chapter  6
22 Pages

A laughing matter

El’dar Riazanov and the subversion of Soviet gender in Russian comedy
WithMichele Leigh

This chapter illustrates the ways in which El'dar Riazanov's films trace the influence of second wave feminism in the Soviet Union and its impact on Soviet life through the twisting and turnings of comedy to create a complex, tragicomic version of Russian femininity. Throughout his career, Riazanov used the medium of cinema, particularly the genre of satire, to explore the idiosyncrasies of Soviet and Russian life, covering everything from politics and work to gender and love. Through his social satire Riazanov explored many types of comedy ranging from musical comedy in his first feature length film, Carnival Night, to parody in The Incredible Adventures of Italians in Russia, situational comedy in The Garage, and even "a post-glasnost Russian Sex comedy" in his 1987 Forgotten Melody for a Flute. Through characters like Tatiana in Give Me the Complaint Book and Katia in The Girl without an Address, sexualization thus becomes a subtle component of Riazanov's satire and his thaw-inspired Soviet woman.