The Carnival Night, 1956
In 1956, the Soviet Union having passed from Stalinist terror to Khrushchevian unease, the state cinema industry produced one of the most commercially successful films in its history: a musical comedy called Carnival Night, the debut feature from Eldar Ryazanov, previously a documentary-maker.It is as light and nimble as a racehorse jockey – a little miracle of innocence, gaiety, mischief and fun, proof that Soviet cinema could do musicals to be compared to Hollywood’s MGM greats, in spirit, if not exactly in budget.
Jack Frost or Morozko as it is known in Russian is first and foremost a fairy tale targeted toward children. The characters are simple. The situations are outlandish. There are moments that are supposed to thrill the single digit age crowd and put a smile on the face of adults who remember those folk tales fondly. For a Russian film made in 1964, this is an elaborate production, with colors popping off the screen and crazy costumes and special effects. Sure it’s all a bit dated looking now, but the magic is still there.
The Irony of Fate, 1975
Produced by one of the most famous film directors in Russia, Eldar Ryazanov, this film tops all the charts on the 31st of December. If you switch through all the channels, you’ll see it playing more than once. The Irony of Fate is an interesting story about a man who gets drunk with his friends one day before the New Year and accidentally takes a plane to Leningrad (Saint Petersburg). He arrives in Leningrad and takes a cab to an identical set of apartments on the same street name as his address in Moscow. Even the key is the same and the apartment building interior is the same. So he continues to think that it’s his Moscow flat even after he sobers up. At least until a beautiful girl walks in.
There is also a sequel which is, unfortunately, nearly not as funny and witty.
The Magicians, 1982.
A hilarious tale which shows that even magicians using dirty tricks cannot overcome pure and genuine love. The action takes place in a Soviet-era office that studies and practices magic. An evil sorcerer deploys his wiles to win the heart of a girl, and her bridegroom – an ordinary mortal – tries to bring her back.According to the rules of the genre, the spell is broken by a kiss – but to make matters more difficult it’s not the guy who has to kiss the girl, but the girl who has to kiss the guy.
Christmas Trees [Yolki], 2010-2017.
Not into the Soviet aesthetic? Don’t worry. You will love Yolki, the relatively recent film directed by Timur Bekmambetov and featuring Russian film superstars, such as Ivan Urgant and Sergei Svetliakov. And there is not even 1, but 6 of them (the latest Yolki 6 came out in 2017). All the films are based on the same idea of several seemingly unconnected stories happening at the same time in different part of Russia on the New Year’s Eve. They connect and intertwined in unexpected ways, while their characters eventually end up helping each other to solve all troubles. The fils are a healthy dose of hope and optimism that everyone needs before the festive season.