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Petr Buslov, Anti-Bimmer [Anti-Bumer] (2004)

reviewed by Natalia Rulyova©2005

Dmitrii Puchkov’s Humorous Interpretation of Bimmer [Bumer] (Petr Buslov, 2003)

 Anti-Boomer is an official acknowledgement of Dmitrii Puchkov’s popularity and a step forward towards legalising piracy as a creative method (tvorcheskii metod), to borrow a Soviet literary term.[i]  Puchkov started his career in the film industry as a pirate-translator of western gangster films and became known to Russian film lovers under the pseudonym Goblin in 1995, according to Nil's Iogansen and Stanislav Lobastov.  In the same year, his group, the Polnyi P set of the Guards Klim Chugunkin Translation Studio, entered the world of illegal video production.  It is symbolic that they named themselves after Klim Chugunkin, a proletarian from Mikhail Bulgakov’s A Dog’s Heart (Sobach'e serdtse) whose body was used by Professor Preobrazhenskii for the production of Sharikov.  In his alternative translations, Puchkov’s God’s Spark (Bozh'ia iskra) production company reinterprets the visuals of existing films by creating a completely new narrative and soundtrack, which mock and satirise the original films.  Sarcasm, vulgarity, and steb have coloured most of the work of the former militiaman Puchkov.  I use Aleksei Yurchak’s definition of steb: it is a type of humor characterized by “overidentification” with the object of mockery.[ii]

Puchkov’s approach to translation, which he calls pravil'nyi (corrector right), could be described as faithful, aiming to convey the original narrative as closely as possible.  At the same time, however, Puchkov’s satires of Hollywood’s grand-narratives, are also deeply embedded in Soviet and post-Soviet reality, whose imagery dominates his interpretations.  He first acquired widespread popularity for his alternative or farcical translations of The Lord of the Rings trilogy (dir. Peter Jackson, 2001-2003).  The first film, The Fellowship of the Ring, came out in Puchkov’s free interpretation as The Gang and the Ring (Bratva i Kol'tso).  Soon after that, Two Towers was remade as Two Toppled Towers (Dve Sorvannye Bashni) and The Return of the King appeared with the farcical titled The Hobos Return (Vozvrashchenie bomzha).  Enjoying the success of his first parodies, Puchkov continued with Shmatritsa, an interpretation of The Matrix (dir. Andy and Larry Wachowski, 1999), and Star Wars: Storm in the Glass, an adaptation of the original Star Wars (dir. George Lucas, 1977).  Among his many others projects interpretations of other cult films: Pulp Fiction (dir. Quentin Tarantino, 1994); Lock, Stock and Smoking Barrels (dir. Guy Ritchie, 1998); and Kill Bill 1 (dir. Quentin Tarantino, 2003).  Puchkov’s website contains a complete list of his work.

Anti-Bimmer marks a new stage in Puchkov’s career for two main reasons: it is his first mocking interpretation of a Russian-made film, Petr Buslov’s Bimmer (2003), and it is his first legal production.  Anti-Bimmer was broadcast on the Russian TNT television channel on 31 January 2005 at 10:00pm in the evening and was re-broadcast the following morning at 10:00am as part of a series of comedies.  According to the TNT website, these two broadcasts scored a record rating of 22.5 % of all the viewers who watched television during those times on all channels.  This figure is higher than the number of the viewers who watched the popular reality show House-2 (Dom-2) on the same channel.

 

Anti-Bimmer was also well received by some critics.  On 28 January, Komsomol'skaia Pravda published an appreciative review of Anti-Bimmer, marking the legalisation of Puchkov’s alternative production.   It advertised Anti-Bimmer as an ironic comedy that satirised the original bandit thriller: pure steb.  KinoKadr also published a positive review admiring the humorous effect resulting from the incongruity between the stylised, naughty, and idiotic dialogues and the stony faces of the characters on the screen. 

