Crazy capitalism in post-communist Russia with 'Generation P'

Courtesy PhotoWild ride: “Generation P” is a wacky satire of Russia in the 1990s.

Courtesy PhotoWild ride: “Generation P” is a wacky satire of Russia in the 1990s.

A bonkers fantasia whose title refers to hope inspired by a Pepsi can, “Generation P” is a trip and a treat. Ideas and gusto make up for messiness and overload in this Russian satire about advertising and its effect.

Adapting the novel by Victor Pelevin, director and co-writer Victor Ginzburg serves a vital cocktail that suggests a mix of “Brazil,” David Mamet’s media-spin satires, rabbit-hole tales and theme comedies such as “How to Succeed in Advertising,” along with a dominant Russian gene that keeps things fresh and unique.

#link_box { width: 150px; height: auto; margin: 0; padding: 0; margin: 10px 20px 10px 0px; padding: 10px; background-color: #fbfade; /* ecru – light yellow */ border: 1px solid #343a25; /* green – for summer arts */ float: left; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; } #link_box img, #link_box a { border 0px; border-style: none; outline: none; } #link_box h1 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #8A0808; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 12px; text-align: center; } #link_box h2 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #000; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 10px; text-align: center; } #link_box ul { list-style: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; border: none; } #link_box li { margin: 0px padding: 0px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; } #link_box li a { display: block; padding: 5px 5px 5px 15px; /* Padding for bullet */ /* border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; */ color: #000; width: 100%; width: auto; /* height: auto; */ /* border: 1px solid blue; */ margin: 0px; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; line-height: 14px; text-decoration: none; } #link_box li a: before { /* background-position: top left; */ } #link_box li a:hover { background-color: #ddd; color: #000; }

The setting is Yeltsin- and Putin-era Russia. Communism is out, Western products are in, and the atmosphere is corrupt, greed-conducive and lawless — prime terrain for cracked journeys like these.

Babylen Tatarsky (Vladimir Yepifantsev) comes from the young generation of Russians for whom a Russia-manufactured version of the above-named soft drink — a gift from the dying Soviet regime — represents new horizons.

Seeking fortune and happiness, Babylen trades in his kiosk job and poet aspirations for work as an advertising copywriter. Good at creating Russia-friendly sales pitches for soft drinks, cigarettes and other products, he ascends to high levels of the burgeoning industry.

The money rocks, but his soul is eroding.

A crazed and sometimes sordid adventure results, complete with Chechen mobsters, dead colleagues, government malfeasance, psychedelic mushrooms, spin wizards and a secret unit where political leaders and events are created digitally and presented to the public as fact. (One such figure resembles Vladimir Putin uncannily.)
Fractured, Babylen pursues spiritual connection, in the form of what he believes to be a link between himself and the similarly named ancient city, home to love goddess Ishtar.

Like many a book adaptation, the film feels stuffed with characters and plot threads that may please fans of the novel but add little to the movie. And its nonstop spectacles upstage the depiction of Babylen’s inner struggle.

Also, viewers unfamiliar with recent Russian history may not get the numerous political references. Still, there’s lots to savor for anyone desiring a cracked Russian wild ride with something to say.

The film sharply addresses how advertising efficiently shapes public perception and how it has entwined itself with politics and the news media in scary ways often ignored. Ginzburg also underscores how ever-improving technology exacerbates this situation.

As phantasmagorical adventures go, finally, the film is visually dazzling, thoroughly unpredictable and sufficiently inspired enough to make its excesses forgivable. Off-the-wall highlight: a Ouija-board encounter with Che Guevara.
Buckle your seat belts and go with this one.

artsentertainmentGeneration PMoviesVictor Ginzburg

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Students in an after-school community hub move quickly through a social circle as they play a game at the Mission YMCA on Friday, May 7, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Parents scramble for ‘Summer Together’ spaces

City program offering free camps sees high demand, confusion over enrollment

The San Francisco Giants celebrate team legend Willie Mays' 90th birthday before taking on the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park on May 7, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photography by Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner).
Willie Mays returns to the ballpark for a special birthday bash

Giants celebrate No. 24’s 90th in an intimate party for a few thousand friends

Legislation introduced by Assemblymember Phil Ting has expanded the range of people who can request a gun violence restraining order against someone. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Use of gun violence restraining orders continues to rise

For the fourth year in a row, the number of gun violence… Continue reading

The Port of San Francisco, which controls much of the The City’s waterfront, faces potential layoffs due to a financial crisis caused by the pandemic. 
Steven Ho/
Special to S.F. Examiner
In a financial ‘crisis,’ SF Port officials lobby for stimulus funding

Looking to right their financial ship, Port of San Francisco officials are… Continue reading

Police Chief Bill Scott on Wednesday said a rebranding and reoganization of the former Gang Task Force amounts to “more than just the name change.” (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Faced with surge in shootings, Chief Scott reenvisions SFPD’s Gang Task Force

New Community Violence Reduction Team adds officers with community-policing experience

Most Read