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The Wedding (2000, Russian with English subtitles)

Director: Pavel Lounguine
Reviewed by Andrea Swanson

The Wedding, a French-Russian comedy set in a small village near Moscow, chronicles a personal and light-hearted pursuit of deliverance. After fleeing her backwater roots, Tania, played by eye candy Maria Mironova, becomes disillusioned by Moscow highlife and her romantic involvement with a mobbish member of Russia's nouveau riche. Spurred by the death of her mother, she returns to her hometown to embrace the simple values she once scorned.

Less than a day after her arrival, she is marrying her childhood sweetheart Michka (Marat Bacharov), an impoverished coal miner whose character is as pure as Tania's seems trodden. But with no money to buy a wedding gift, her betrothed becomes unwittingly involved in petty theft. Trouble ensues when he's arrested by local thuggish police and Tania's jilted lover appears on the scene to reclaim her affections. The resulting chain of events is presented with such energy and burlesque one can't help but admire the Russian bent to find comedy in personal difficulty and despair.

Much of The Wedding takes place during the couple's reception, where traditional songs are sung with glass-smashing vigour and vodka flows as freely as guests' emotions. Narrative aside, the film is a spirited glimpse into the life of present-day rural Russia. It's filled with passionate characters and colourful expressions of culture. Beneath it all, though, is a revealing study of how ordinary people are coping in a born-again nation that is struggling to free itself from its repressive past.

The Wedding might be easily passed by on a hunt for something to appease your hunger for worthwhile entertainment: it was made with a small budget; it lacks the appeal of glossy stars; and because of the subtitles, it has to be watched and read at the same time. It is, however, a cinematic gem that just might add some sparkle to your Friday night video viewing.