The Vanished Empire | Chicago Reader

The Vanished Empire

In the gray old days of Brezhnev and detente, Russian college students shimmy to "Sugar, Sugar" and shell out for black-market Levis, unaware that these are the best days of their lives. This 2008 coming-of-age story by veteran director Karen Shakhnazarov (Zero City, The Rider Named Death) is most entertaining when it dwells on the era's cultural details: in the funniest sequence, the young protagonist slinks around an illicit record bazaar at a public park, pays 70 rubles for a new Stones LP, and proudly gives it to the girl he's courting, only to discover it's an old copy of Swan Lake with a fake label pasted on. But eventually this "Russian Graffiti" aspect gives way to a dreary set of life lessons as the hero's callow treatment of his friends and family circles around to bite him in the ass. In Russian with subtitles. 105 min.

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