Part Kafka, part Agatha Christie and part Monty Python, director Karen Shakhnazarov’s surreal 1988 satire of Communism ZEROGRAD (ZERO CITY) follows an Everyman engineer named Varakin (Leonid Filatov) who arrives in a remote city where nothing quite makes sense, but everyone acts as if it does.
The more complex and absurdist the mystery becomes, the more poignant and plaintive Varakin’s predicament – “I have to get back to Moscow,” he pleads to no avail. Along the way we’re treated to a bizarre and wonderful sideshow of non sequiturs out of a Wes Anderson film, including an underground museum filled with a thousand years of real and imagined Russian history (“Here’s the pistol with which Urusov shot the False Dimitry II.”) Frozen in time, frozen far beneath the surface, the waxwork figures are strangely beautiful and forlorn, like Shakhnazarov’s marvelous and enigmatic satire of Soviet bureaucracy. With music by the great Eduard Artemyev (SOLARIS, STALKER). (In Russian with English subtitles.)