Moscow, 1973: Not a wild and swingin’ era, but veteran director Karen Shakhnazarov attempts the standard coming-of-ager anyway. Unable to take his Marxist history classes seriously, Sergey (Aleksandr Lyapin) runs around picking up girls, while rocker pal Kostya (Ivan Kupreyenko) introduces him to weed, and their mutual, homely friend, Stepan (Yegor Baranovsky), does nothing in particular except be the third point of a love triangle with Sergey and his girlfriend, Lyuda (Lidiya Milyuzina). Most of The Vanished Empire‘s appeal (as its title less suggests than shouts) is its evocative production design and some unique Brezhnev-era set pieces: When Sergey wants to buy a Pink Floyd record for Lyuda, he heads to a park where nervous young men sell their pop music “contraband” in hushed voices. But the dead-end on-again, off-again courtship between Sergey and Lyuda bores (there’s no reason for the unstoppable horndog to worry so much about his obviously nonexistent future with a girl who has her shit together), and their standard adolescent travails take up most of the screen time.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 8, 2009