by Veronika Ferdman
Mosfilm has quite wonderfully made hundreds of their films available for streaming through YouTube (and a good number of them are supplied with English subtitles). This way I got very lucky in happening upon Carnival in Moscow (aka The Carnival Night) a 1956 early career effort by Eldar Ryazanov, who would go on to become a titan of Soviet comedy. Set in the days leading up to and including a New Year’s eve celebration, the film chronicles the iron-fisted Serafim Ivanovich Ogurtsov and his staff members clashing over what constitutes fun and entertainment for a night. He believes that a good hour-long lecture from a professor is just the key, as is somber classical music, while they want a magic show and boisterous singing. Both critical and pandering (yet ever so delightfully), it undercuts the stodgy repository of authority while celebrating the wit and cleverness of the proletariat in uniting against this out of touch “dictator.” Vivid with color and humor the second half unspools as a series of variety acts taking place on the stage, giving the sense that this film is meant to play out in the background of one's own holiday party.