Issue 49 (2015)

Oleg Assadulin: The Office Party (Korporativ, 2014)

reviewed by Rimgaila Salys© 2015

korporativOleg Assadulin, the director of The Office Party, graduated with an art degree from the Mukhina School in St Petersburg in 1998 and worked as set designer for small theatres for several years. He then moved to Berlin, built sets at Babelsberg Studio to support himself, and later enrolled in the German Film and Television Academy Berlin. He now travels between Berlin and Moscow, and has made a career in Russia directing urban fantasy and thrillers, such as Phobos, Club of Fear (Fobos. Klub strakha,2010); Dark World: Equilibrium (Temnyi mir. Ravnovesie,2014); and the popular television serial The Boarding School (Zakrytaia shkola, 2011-12). Although his short school films were full of humor, The Office Party is his first professional foray into feature film comedy.

Igor’, the straight man of The Office Party, is the manager of a small furniture store with a conveniently large (for plot purposes) contingent of seven employees.[1] In front of the store stands a conventional Lenin statue. The camera zeroes in on its pedestal, decorated with a hammer and sickle, for a Soviet ethos still operates in this small slice of post-Soviet Russia: except for Igor’, none of the employees seems to do any work. For the sixth anniversary of the business, the employees persuade Igor’ to allow an office party on the premises, promising to clean up before leaving. When Igor’ arrives at work the next morning, he finds the store trashed, yet no one will confess to the crime. To find the culprit, Igor’ requires each employee to recount the previous night’s activities.

korporativReluctantly they comply. Sasha, the young computer specialist, got fifteen policemen drunk and the group wrecked a bowling alley. Roma, the delivery driver, picked up a drunken woman, parked his car intending to rape her as she slept, but instead hit a police squad car, with predictable consequences. The exhibitionist and former sect member Leonid shaves his chest and goes to bed (His exploits are mostly in the past). As consolation for the loss of a boyfriend, Masha took her friend Ira to a nightclub to meet new men, but was herself tricked into a quickie by a pick-up artist who tempted her with a trip to the Maldives. Zhanna, the middle-aged scold, spent the night searching for her daughter at a suburban drug and sex party, used a broom as a (witch’s) “lethal weapon” on the host and a woman neighbor, and exploded her car while crashing through a gate. Sex-obsessed but repressed Valera was served up two fat whores by his not-at-all repressed dad. In the end the store employees blame Igor’ because he has no witnesses for the preceding night. This motivates him to find the real culprits: a skittish horse that wrecked the store, and those responsible for the horse’s depredations, the store’s elderly security guard and his relative. The latter works at a horse farm and earns extra cash by writing one animal off the books each month, transporting it in the furniture store owner’s truck (the latter gets a cut), and butchering the horse into tasty delicacies. Finally, Igor’s love interest from a nearby lighting store is the minor sub-plot that supplies a happy ending.

korporativThe Office Party uses the time-honored structure of a frame narrative (as in The Decameron and Canterbury Tales) to tell a series of unrelated tales. The film follows the celebration binge and puke model popularized by the successful comedy Kiss Them All (Gor’ko 2013), with a nod to the American The Hangover (2009, dir. Todd Phillips), but its convoluted comedic plots are simply not funny, nor is the dialogue witty, relying mostly on grotesque stereotypes (lascivious fat ladies, drunken policemen, screaming young women with runny mascara) and physical humor (desperately needing to pee, sudden vomiting into a car, spiking drinks with sleeping pills, taking a broom to enemies, unzipping pants, and so on). While Kiss ‘em All had a consistent storyline and normal character development, this is absent from The Office Party with its overabundance of superficial types.[2] Kseniia Sobchak and her husband, Maksim Vitorgan (Roma) alone provide a rare funny moment through a drunken exchange in their own nonsense language.

Given The Office Party’s parade of harridans, corrupt bosses, equally corrupt and lazy employees, exhibitionist males, gold-digging females, drunks and sex maniacs, one wonders why some Russians were so incensed by Andrei Zviagintsev’s Leviathan (2014).

 


Notes

1] The actor Nikolai Naumov (Igor’) has appeared on KVN and played Kolian in the serial Real Lads (Real’nye patsany, 2010, dir. Zhanna Kadnikova).

2] Kiss Them All grossed $25,505,814 in Russia and The Office Party grossed $4,825,046.

Rimgaila Salys
University of Colorado at Boulder

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The Office Party, Russia 2014
89 min., color
Director: Oleg Assadulin
Screenplay: Pavel Karnaukhov, Gevond Andreasian
Cinematography: Aleksei Kupriianov
Design: Iuliia Feofanova, Oksana Shevchenko, Maksim Panov
Editing: Maksim Smirnov
Soundtrack: Dmitrii Kozinets
Cast: Nikolai Naumov, Vladimir Tolokonnikov, Miroslava Karpovich, Andrei Fedortsov, Aristarkh Venes, Marina Fedunkiv, Mikhail Bashkatov, Maksim Vitorgan, Sergei Belogolovtsev, Roman Iunusov, Sergei Selin, Nataliia Medvedeva, Vasia Oblomov, Aleksandr Bashirov, Kseniia Sobchak
Producers: Georgii Malkov, Sarik Andreasian, Gevond Andreasian et al.
Production: Enjoy Movies

Oleg Assadulin: The Office Party (Korporativ, 2014)

reviewed by Rimgaila Salys© 2015

Updated: 02 Jul 15