I Am Twenty | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

I Am Twenty 

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Khrushchev hated the first version of this 1964 Soviet film, and director Marlen Khutsiev cut it in half; this three-hour original became available only in 1989. The story begins when Sergei, returning from army service, moves in with his sister and mother and gets a job at a power plant; he goes out with two friends who live nearby, has a one-night stand, and finds a girlfriend. The French New Wave was likely an influence on Khutsiev, whose film is loose in form, documentarylike, and stylistically playful (we continue to hear footsteps after Sergei disappears into his apartment building in an exterior long shot), and the meandering structure is well matched to the principals' only marginally purposeful lives. Eventually Sergei is led to confront World War II's legacy of devastation: his dead father "visits" him, and his mother tells a gripping story about digging potatoes for food in the country and then returning to a blacked-out Moscow with German lines nearby. By the end of the movie--which makes you wonder at the obtuseness of the government that chose to censor it--Sergei is a committed patriot, arguing with those who mock the toast he drinks to potatoes. And the film's shots of Moscow at its spiffiest, including iconic scenes such as the changing of the guard at Lenin's tomb, finally transform what began as an alienated youth picture into a disturbingly affecting paean to the Soviet state. 175 min. Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Sunday, August 26, 1:00 and 4:30, 773-281-4114.

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