Russia rejigs Soviet comedies in hit remakes

In search of sure-fire hits, Russian film directors are turning to Soviet comedies, updating the action to the present day and adding modern concepts such as product placement.

The latest film to be remade, "Office Romance", is a 1970s romantic comedy poking fun at the Brezhnev era. It led the box office on its first weekend, despite a drubbing from critics, with one even urging a boycott of cinemas.

The Cinderella story of a dowdy statistics expert who finds love may be unknown in the West, but it was watched by 58 million viewers when it was released in 1978 and still gets regular showings on television.

The new version, "Office Romance: Our Time", released March 17, transports the action to a commercial ratings agency in a Moscow skyscraper and takes the characters on a corporate outing to a Turkish beach resort.

In its first weekend, the film topped the Russian box office, earning $5.8 million, Kinobiznes magazine reported, a strong result in a market where Russian films struggle to compete with Hollywood.

Another well-loved romantic comedy by director Eldar Ryazanov, "Irony of Fate" was updated in 2007 and became the highest grossing Russian film, earning around $50 million.

Script writer Nikolai Kovbas said the makers hoped the formula would work again, with the familiar title attracting older viewers who would not normally go to to the cinema.

"Of course we hope for this. Naturally there are some expectations linked to this," Kovbas told AFP before the opening, adding that his film lacked the huge promotional backing from state Channel One, which remade the "Irony of Fate".

In the original, drab official Lyudmila has a chauffeur-driven limousine and a central Moscow apartment, but her high position comes with a severe image: clumpy shoes, a brown suit and no hint of makeup.

In the new film, she is a yuppie in Chanel glasses with an elegant chignon, a gold-plated cell phone and a chauffeur-driven Bentley.

Kovbas told AFP he spent weeks thinking how the story could be updated and decided Lyudmila's dowdy image had to go.

"For two weeks, I just thought about how I could make this work. Then I calmly decided to imagine honestly how this story would turn out in today's Moscow," Kovbas told AFP.

"I look at this city and the people who live here and I see that there aren't any unattractive top managers, none at all."

Another difficulty was arranging an out-of-hours encounter between high-flying Lyudmila and the hero, who is a junior analyst, Kovbas said. Hence the trip to Turkey.

"In an extreme measure, I had to herd them into one cabin of a cable car that got stuck in Turkey. When I did that, they had half an hour to talk, they had no choice because they were 1,000 metres up."

"In Soviet times, it wasn't quite like that. Of course there was huge social stratification, but all the same, everyone was 'comrades'," he said.

Critics slammed the blatant product placement in both films.

In "Irony of Fate 2" one character was portrayed as working for a real-life mobile phone provider. "Office Romance: Our Time" has product placement for a television listings magazine, a social networking site and a drinks brand.

"It isn't a remake of the film 'Office Romance'. It is a remake of an endless ad break," Vedomosti business daily wrote scornfully.

Critics widely questioned the point of remaking "Office Romance", saying the new film lacked the appeal of the original, which saw Lyudmila awaken to life and learn to swing her hips and wear eyeshadow.

"The story gained post-Soviet glitz but lost all its Soviet charm," critic Anton Dolin said on Vesti FM radio station.

The screenwriters "shamelessly discredit" the concept of remakes, Lidia Maslova wrote in Kommersant business daily.

"It's as if the creators watched Ryazanov's film with half an eye and lazily decided: wouldn't it be cool to make a film about how an analyst at a ratings agency got it on with his boss'," she wrote.

Another critic, Alexander Kolbovsky, called for people to boycott cinemas and stay at home to "watch the old, beloved Ryazanov" film.

The director Ryazanov, 83, said he decided not to go to the premiere.

"They invited me, but I have nothing to do with it. It does not interest me," he told the RIA Novosti news agency.

Scenarist Kovbas said he was not surprised by outraged reactions but argued that Ryazanov's film, more than an hour longer, with interludes of poetry reading and music conducted by Khachaturian, would not be a hit today.

"The people who argue with us and say we shouldn't have done it. They do not admit to themselves that the world has changed fundamentally," he said.

"Maybe our film is not as deep as the one was 40 years ago, but the mood of viewer today has changed too," he said, with most cinema-goers aged just 18 to 24.

"It's not that the viewer has become superficial, or that the viewer has become trivial, but the viewer goes to the cinema for something else."

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment


film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most