×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Generation P

P is for punk-spirited, post-Perestroika pastiche in Victor Ginzburg's dauntingly ambitious if somewhat ill-conceived adaptation of "Generation P," a sprawling, largely plotless sociopolitical satire by postmodern Russian novelist Victor Pelevin.

With:
With: Vladimiir Yepifantsev, Mikhail Yefremov, Andrei Fomin, Oleg Takhtarov, Sergei Shnurov, Vladimir Menshov, Ivan Okhlobystin, Roman Trakhtenberg, Renata Litvinova, Leonid Parfyonov, Amaliya Mordvinova, Yelena Polyakova, Andrei Vasiliev. (Russian dialogue)

P is for punk-spirited, post-Perestroika pastiche in Victor Ginzburg’s dauntingly ambitious if somewhat ill-conceived adaptation of “Generation P,” a sprawling, largely plotless sociopolitical satire by postmodern Russian novelist Victor Pelevin. Published in English under the titles “Babylon” and “Homo Zapiens,” the unconventional tome was deemed impossible to film by many, including its author, and yet Ginzburg seems to have cracked it, emerging with a virtuoso “Brazil”-like look at what followed after capitalism won the Cold War. A bit too inside-Russia for commercial export, this local indie hit still feels Western enough to build something of an underground aud abroad.

That unique East-meets-West sensibility owes to Ginzburg’s own background: As a Russian expat who found his voice working in Venice, Calif., the helmer had every reason to identify with Pelevin’s protag, frustrated poet Babylen Tatarsky (compelling, vaguely Russell Crowe-like thesp Vladimir Yepifantsev) whose creative skills are redirected into advertising brand-name Western products to Russian consumers after the fall of communism during the early 1990s.

Babylen begins his heavily self-narrated tale working a grim cigarette kiosk, where the born hustler has learned to short-change customers by sizing up their appearance. His own look will transform radically over the course of the picture, which chronicles the unlikely path by which this bohemian artiste goes from long-haired freaky person to muscled demigod, privy to the innermost workings of the new Russian political machine.

While his compatriots are busy buying previously off-limits American consumer goods, Babylen belongs to the cynical elite responsible for positioning these brands in the new open market, giving him a bird’s-eye view of the sociological circus that ensues (the title “Generation P” actually refers to those who embraced Pepsi Cola as the official taste of their newfound freedom). The film’s first half concerns this crazy transitional period, humorously depicted as Babylen shows a natural gift for this sort of product-oriented propaganda — a callback to 1959’s Kitchen Debate, in which President Nixon equated American color TV with Russian rocket science.

During this revolutionary period, which the film convincingly re-creates onscreen, Babylen’s biggest problem is getting paid before his clients bite the dust in a system where gangsters pull the strings. As the bodies fall, the reluctant company man finds himself thrust upward in a system that aims to employ the same brainwashing tricks used to move products in an effort to manipulate the public will. With this new agenda in mind, Babylen’s team creates a puppet politico using a body double and computer tricks.

Where Pelevin’s pop-philosophical mumbo-jumbo was merely perplexing at first, here it becomes downright impossible to follow as mass-media manipulation techniques too sophisticated even by contempo standards are used to cast a conspiratorial pall over the last 20 years of Russian politics. It doesn’t help that Babylen has been dabbling in some pretty serious mind-altering substances along the way, including fly agaric and LSD, as he seeks communion with the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar.

Together, these two threads — Eastern mysticism and heavy drug use — lend the film a wild, psychotropic quality that will challenge any non-native viewer to make sense of how the movie connects to the real world. With its heavy-metal soundtrack and mind-bendingly impressionistic style, Ginzburg’s gonzo approach calls to mind “Natural Born Killers”-era Oliver Stone. “Generation P” brings a similarly subversive appeal to Pelevin’s revisionist history of Russia’s recent coming-of-age, boasting impressive production values for a story that demands period detail and significant visual scope. While the result may not exactly make sense, Ginzburg certainly hasn’t skimped in adapting the novel’s iconoclastic themes.

Generation P

Russia-U.S.

