Bawdy and bizarre spoof “The Last Soviet Movie” marks the feature debut of experienced Latvian assistant director Aleksandrs Petukhovs (“The Pianist”). Helmer’s previous shorts “Brezhniev’s Foot” and “Stalin’s Fist” suggest his jones for Soviet kitsch, which comes across as more affectionate than bitter in this mock, multi-generational epic. Exuberant but only fitfully amusing, 2003-made pic has already surfaced at several film meets, but looks unlikely to break out of the festival gulag and find distribution beyond the Baltics.
Narrator John F. Romanoff sits in a “Brooklyn” apartment (a deliberately fake studio set) writing his Russian family’s history, which is enacted onscreen, starting with his grandfather in pre-revolutionary times and through to his dad’s adventures as a Communist, soldier and political prisoner (all three played by Dzintars Belogrudovs). Goofball picaresque tone darkens when villain Karpatch (Voldemars Karpacs) has a deaf-and-dumb character hanged during WWII. Surreal interludes — featuring, for instance, a ballerina chased through woods by butch girl soldiers — feel more “Benny Hill” than Bulgakov in terms of satire. Despite cheapola digital lensing, use of working steam trains and period trappings suggests healthy production budget.