It's been a scary month for Moscow cinephiles. Many of you may have noticed that all the downtown kiosks which used to sell pirate videos and DVDs have suddenly gone out of business. Some sort of evil crackdown on pirates, which our Bearded Russian Conspiracy Theorist has tied to the crackdown on YUKOS and the recent opening of the Hard Rock Cafe... while others blame it all on the Elders of Zion.
Last week, I went into one kiosk next to the Tchaikovskii Music Hall at Mayakovskaya to ask what happened. It was one of the few that hadn't been completely shut down and boarded up. The kiosk's DVDs were almost all sold out, excepting the really shitty ones, leaving bare space on the walls.
"Luzhkov's decision," the mid-30's-ish dyed blond woman answered me, shrugging.
"You mean Luzhkov just woke up one day and decided he didn't want any pirate movie kiosks in Moscow?"
She laughed. "That's pretty much it."
"Let's hope he has another bad morning and changes his mind," I suggested.
She shrugged. I bought a VHS tape version of Carlito's Way for 200 rubles and wished the saleswoman luck.
Movie Of The Week
God I love the Japanese. Only they could put together a movie as sick and direct as this Battle Royale. The idea is brilliant: bratty teenagers from a high school transported to a deserted island, given weapons, and told to kill each other because Japanese youth have become too decadent and need to be punished. And the evil teacher means "kill." To prove he means it, he wastes two students in class who whine too much as he explains the rules.
The rules? Every student is given a different weapon and provisions, some weapons (machine gun) better than others (a garbage can lid). Ain't that a metaphor for life, folks? Only one student can survive the game. If there's more than one schoolkid left alive after three days, then all will die thanks to explosive necklaces soldered onto their necks.
There are no punches pulled here, no Christian epiphanies like you might have in a Hollywood version: it's Lord of the Flies meets Doom for sheer goriness. It would certainly take the wind out of the whole Columbine school shooting fad. There's something deeply satisfying and sexy watching 14-year-old Japanese kids goring each other -- such as the scene of the cute girl whose necklace is detonated by the teacher, nearly severing her head at the neck, sending blood spraying on the classroom floor. Call me krazy, but that made me Me So Hoe-nee.
Available in pirate with English subtitles. Kudos to Flounder for discovering it.
Three Stars 'N Stripes way up. The premise of this movie is that Japanese society is decadent. The decadence is due to America's victory in WWII. Therefore, every Jap kid who offs another Jap kid in Battle Royale does so because the USAF kicked Japan's ass. That makes me proud, and frankly, it gives me full wood.
The really horrible thing about the sudden disappearance of convenient pirate movie kiosks isn't just that we can no longer get cheap Hollywood flicks the week they hit the screens in the Motherland, or that our money goes now to corrupt American CEOs rather than Russian gangsters. No, the really horrible thing about it is that, without a glut of pirate flicks to watch at home, I may have to start going out again at night. To meet people. You know, those two-legged things with all the paint on their faces?