×

Little Moscow

A smoothly produced period melodrama unfolding in the southwestern Polish city of Legnica, headquarters to the Soviet forces stationed in Poland from 1945–90, "Little Moscow" traces the politically dangerous love affair between Vera (Svetlana Khodchenkova), the beautiful wife of a Russian military pilot, and Michal (seductive Leslaw Zurek), a dashing Polish lieutenant.

With:
With: Svetlana Khodchenkova, Leslaw Zurek, Dmitrij Ulianov, Elena Leszczynska, Artem Tkachenko, Jurij Itskov, Aleksiej Gorbunov.

A smoothly produced period melodrama unfolding in the southwestern Polish city of Legnica, headquarters to the Soviet forces stationed in Poland from 1945-90, “Little Moscow” traces the politically dangerous love affair between Vera (Svetlana Khodchenkova), the beautiful wife of a Russian military pilot, and Michal (seductive Leslaw Zurek), a dashing Polish lieutenant. Delving into a period of Eastern bloc history not previously exploited by popular cinema, noted Polish writer-helmer Waldemar Krzystek (“Suspended” “Dismissed From Life”) paints a broad-strokes but no less affecting portrait of the tension-filled Soviet-Polish “friendship” of the times.

Judged best film at Poland’s national Gdynia festival in September to the scorn of local crix who preferred artier fare, the widescreen, high-concept pic scored more than 40,000 admissions during its opening over the Nov. 28 weekend. It’s got the goods for niche theatrical release in former Soviet satellite countries and could serve as a more mainstream fest entry elsewhere.

Set in 1967-68, the central tale of the ill-fated affair is framed by a cover story taking place 30 years later. Latter tale involves Yuri (stoic Dmitrij Ulianov), the betrayed husband, and his putative daughter (also called Vera and also played by Khodchenkova) returning to Legnica to discover what really happened.

The script by Krzystek gives a good sense of the ’60s, stressing Soviet prohibitions against fraternizing with the locals, who weren’t even allowed to enter their enclave. Contact was supposed to remain on an official level; nevertheless, all manner of interaction took place — even, as a subplot shows, Russian babies baptized secretly in Polish churches.

However, some characters, relationships and situations seem peculiarly abridged, betraying the fact the pic was cut down from a miniseries of four 56-minute parts. The series will screen on Polish TV after the feature finishes its run.

Although some of the many characters come off as mere types (e.g., the nefarious KGB agents), Krzystek’s restrained directing choices keep the pic from descending into simple soap opera.

Managing to make her dual characters distinct, slender, sloe-eyed strawberry blonde Khodchenkova nabbed Gdynia’s best actress prize. Her fascinating ’60s Vera credibly evolves from faithful Russian wife to a woman willing to give up her patrimony for the man she loves. But ’90s Vera too often comes off as a shrill ball-breaker.

Costume and hair design stand out among lush tech credits, with aging makeup in modern scenes the sole unconvincing element.

Popular on Variety

Little Moscow

Poland

Production: A Syrena Entertainment Group release (in Poland) of a Skorpion Art, Banana Split Polska, Telewizja Polska–Agencja Filmowa production with the support of Polish Film Institute, Marshal Office of Lower Silesia, City Hall of Legnica. (International sales: Skorpion Art, Telewizja Polska, Warsaw.) Produced by Pawel Rakowski. Directed, written by Waldemar Krzystek.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Tomasz Dobrowolski; editor, Marek "Mulny" Mulica; music, Zbigniew Karnecki; production designer, Tadeusz Kosarewicz; costume designer, Malgorzata Zacharska; sound (Dolby Digital), Waclaw Pilkowski. Reviewed on DVD, Chicago, Dec. 2, 2008. (In Gdynia Film Festival, Poland; Warsaw Film Festival -- market.) Running time: 114 MIN.

With: With: Svetlana Khodchenkova, Leslaw Zurek, Dmitrij Ulianov, Elena Leszczynska, Artem Tkachenko, Jurij Itskov, Aleksiej Gorbunov.

More Film

  • Rita And Tom Hanks Coronavirus

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson Return to U.S. After Coronavirus Diagnosis in Australia

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are back home in the U.S. after they revealed they had contracted coronavirus and were quarantined in Australia. Hanks gave an update on Twitter Saturday morning, thanking everyone who had helped them in Australia and assuring people that they are still isolating themselves in the U.S. “Hey, folks…We’re home now [...]

  • Film Comment Magazine Goes on Hiatus

    Film Comment Magazine to Go on Hiatus as Film at Lincoln Center Lays Off Half of Staff

    Many companies are being financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and the Film at Lincoln Center is the latest organization to have to lay off employees and pause some of their operations. On Friday, executive director Lesli Klainberg released a memo announcing that the center had to furlough or lay off about half of its [...]

  • "Birds of Prey" egg sandwich

    'Birds of Prey' Actor Bruno Oliver Recreates Harley Quinn's Famous Sandwich

    When actor Bruno Oliver booked the role of short order cook Sal in “Birds of Prey: (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” he had no idea how significant Sal and his breakfast sandwich were to the story. “You couldn’t tell from the audition necessarily and as actors, we always worry about our scenes [...]

  • Minyan

    'Minyan': Film Review

    Best known for the unexpectedly soul-shattering San Francisco suicide doc “The Bridge,” indie filmmaker Eric Steel came out and came of age in 1980s New York at a moment just before AIDS devastated the city’s gay community. Such timing must have been surreal, to assume something so liberating about one’s own identity, only to watch [...]

  • Animated Movie 'The Queen's Corgi' Fetches

    Film New Roundup: Animated Movie 'The Queen's Corgi' Fetches North American Distribution

    In today’s film news roundup, “The Queen’s Corgi” finds a home, the Overlook Film Festival is postponed and the California Film Commission adjusts its tax credit rules due to the coronavirus. ACQUISITION Freestyle Digital Media has acquired North American rights to the animated family comedy feature “The Queen’s Corgi,” and plans to make it available on DVD and to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content