Russian 'Luna Park' looks at virulent ethnic hatred

April 08, 1994|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Staff Writer

News about renascent fascism in the former Soviet Union and about "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia makes "Luna Park" all the more timely.

In this Russian-made feature (screened at 7:30 tonight at the BMA as part of the Baltimore International Film Festival), which was written and directed by Pavel Loungine, Andrei (Andrei Goutine) is a leader of the Cleaners, a brutal, neo-Nazi gang. Like the urban scum that seems to be proliferating all over the world, the Cleaners use violence and extortion as their chief methods and choose Jews and homosexuals among their chief targets.

But, Andrei is shattered when a female companion at Luna Park -- Moscow's version of Coney Island, where the Cleaners hang out -- convinces him that his father was a Jew. The woman, the even more virulently anti-Semitic Aliona (Natalia Egorova), sends him off on a patricidal mission to find his father.

That search leads him to Nahum Heifetz (Oleg Borisov), an eccentric, elderly man whose huge apartment suggests the esteem and success he once enjoyed as a pop musician. It's at this point that Loungine's storytelling becomes somewhat confused by a concern with symbols.

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Nahum's huge apartment is inhabited by all sorts -- scholars, prostitutes, artists, hoodlums, Inuit, Armenians and Georgians. Is that huge apartment supposed to represent a vision of a once-inclusive Soviet Union, now crumbled into a number of quarreling republics? Is Luna Park, with its fun-house mirrors, its roller coasters and dodge-'em cars, supposed to suggest the foundationless fantasies of Slavic greatness with which fascistic groups such as the "Cleaners" delude themselves?

Nevertheless, the story of the developing relationship between Nahum and Andrei is compelling, even touching. Loungine's symbol-making, while perhaps overblown, does not interfere with the furious pace and passionate conviction of this frequently thrilling and disturbing film.

"Luna Park"

Starring Andrei Goutine

Directed by Pavel Loungine

When: 7:30 tonight at the Baltimore Museum of Art, part of the Baltimore International Film Festival

** 1/2

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