Director Karen Shakhnazarov said, “In my opinion, the essence of the film Zero City is that a person mythologizes history, distorts it. And, constantly distorting history, he distorts his own life. In essence, we do not know history — it is, in principle, unknowable for us. We constantly use the past to achieve some goals in our modern life. But in this way, by distorting our past, we also distort our present. This concerns not only the USSR and not only Russia. This also applies to the United States, and France, and China, and Brazil, and in general everyone. This is common. For me, this topic is related to the very existence of man. This is the main theme of Zero City for me.”
Deaf Crocodile Films Co-Founder and Head of Distribution Dennis Bartok summed up this film so well when he called it “…a fascinating mix of genres: part mystery, part science fiction, part political satire, part surreal comedy. When the film was released in 1988, the Soviet Union was only three years away from breaking up — and it’s impossible not to look at Zerograd as a metaphor for the U.S.S.R. in its last stages, with Leonid Filatov’s brilliant, baleful performance as the Everyman engineer who gets caught in the Moebius strip of Zero City, unable to go backwards to Moscow and unable to go forwards. Just like the Soviet Union itself at that point in history.”
Craig Rogers, Deaf Crocodile Co-Founder and Head of Post-Production and Restoration, added “Zerograd comes from the same D.N.A. as Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Surreal, wild fun. I’m so glad this film will finally be seen by a North American audience!”
An engineer named Varakin (Leonid Filatov) has come to a remote city where nothing makes sense, even if everyone acts like it does. He takes part in the investigation of the murder — or suicide — of a chef named Nikolaev, who may be his father and who shot himself after Varakin refused to eat a cake modeled after his own face.
Varalkin is soon trapped in a place where the real and unreal exist in the same plane of reality, where a receptionist does her job in the nude, prosecutors seek to commit crimes of their own and strange museums fail to tell you what is true and what is an illusion.
I’m so excited that this movie is now available in America, because it’s really something, a mix of strange bureaucracy, rock ‘n roll making its way to Russian and just plain weirdness.
Zero City is now available on blu ray. It has a new 2K restoration from the original 35mm picture and sound elements by Mosfilm, a video interview with director/co-writer Karen Shakhnazarov, moderated by Dennis Bartok of Deaf Crocodile Films, a new commentary track by film journalist Samm Deighan (Diabolique magazine, Daughters of Darkness podcast) and a new booklet essay by filmmaker, writer, punk musician and genre expert Chris D. (The Flesh Eaters; author of Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film). You can order it from Deaf Crocodile.