While “True Stories” contains the clever idea of placing the Gogol-like short tales of Mikhail Zoschenko in a silent film era vision of 1920s Moscow, its belabored sense of comedy and character absurdisms makes for an extremely dry and only briefly amusing experience. Somewhat obscure fictional source and ultra-spare staging style of helmer Murad Ibragimbekov (lensed in deliberately dirty-looking B&W), plus a peculiarly broad Slavic comedy style, unevenly synched dubbing, poor translation (by Raisa Svirina) and intermittently unreadable subtitles combine to make pic virtually unmarketable in the West, and a mere curiosity item on fest circuit.
A Moscow electrician named Nyakishev (Vladimir Steklov) lives in a crowded apartment house where he suspects that the heating stoves are poisoning the tenants, but can’t convince some clueless bureaucrats to do anything about it. He fantasizes about an elegant lady (Kristina Orbakaite) he barely knows, but finally gets around to inviting her to a near-disastrous night at the opera, which leads to his seeming death. Ibragimbekov inserts vintage silent film footage between his theatrically staged scenes, but the effect is of a film uneasily positioned between sound and silent style.