Production: A Room/Gorky Film Studio/Karo presentation. (International sales: Generation P, Los Angeles.) Produced by Victor Ginzburg, Djina Ginzburg. Executive producers, Andrei Vasiliev, Yuri Krestinski, Leonid Ogorodnikov, Vladimir Yakovlev, Danil Khachaturov, Andrew Paulson. Co-producers, Roger Trilling, Jim Steele. Directed by Victor Ginzburg. Screenplay, Ginzburg, Djina Ginzburg, based on the novel by Victor Pelevin.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Aleksei Rodionov; editors, Anton Anisimov, Vladimir Markov, Karolina Machievsky; music, Kaveh Kohen, Michael Nielsen, Alexander Hacke; production designers, Aleksei Tylevich, Daniel Auber, Anton Vasiliev, Ben Stokes; sound (Dolby Digital), A. Josh Reinhardt; supervising sound editor, Ryan Collins; stunt coordinator, Viktor Ivanov; visual effects supervisors, Vladimir Leschinski, Arkadiy Dubinin; visual effects, Trigraph; associate producers, Ivan Zassurski, Christine Havercroft, Stephen Benson, Dmitri Yurtsvaig, Rafael Minasbekyan. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (East of the West, competing), July 6, 2011. (Also in Moscow Film Festival.) Running time: 114 MIN.

With: With: Vladimiir Yepifantsev, Mikhail Yefremov, Andrei Fomin, Oleg Takhtarov, Sergei Shnurov, Vladimir Menshov, Ivan Okhlobystin, Roman Trakhtenberg, Renata Litvinova, Leonid Parfyonov, Amaliya Mordvinova, Yelena Polyakova, Andrei Vasiliev. (Russian dialogue)

More Film

  • China Box Office: ‘Wandering Earth’ Reaches

    China Box Office: ‘Wandering Earth’ Reaches $557 Million in Second Week

    The winning films from Chinese New Year remained on top of the Chinese box office in their second normal weekend of release. Locally-made sci-fi film “The Wandering Earth” advanced its score to $557 million. “Wandering Earth” earned $88.8 million between Friday and Monday, according to data from Asian film industry consultancy Artisan Gateway. That was [...]

  • Nuno Beato’s ‘My Grandfather’ Part of

    ‘My Grandfather Used to Say He Saw Demons’ Marks Sardinha em Lata’s Animation Build

    Portuguese animator-producer-director Nuno Beato, whose credits include “Emma & Gui,” “Híssis” and the multi-prized “My Life In Your Hands,” will pitch a new project, currently in development, “My Grandfather Used to Say He Saw Demons” at Bordeaux’s upcoming Cartoon Movie, the leading European animated feature forum. Cartoon Movie runs March 5-7. More Reviews Sundance Film [...]

  • DF-10193 – L-R: Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor),

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Leads MPSE Golden Reel Awards for Sound Editing

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” followed up love from Cinema Audio Society sound mixers with a pair of honors at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ 66th annual Golden Reel Awards Sunday night. The musical biopic scored wins for dialogue and ADR as well as sound editing in a musical. The film is nominated for sound editing at the Oscars [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" in

    Writers Guild Makes It Official: This Is the Most Wide-Open Oscars Race Ever

    For the record, we’re in uncharted territory this Oscar season. While we still have the costume designers’ ceremony to get through on Tuesday, the Writers Guild Awards put a bow on the major guild kudos circuit Sunday night. The results have yielded what is, unequivocally, the most wide-open Oscar field in history. More Reviews Sundance [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" and

    WGA Awards 2019: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?,' 'Eighth Grade' Win Screenplay Awards

    In a pair of upsets, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has won the Writers Guild of America’s adapted screenplay award for Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty and Bo Burnham has won the original screenplay award for “Eighth Grade.” The major television trophies went to “The Americans,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Homeland” and “Barry” for the [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' No Match for China's 'Wandering Earth' Overseas

    Hollywood movies like “Alita: Battle Angel” and “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” are doing respectable business overseas, but they’re proving no match for foreign titles at the international box office. The Chinese New Year is bringing in huge business in the Middle Kingdom. China’s sci-fi epic “The Wandering Earth” pulled in a [...]

  • ABA_062_DAU_0060_v0409.87501 – Rosa Salazar stars as

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' Wins Dismal President's Day Weekend

    Fox’s sci-fi adventure “Alita: Battle Angel” dominated in North America, but its opening weekend win isn’t leaving the box office with much to celebrate. Tracking services estimate that this will be one of the lowest grossing President’s Day weekends in years. Ticket sales are on pace to be the smallest bounty for the holiday frame [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content