Blak Rose Is an Emblem of Sorrow, Red Rose Is an Emblem of Love (1989)
Screen on Friday, March 23, 2017
presented by Boris and Katya Oicherman
doors at 7:00pm, film at 7:30pm

March’s Screen will take place at Fresh Oysters Performance Research in Minneapolis.

Katya says,

Black Rose – the Emblem of Sorrow, Red Rose – the Emblem of Love

“Once my father told me a story. When he was little he was taken to visit the Kremlin with a group of schoolkids. The teacher showed them a little window in the high tower and said: “See? There Comrade Stalin is working day and night for you to be safe and prosperous.” Father was extremely impressed with this image, but then he thought: “If Stalin is a real person, does he also defecate?”

— so tells a party girl Alexandra, the main character of the film.

The subject of Stalin’s digestion is not to be dismissed lightly, neither is the subject of a recurrent dream of Tolik, another character from the film. In his dream the revolutionary battleship Aurora turns around and fires all its weapons. Then Tolik wakes up, lights up a cigarette and turns on an old recording from which we learn the medical summary of the illness and death of Iosif Vissarionovitch Stalin, recited by the notoriously balanced and solemn voice of Sergey Levitan, the official voice of the Soviet radio of 1940s and 50s. But the film characters аrе far removed from those catastrophic times, they live in 1989. What are those vestiges of history for them? Are they funny? Sad? Frightening? Do they have any meaning at all?

If you watched the first film of Soloviev’s trilogy, Assa, you’ll recognize Tolik – and few other characters who migrated from end-1970s to 1989, and – in accordance with the demand shouted from the stage in the final scene of Assa – they have changed. The system has collapsed and… and what?

The Roses (as the film is often called for the sake of brevity) is a film about confusion and searching. Once the USSR began to disintegrate, with it collapsed a system of values and priorities that held a particular order of things. This order was crucial for the system and its proponents as much as for those who opposed it. For a while all of them became a scattered bunch of fragmented stories and desires. Each and every one of them had to make sense of the new life and create an identity in a situation when no one says what is right and what is wrong, what is serious and what is comical, what is significant and what is trifles.

The protagonists are no longer musicians: those have already played their important role as the messengers and prophets of the coming change. “Informal” music has come out from the underground for good – yet it remained as the constant backdrop of the strange everyday life of those lost and seeking souls, as they face the question: “Who am I?” The music became the strange space where questions and attempted answers are reflected upon – the poetic space of irony, critique, ridicule, compassion, sadness, and then still – hope.

We can also mention that the music for the film was composed and performed by Boris Grebenschikov and his “Aquarium”. The entire band also appears in the film (they come out of the closet), and in 1990 the official Soviet musical recording label “Melodia” released a vinyl set with the film soundtrack. Some wishes came true. Now what?

Black Rose – the Emblem of Sorrow, Red Rose – the Emblem of Love

Sergey Soloviev – director, script
Yuri Klimenko – camera
Marxen Gauchman-Sverdlov – art
Natalia Dzubenko – costumes
Boris Grebenschikov and “Aquarium” – soundtrack
Andrey Romanov – composer
Valery Reizes – sound
Vladimir Vengerovsky – recording


Tatyana Drubitch, Alexandr Abdulov, Michail Rozanov, Alexandr Bashirov, Ilya Ivanov, Alexandr Zbruev, Ludmila Savel’eva, Michail Danilov, Assam Kujaitte, Yuri Shumilo, Georgy Saakyan, Sergey Makarov.