 

Puchkov’s alternative interpretation turns the original film inside out.  The leading character, a sleek and powerful Bimmer (BMW), is transformed into Anti-Bimmer: the German car is re-fitted at a service station with an engine from a Zaporozhets—a cheap, small, and old-fashioned Soviet car.  As a result, the struggling engine makes the Anti-Bimmer puff and wheeze on the new soundtrack to the film.  Departing from the original, Puchkov’s four main heroes are not gangsters; they do not steal the Anti-Bimmer but own it from the beginning.  The aim of their journey is not to run away and hide, but to go to the European football championship in Portugal.  They are not threatening but comical: they take along a globe as a roadmap.  Anti-Bimmer follows most of the events as in the original plot, but reinterprets them humorously.  In Bimmer, the men deceive a militiaman, attack and kill other bandits on the road, threaten lorry drivers, and rob a chemist to steal cash.  In Puchkov’s version, they manage to get away from a corrupt cop, fight gangs of philharmonic artists and provincial show business celebrities, and hold up a chemist to get the necessary drugs for one of them who was injured.  Unlike the original film, the men do not die at the end: they realise that they have missed the Russian football team’s match in Portugal and make a new plan to go to Greece for the Olympic Games.  To turn the tragic plot of Bimmer into a comedy, Puchkov cut out the cruel opening and closing scenes—the theft of the Bimmer and the deaths of the main characters.  Puchkov aims to create a cheerful and upbeat comedy-version of a road movie.  One character sums up the aimlessness of the journey: It doesn’t matter what road you choose. The earth is round!

 

    While the original soundtrack to Bimmer became a best-seller on Russia’s music market in part because of dynamic rock rhythms and lyrics were fully integrated into the film, the soundtrack to Anti-Bimmer is deliberately eclectic, even occasionally comical.  Puchkov’s soundtrack intermixes Soviet songs (Nasha sluzhba i opasna, i trudnaby M. Minkov, and Smelo tovarischi v nogu by L. Radin); contemporary Russian pop music (Chelovek svistok by A. Varum, Sedaia noch' by Iu. Shatunov, Menedzher by Sergei Shnur); music from some old and well-known children’s cartoons (Pesenka Cheburashki by Shainskii, Govoriat, my biaki-buki by G. Gladkov); and with folk songs like Valenki and the parodic song Chernyi bumer by Serega.

 

Puchkov’s kaleidoscopic narrative often falls into parts, lacks coherent  development, and appears as a chain of random jokes in the fashion of Soviet kapustniki (an event organised by university students and consisting of disconnected or loosely connected numbers) and KVN (Klub veselykh i nakhodchivykh, translated as “Club for the Cheerful and Quick-Witted”), one of the oldest and most popular Russian television shows involving a tournament of university student teams from different parts of Russia and the former USSR in which each team presents numbers loosely connected by the theme of the show.  The humorous effect in Anti-Bimmer is the result of the gap between the seriousness of the visual and the absurd story narrated by the translator’s mocking and monotonous voice.  Because it was produced legally, unlike Puchkov’s earlier translations, Anti-Bimmer does not contain any obscene jokes.  However, as in his previous parodies, the characters’ speech is filled with Soviet and post-Soviet clichés and references; some of the jokes are repetitive and self-referential (for instance an episodic character in Anti-Bimmer remarks on the elves and goblins, alluding to The Lord of the Rings.)  The role of many references is simply to shock or to take the viewer by surprise with an outrageous and unexpected remark.  Puchkov uses various means to provoke laughter: he takes phenomena out of context, randomly juxtaposes them, and often exploits sexist, xenophobic, nationalistic, and homophobic stereotypes.  As in all of his parodies, Puchkov simultaneously belittles the western, laughs at the national, parodies the past, and makes cynical comments on the present.  The effect is such that the chaotic structure and ridiculous jokes of Anti-Bimmer make the viewer laugh not only with it, but also at it.  



[i]  See Natalia Rulyova, Piracy and Narrative Games: Dmitry Puchkov’s Translations of The Lord of the Rings, forthcoming in Slavonic and East European Journal.

[ii] Aleksei Yurchak, “Gagarin and the Rave Kids: Transforming Power, Identity, and Aesthetics in Post-Soviet Nightlife,” in Consuming Russia.  Ed. Adele Marie Barker.  (Durham, London: Duke UP, 1999): 76-109.  

Natalia Rulyova, University of Surrey


Anti-Bimmer, Russia, 2004

Color, 73 minutes

Director: Petr Buslov

Master of dialogues: Goblin (Dmitrii Puchkov)

Cast: Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Andrei Merzlikin, Maksim Konovalov, Sergei Gorobchenko, Iana Shivkova, Lidmila Poliakova

Production: Bozh'ia iskra (God’s Spark)


Petr Buslov, Anti-Bimmer [Anti-Bumer] (2004)

reviewed by Natalia Rulyova©2005

10/07/05