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February 1, 2009 6:47 PM   Subscribe

"I am Russian so, obviously, I like this film. It has typical Russian humor, it is a farce, so do not look for higher meanings in the jokes, it makes fun of the social standards of the Soviet regime as well as the people who served it so well. It features some of the best Russian actors that we love seeing and acting; they sing in the movie and it is lovely as well. If you are a tough judge of movies, then please make sure you know Soviet history a bit and understand that the humor differs from what you see in American movies before you call it crap."

The story is simple enough - a story of jewel smuggling and mistaken identities, something which could be played beside The Pink Panther if you're looking for a cultural mix. Directed by the maestro of Russian comedy, Leonid Gaidai, The Diamond Arm (Russian: "Бриллиантовая рука", translit. "Brilliantovaya ruka") is something of a cult hit abroad.

Oh, and it is one of the most-viewed movies at the Soviet box office with over 76.7 million admissions in its homeland, the film was a box-office leader in 1969 Soviet cinema , and is still considered to be the number one comedy in Russia. The songs are well known to many, and are covered (and karaoke'd) quite often.

Not exactly a common sight in shops outside of Russia, it can be found with English subtitles on google video (or in 10 parts on YouTube), though some scenes are uncharacteristically quiet. If you know Russian, or wish to sync audio from one video to another, the non-subtitled video sounds a lot better.
posted by filthy light thief (18 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
the humor differs from what you see in American movies

So this won't be anything like Blades of Glory ?

Because that was fucking hilarious, man.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:14 PM on February 1, 2009

Man, I haven't seen this since I was 7 or 8 years old, thank you.

If you want some other quality sovietism try this (translation: 12 Chairs) or this (translation: Dog's Heart).
posted by ttyn at 7:22 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was just gonna say, the plot sounds like a reverse Ilf & Petrov.
posted by RavinDave at 7:40 PM on February 1, 2009

In Soviet Russia, comedy laughs at you!
posted by The White Hat at 8:37 PM on February 1, 2009

When did Ы become = Y? I've missed out on so, so much.

Also, this is fabulous for well refined-Russian humor. Beginners should not attempt: Белое солнце пустыни (White Sun of the Desert).
posted by ttyn at 9:11 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

For some reason I always thought this movie was too formulaic and predictable; I don't remember a single really funny scene in it. I don't think many people would laugh out loud watching it, instead the reaction it invokes is "yes, I can see how this is a humorous situation". I could be wrong but I think of this one as a common denominator movie that fits the perception of a hit comedy, and it became a hit because everyone sort of agreed that it goes through all the motions that a hit comedy should go through. Anyway, these were really hilarous: Kin-dza-dza, Ivan_Vasilievich:_Back_to_the_Future; Carnival Night (1956! by Eldar Ryazanov, no wikipedia page..); Bad Old Men; and pretty much any comedy made by Ryazanov. In fact, at the risk of over-generalization, I will go ahead and say this: Ryazanov was the best of soviet comedy and Gaiday was the worst of it. Ivan Vasilievich from the link above is almost the sole exception, and it's only good when brilliant cast saves it. Or, in other words, Ryazanov is like Coen brothers while Gaiday is like the guy who directs Three Stooges shorts.
posted by rainy at 9:15 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, and Ryazanov is still alive! Didn't think he's still around. He's 81 now. And Gaiday is usually written as Gaidai in english. He died in 1993.
posted by rainy at 9:18 PM on February 1, 2009


I have to disagree with you. You are comparing apples and oranges. Gaidai trancends generations and he's funny to anybody who speaks Russian. I've seen my Russian-speaking kids who grew up in US watch and love his movies, whereas Ryazanov is to tied to the everyday trivia of Soviet life and is not that relevant anymore. My favorite director, though, is Georgi Danelia, who created the classics like "The Autumn marathon", "Kin-dza-dza", "Mimino".
posted by nagunak at 9:32 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I prefer Ryazanov myself, actually (especially Ирония судьбы). With Gaidai I can never tell if I'm laughing because it's actually funny, or just because it's all cute and nostalgic.
posted by nasreddin at 11:06 PM on February 1, 2009

Having no foundation of Russian / Soviet media history, I found the movie amusing. It is definitely slap-stick humor (Three Stooges), but that doesn't eliminate the value or quality. If nothing else, it interesting to see the range of people who have played "About Hares" ("Песня про зайцев"), and the response of the varied audiences.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:15 PM on February 1, 2009

Ryazanov is to tied to the everyday trivia of Soviet life and is not that relevant anymore.

Zhestokiy Romans and O Bednom Gusare Zamolvite Slovo are tied to the everyday trivia of Soviet life?
posted by Krrrlson at 11:30 PM on February 1, 2009

posted by orthogonality at 12:25 AM on February 2, 2009

Speaking of Russia cinema, their animation is remarkable.
posted by lone_one at 3:26 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ryazanov is like Coen brothers while Gaiday is like the guy who directs Three Stooges shorts.

I think the Coen brothers would agree with me that the guy(s) who directed the Three Stooges shorts (Charley Chase, Del Lord and especially Jules White) were, like themselves, outstandingly quirky comic minds. In fact, I would suggest that the Coens learned a lot from Jules White's eccentric timing and editing of set ups and gags -- the violence. The Coens' "Man Who Wasn't There" is like a lengthy late-Shemp era Jules White with its deep noirish shadows, and balanced screen compositions. If the Stooges weren't a hit in Russia, it can only be because the cold war leaders of both ideological camps feared the existential horror of their ultimate message, and kept them out of the cultural exchange.
posted by Faze at 3:49 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thank you for posting about this movie! It remains one of my favorite Russian movies; as someone who left Russia at a somewhat young age (8), I speak the language fluently but have very little "cultural" connection to the Soviet times. This is one of the few movies which I can understand - and enjoy - without having to know a lot of the assumptions of the time.

That said, the humor IS different, but AWESOME different.
posted by olya at 8:15 AM on February 2, 2009

@nagunak - yes, Danelia is great. I'm actually not that much against Gaidai, but the Diamond Arm is like his weakest movie.. In earlier films he was more spunky, spontaineous; in Ivan Vasilievich the thief character was hilarious, and the guy who got to play the tsar in the past was very funny, too; but in the Diamond Arm the actors did not have much good material to work with.

@Faze - I won't argue with that, I only saw little bits and pieces of The 3 Stooges, I could well be wrong about them - let's say Gaidai is like Benny Hill of Soviet Union? [I hope I'm not wrong about Benny Hill, I only saw bits and pieces of him as well.]
posted by rainy at 9:15 AM on February 2, 2009

Thanks for this post! I won't wade into the argument about the merits of the various directors, but I love Кин-дза-дза! and Ирония судьбы.
posted by languagehat at 12:23 PM on February 2, 2009

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