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Disco and Atomic War
Time Out New York Project: Issue #789, November 11-17, 2010
Dir. Jaak Kilmi. 2009. N/R. 80mins. In Estonian, Finnish, Russian and English, with subtitles.
Might the heroes of the Cold War actually have been J.R. Ewing and a talking car named Kitt? In this whimsical documentary, director Jaak Kilmi recalls his childhood in 1980s Estonia, when the Soviet government’s stranglehold was in rapid decline. Seeds of his and his country’s revolution were planted in the 1950s, when neighboring Finland erected a television antenna that transmitted arresting, often risqué images into the Communist bloc. Thus began a years-long virtual back-and-forth: Western decadence versus socialist austerity. And how could any comrade resist the nipple-baring lure of Emmanuelle, beamed on some untraceable wavelength?
Kilmi has great fun showing how he and his friends fell under the spell of the chatty vehicle from Knight Rider — they would talk into their watches whenever they approached a foreign-made car — and how rural Estonia villagers became rabidly obsessed with “Who shot J.R.?” The fancifulness wears out its welcome, though, and you often wish the film would treat its subject with a bit more seriousness. Living behind the Iron Curtain was surely not so lighthearted — even in the company of David Hasselhoff.—Keith Uhlich
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