Let’s coin a new phrase, one any movie lover will instantly “get” thanks to the state of cinema in the Netflix/Amazon/Hulu/Disney+ era.
What’s a movie we’d describe as “streaming length?” It’s one that could stand editing, but run on and on because there’s no studio exec saying “You’re overdoing it,” no cinema chain enforcing efforts to maximize the number of showings a day, because moviegoers aren’t avoiding or getting up and leaving tedious, under-edited, over-indulged “director’s cut” films before the credits roll.
“Silver Skates” is a lush Tsarist melodrama with Dickensian touches and a PBS Dickensian running time. It staggers along, drunk on costumes, sets and vodka, a 90 minute formulaic historical romance skating and stumbling through St. Petersburg snow in a 137 minute gift wrap.
It’s “The Nutcracker” without sugar plum fairies, “Doctor Zhivago” on skates, “Reds” without genuine Reds, a perfectly passable but utterly plodding period piece romance.
The forbidden love crosses classes, here, a young delivery skater (Fedor Fedotov), forced to join a gang of artful skating dodgers (pickpockets) falls for a proto-feminist daughter of the aristocracy (Sonya Priss).
Matvey (Fedotov) needs cash to send his tubercular lamplighter father to Baden Baden for the cure. Thus, he takes up with “rob from the aristocracy and bourgeoisie” pickpocket gang led by Alex (Yuriy Borisov).
“THEY’RE the ones we punish!” (in Russian, with subtitles, or dubbed into English).
Alisa (Priss) is a “modern” woman, waiting for the new century (the 20th) to begin, hoping to get her ultra-conservative aristocratic father (Aleksey Gubskov) to allow her to go to college and study science. Not bloody likely.
“The rot set in when we stopped flogging our kids!”
And there’s also this social climber/Army officer (Kirill Zaytsev) who has eyes for Alisa and an idea for how to combat skating pickpockets — skating soldiers with truncheons.
It’s a very Russian film, soft-selling its proto-communism, its feminism and its decadence.
“Oh? Is patriotism back in fashion?”
“This century will be even better than the last! Hurrah!”
I can imagine fighting the urge to check my cell phone for the time, messages, tweets and Words with Friends as this tedious tale unfolded in a theater. Very rude, so fight the urge I would.
But streaming? You walk away, take a beer, bathroom or borscht break, come back to it and nah, you haven’t missed much. Not when you know where it’s going.
MPA Rating: TV-MA, violence
Cast: Fedor Fedotov, Sonya Priss, Yuriy Borisov, Kirill Zaytsev, Aleksey Guskov, Cathy Belton
Credits: Directed by Mikhail Lokshin, script by Roman Kantor. A Netflix release.
Running time: 2:17