Gloss: The Director’s Cut
Yuliya Vysotskaya, Ilya Isaev, Irina Rozanova, Olga Arntgolz / Fiction / Russian
A sparkling, ballsy fashion satire – think Ugly Betty with a dose of new Russian capitalism…
?Like The Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty, Gloss takes the fashion industry as a microcosm of a carnivorous, shallow, ambition-fuelled society. This time, however, the setting is the post-Communist Russian Federation; social advancement and conspicuous consumption are the harbingers of a brave (or at least expensive) new world. Country girl Galya (Yuliya Vysotskaya) seeks a Cinderella-style advancement from country seamstress to international supermodel – and surely anything’s possible when you have looks, guts, a new economic climate around you and a gangster boyfriend on your side! But when Galya’s five-foot-nothing of raw modelling potential fails to impress the forbidding editrix of Beauty magazine, and the worlds of fashion and organised crime reveal surprising points of crossover, our heroine quickly learns that being pretty isn’t the only way to get what you want... With her elfin looks, puckish demeanour and capricious behaviour, Vysotskaya’s protagonist recalls an eariler anti-heroine of post-Stalinist cinema: Tatiana Samoilova as Veronika in Mikhail Kalatozov’s 1958 Palme d’Or-winner The Cranes are Flying, of which Gloss director Andrei Konchalovsky is an avowed fan. Like Veronika, Galya is a spirited foil for the selfless, fertile farmgirl of the Communist imagination. Other characters serve a more symbolic function: the fashion sequences dip into Zoolander-esque insider satire, introducing moody clones of Jean-Paul Gaultier and Karl Lagerfeld.Konchalovsky (the brother of actor/director Nikita Mikhalkov, and a veteran of large-scale productions in both Russia and Hollywood) guides the film’s frenetic action with a graceful confidence, and sustains a delightfully perky comic tone. The film’s polished surface, meanwhile, reflects the hectic glitter of its appearance-obsessed context. It might be no headline that high-end beauty masks the odd ugly act, but Konchalovsky’s film updates the point, and sends it back down the catwalk accompanied by the rueful observation that each newly emerging “democracy” has the same errors of excess to make.
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