Honorable freshman effort would have benefited from a richer script with a little more bite, but what pic lacks in means and scope it makes up for in heart. Jewish and history-themed fests should bite, and tube sales should be brisker than Red Square in January. This affecting portrait of one woman’s sincere belief in a better world through communism is a modest local hit thanks to good reviews, national affection for Balasko and, no doubt, a significant pool of current and former communist sympathizers.
Catchy title is a bit of a misnomer. Central conflict between otherwise loving spouses Irene (Balasko) and Bernard (Maurice Benichou) is that she’s a militant commie and he isn’t.
Setting is September 1958, a time when French political life was split into Gaullist and communist camps. Irene was interned at Auschwitz and liberated by the Red Army, so her love for all things Soviet is complete and uncritical. Pragmatic, apolitical Bernard, whose shoe shop is failing, craves respite from Marxist rhetoric and the Russian music and tchotchkes that overrun their puny apartment, also shared by their son and Irene’s gangly brother.
Most of all, Bernard would like his exuberant wife to pay as much attention to him as she does to the Cause. Flushed with excitement over Paris concerts by the Red Army Choir, Irene is in seventh heaven when three of its number befriend her. Victor Nieznanov is suitably dashing here as Ivan, the virile soloist who embodies the grandeur and promise of Russia for Irene and encourages her in a way Bernard can’t.
Thesping is fine throughout. Delightful score is a bittersweet blend of Russian classics. Cramped by limited locations and decor, lensing is tentative, as if the camera is worried about accidentally capturing any 1990s detail.