the wedding(2000)
director: pavel lounguine
marat basharov, mariya miranova, andrei panin

. A glance at the synopsis of The Wedding, a new film from Russia, might lead you for a second into thinking that it’s a period piece, a costume drama set in the world depicted by writers like Gorky and Chekhov.

A mining village near Moscow is preparing for the wedding of Mishka, an innocent local boy, to Tania, the local beauty who has just returned, mysteriously, from the big city. While Mishka’s father agonizes about how to pay for the wedding, the boy gives the little money he has to buy Tania a present to his best friend, Garkusha, for safekeeping. Garkusha is an alcoholic, who promptly binge-drinks it away.

The Wedding, directed by Pavel Lounguine, is set in present day post-Soviet Russia, however, and the cruel conditions of Russian life -- unchanged it feels like since the czars -- happen in a world of gangster capitalism, cheesy europop and six-month waits for wages. It might sound quaint, but Lounguine’s film is anything but -- fast-paced and bitterly funny, it seems to have been shot with the idea that the camera should be as drunk and as desperate as the wedding guests.

Mishka’s tragic naiveté is probably supposed to stand for something in the Russian character, as is Garkusha’s fiendish ingenuity. Regardless, the film is a joy to watch, pugnaciously upbeat despite the fantastically bleak setting.