Zero City | Chicago Reader

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Produced during glasnost, this surreal 1988 feature by Karen Shakhnazarov plays like a comic elegy for the Soviet state. The deadpan hero, a mustachioed apparatchik from the Moscow engineering works, arrives in the title backwater to clear up some business with a local air-conditioning company but finds himself trapped in a series of bizarre tableaux involving a vintage rock 'n' roll dance club, a subterranean wax museum, a nude typist, and a fancy restaurant that serves him a cake in the shape of his own head. The film's humor has been aptly compared to Buñuel's, but the moody final scene seems particular to the Gorbachev era: having cast off from shore in a rowboat, the protagonist drifts away into dark and uncharted waters. In Russian with subtitles. 97 min.

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