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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia's Tarantino Breaks Records

MTDirector Pyotr Buslov began shooting his debut feature film "Boomer" while still a student at Moscow's VGIK film school.
Three men trudge across a snowy wasteland, taking turns carrying an injured friend whose shirt is dripping with blood after a fight. It is a scene of loyalty among thieves in "Boomer," a film that has injected fresh life into the tired gangster genre of Russian cinema.

The tale of the four friends on the run in a stolen BMW -- or "boomer" in current slang -- has been praised by critics for its melancholic mood and authentic-sounding hoodlums. The formula has worked with audiences too, breaking box-office records for a Russian-made film by earning $604,000 in the first 10 days following its Aug. 6 release. At that point, only 38 copies of the film were actually being shown in the whole of Russia.

Fielding phone calls, the film's 27-year-old director Pyotr Buslov dashed in late for an interview at Pygmalion Production in Moscow recently. Although he himself drives a BMW and is welded to his mobile phone, the filmmaker still gave the impression of an enthusiastic novice, littering his speech with slang, so that everything is "cool" or "shit."

"I'm surprised, of course. It's cool. I'm very glad," Buslov said, describing his feelings at the film's success.

He began shooting "Boomer" while still a student at Moscow's VGIK film school and it was his first feature film, although he had made a student short that picked up some festival awards.

Now he is considering "very many offers," and already has two film projects lined up.

A native of Khabarovsk in the Far East, Buslov called himself a "D student" at school, although his mother teaches at a local university. At the age of 16 he set off for the port of Vladivostok, dreaming of a life at sea. There he got a taste for fast cars, celebrated in "Boomer," where the BMW is almost a character in its own right. But a love of film came first, and Buslov left for Moscow, where he entered VGIK two years later.

"I knew for sure that I wanted to become a film director in my second year at VGIK," Buslov recalled, and glossed over the difficulties of creating a full-length film. "I was just lucky: I got a team together, and we had a well-written script. My desire to shoot the film was very strong. That's the main thing."

Produced by Sergei Chliyants, head of Pygmalion Production, "Boomer" took a long time to make due to weather problems and the inexperienced team. Chliyants' own black BMW had the starring role because attempts to get BMW to provide a car failed as the company objected to the gangster theme. It also refused to help get Chliyants' "boomer" repaired after filming, the car being pretty much destroyed by the action.

The opening of the film was widely publicized for tragic reasons. Lead cameraman Daniil Gurevich, whose shots of the Russian countryside set the film's atmosphere, was crushed by an avalanche in North Ossetia in September last year while working with director Sergei Bodrov Jr. on a new film called "Svyaznoi." Buslov studied with Gurevich at VGIK and visited his home in France, and was reluctant to talk about him. Five other people who had worked on "Boomer" also died.

Yet the film has more than a ghoulish interest, gleaning comparisons with the work of Quentin Tarantino for its flashbacks, flash forwards and a hip soundtrack of Russian rock songs by Sergei Shnurov of the band Leningrad.

"Probably Tarantino did influence me a bit," said Buslov, acknowledging that he is "a huge fan" of the director. However, he added that "'Boomer' is realism; 'Pulp Fiction' is something completely different."

The director was also keen to distance himself from the rash of homegrown gangster movies that have played in Russian cinemas recently. "Most are unrealistic," he said. But "[my] film came out honest and sincere." Buslov admitted that the film was "probably not about my life," but said he "used to encounter such people," and that for him there was no such thing as "bandits," the popular derogatory term for mobsters and Chechen terrorists.

Centering on the theme of male friendship and betrayal, the movie has a fine ensemble playing the lead actors, including heartthrob Vladimir Vdovichenkov, well known for his lead role in the television series "Brigada." Buslov was clearly proud of the cast, asking, "Weren't you sorry for those guys?"

He insisted that the actors were not too attractive to play lowlifes. "They have good faces. But you can't say they are too good-looking. They don't look like models."

The colorful slang, or fenya, spoken by the characters has attracted attention, with one magazine even providing a glossary. "It's the language of the guys who hang out on the street," said Buslov, adding, "I can talk like that too." Indeed he slipped into a cameo role in the film, playing the owner of a gas station after an actor failed to turn up.

Now there are definite plans to make "Boomer 2," but Buslov is first concentrating on other projects, including a film set on a ship about the special services. He was reluctant to go into detail. "I don't want to mention the special services because then people will make it out to be a film about terrorism."

The script has already been completed by Andrei Megachov and Denis Rodimin, who co-wrote the script for "Boomer" with Buslov.