Hipsters: Russian Musical

A Hollywood-style musical , “Hipsters” is an original song-and-dance Russian feature set in Moscow circa 1955.

Early in the Khrushchev era, Communist youth and a new breed of cool kids, intoxicated with jazz and all things American, are battling for control of city streets.

Whenever the Communists catch the hipsters having one of their prohibited parties, they whip out scissors to chop off pompadours and curls, then cut spiffy pastel suits and dresses, even nylon stockings, to shreds. Hipster tears burst forth in response.

“Every hipster is a potential criminal,” announces Katya (Evgenia Brik), Komsomol youth leader. “A saxophone is only one step away from a switchblade.”

Director Valery Todorovsky, cinematographer Roman Vasyanov, and editor Alexey Bobrov go for a garish, swooping, hyperactive, and cartoony feel. This Moscow is ripped from the playbooks of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Baz Luhrmann.

The main narrative arc follows the initiation of sweet comrade Mels (Anton Shagin, a dead ringer for the youthful Morrissey) into a card-carrying, saxophone-toting jazz fiend. A friend encourages him, supposedly quoting Anton Chekhov: “You must squeeze the square out of yourself one drop at a time.”

Like the excellent recent documentary “My Perestroika,” this film is suffused with an uneasy nostalgia for the Communist heyday: simpler, more innocent, yet somehow wilder, with more at stake. A father sternly reminds his hipster son that this is “a country where sneezing too loud can get you arrested.”

To be hip, to be hated by a backward society, affords an intoxicating sense of pride in one’s individuality, a sense of being fully alive.

“Hipsters” works toward a melancholy and abrupt close, as the kids grow up fast, sell out, take on adult responsibilities, and witness the last painful gasps of their doomed micro-movement. One of the gang makes it to America and upon his return solemnly reports, “There are no hipsters there.”

As odd as “Hipsters” may seem to US audiences, this Nika Award (Russian Oscar) winner has plenty of enthusiastic performances, above-average songs, and moments of clever writing.

By the time Mels sings in the finale that “hipster style conquers all fear,” there really is no arguing with this hipster boy made hipster man by the magic of jazz.


Mels – Anton Shagin

Polly – Oksana Akinshina

Fred – Maksim Matveev

Katya – Evgeniya Brik


A Leisure Time Features release.

Directed by Valery Todorovsky.

Written by Valery Todorovsky and Yuriy Korotkov.

Produced by Valery Todorovsky, Leonid Lebedev, Leonid Yarmolnik, and Vadim Goryainov.

Cinematography, Roman Vasyanov.

Editing, Alexey Bobrov.

Original Music and Songs, Valery Todorovsky, Konstantin Meladze, and Evgeny Margulis.

Running time: 125 minutes.