from Media Criticism as a Part of Media Education
Dr. Aleksandr Fedorov

Frankly speaking, Piotr Todorovsky's previous film with the enticing title of Intergirl very much disappointed me. A subtle psychologist, director of the wonderful The Martial Love Affair and imperfect but ingenious Along Main Street with the Brass Band, Todorovsky suddenly was carried away by V.Kunin's shallow story that showed – in an accessible, mass-language style – how prostitutes could love. Of course, thanks to the director's professionalism, the straightforward script began to look rather profound and sometimes even psychologically convincing, but on the whole it was not suited to Todorovsky's personality.

Thank to God, in his Encore Again! Todorovsky has returned to his own style. He himself wrote the script about the life of Russian military town in 1946, he wrote the touching music, and he chose the same title as that of canvas by the famous Russian artist Fedotov.

I spent my childhood in one such town for Army personnel. And during the screening I remembered the past with a sad nostalgia. The closed community: a reserved world where everybody knows each other, where even a needle in a haystack could never hidden from the curious eyes of the officers' wives, but where nevertheless all kinds of extraordinary events take place. Now the handsome major brings a whole bunch of frivolous beauties from the city in his smart car; now several drunks fight; now the senior lieutenant, pistol in hand, chases his unfaithful wife...

Gathering these stories together, and inviting Mel Brooks to direct, a very funny comedy could be made. But Todorovsky, as is well known, isn't Brooks. So in his film the funny episodes (for example: a husband comes home after work to find his wife sleeping with his chief) are mixed with a dramatic plot. The ominous signs of those times are in evidence – when the authorities could send a boy, who was counting days till the end of his military service, to prison simply for carelessness in writing several superfluous words to a civilian friend; when the colonel, a wartime hero, had to submit to a miserable KGB captain; and so on.

One Russian critic declared in TV program that Encore... evokes brutal laughter among audiences, that there is no love in the film, and primitive instincts triumph. From my point of view, only a man who didn't watch attentively could have such an opinion. True, there is no refined, intellectual love here; the love scenes are loaded with humorous detail. You believe, however, in the sincerity of the characters' feelings. You believe that while the colonel, who was in the whole war, loves his wife whom he met at the front, he can't forget his pre-war wife too. You believe that the colonel's young wife had fascinated the charming lieutenant and then he lost courage. You believe in the love of the unfaithful wife, who receives her husband's supervisors in her bed for the sake of his service career.

This film appeals because it does something the Russian cinema of late years has pretty much forgotten is possible: Todorovsky tells about life through love... even if it sometimes looks funny and is not what you'd call spiritual.