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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Inescapable, Exploited, Cliched, But Irresistible

As mid-June and its long-awaited solstice approached, I was planning my future columns, rather hoping that I could somehow refrain from writing about this most obvious and trite of St. Petersburg topics. There has been so much written about the city's most (if not only) beautiful season, so much homage has been paid to the opalescent, glowing splendor of the canals, cathedrals and palaces that it is almost embarrassing to make the effort year after year. Looking at a playbill of various June events, however, I realized that quite a few people are not at all embarrassed about exploiting the city's worn-out summertime image. White Nights, explicit or implicit, are everywhere. Festivals and premiers have been purposefully kept under wraps, ready to pour out into the cramped few weeks of June and July. Two music festivals, one classical and one rock, take place at the same time and share the clich?d name, creating a confusion neither of them apparently finds troubling. The classical one is an older, more established -- if not very glamorous -- event, and was the first to use the name. The pop-music fest, featuring international music stars like A-ha and Whitesnake, scatters its performances throughout different streets and squares as well as some of the city's best concert halls. It started up many years later, but its notorious producer, Vladimir Kisilev, was smart enough to be the first to register the trademark name. Now, of course, each of the two has its own legitimate reasons for not giving in. The White Nights week is the time for a film-festival collision as well. At least they did not have to fight over a name. The "Message to Man" festival, which started a few years ago as a documentary-film festival, has expanded into a big event, with separate documentary, animation and feature-film competitions. The "Festival of Festivals," which this year is being called the First International St. Petersburg Film Festival features the work of festival winners from the past few years. In a situation when many of these films, irrespective of their success and recognition elsewhere in the world, are released commercially much later or never at all, the festival provides just about the only chance to see them here. Stephen Spielberg let down festival organizers and audiences with his last-minute cancellation of his visit and the screening of "Schindler's List," which was scheduled to be shown Thursday, the opening day of the festival. On June 20, Roman Viktyuk, Russia's trendiest theater director of the 1990s, premiered his new production, titled, guess what, "The White Nights." The opera is based on Dostoevsky's novel of the same name. All the same, White Nights exploitation and all, I still wish that these weeks, with their indescribable beauty, could last foreve