages sounded by woodwinds and guitar. Many topics constitute the confluent core of Shakhnazarov’s adaptation from his novel: familial disintegration, the irreverent impulse to overstep boundaries during adolescence that redounds to a confusion between admiring mimicry and mockery, and phenomena insinuated and illustrated without comment, as public faith faltering for the once-indomitable Red Army, burgeoning anomie to soon metastasize in the first years of the sequent Federation, and symptoms of foreign influences circumventing a rusting, sagging iron curtain — fashionable magazines riffled by snotty shkolnitsi, Tomisaburo Wakayama pummeling combatants on television, teenagers breakdancing throughout Moscow. All of these designate salient facets of Russian ethos as it was and would become.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears.

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