Moscow on the Hudson; Directed by Paul Mazursky; Written by Paul Mazursky and Leon Capetanos; Columbia Pictures.
Is Bloomingdale’s quintessentially American, the paradigm of of this country in the late 20th century. Hollywood leads us to believe that it is so. First there was Madison (named after the avenue) the mermaid in Splash learning how to dress and even speak in Bloomies. Then in Moscow on the Hudson one Vladimir, a saxophonist in a Soviet circus band, decides to defect in the designer jeans department. Still, it’s unlikely that the “big brown bag” (as the Bloomingdale’s shopping bag is designated) will achieve eagle, baseball, Levi’s, or Coca Cola status. Paul Mazursky does, however, put his finger on one thing in Moscow on the Hudson that is intrinsically American yet regulatly ignored: the supermarket. In a too-brief segment of the film set in Moscow, Vladimir is shown waiting in endless lines for goods. Shoes that are several sizes too small are a real treasure; pickled mushrooms are Olympian ambrosia. Existential fulfillment is experienced when Vladimir comes to the cramped family (including Grandpa) living quarters bearing a half-dozen rolls of toilet paper–not Charmin, mind you, but something that a typical American would probably use in woodworking. Imagine the shock that over rides bliss that Vladimir experiences when, in a conventional U.S. grocery store, he is faced with an entire aisle of coffee–everything from Maxwell House to Sanka–that he is free to choose from. He hyperventilates and must be hospitalized. It is difficult for Americans to understand freedom since it is somehow a kin to air and water: things taken for gtanted but which must be preserved. Paul Mazursky should be commended for showing the citizens here how good they have it. You can be sure they won’t see it in Moscow on the Moskva.
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