The Red Screen: Politics, Society, Art in Soviet Cinema

By Anna Lawton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12

Socialist Realism and American Genre Film: The Mixing of Codes in Jazzman

HERBERT EAGLE

Jazzman's plot is very simple. A young pianist, Konstantin Ivanov (Kostia), is thrown out of the conservatory in Odessa for playing jazz. The year is 1928, and the "proletarian" art movements with their ideological allies are urging the suppression of jazz as a "decadent" product of bourgeois culture. Undaunted, Kostia puts up signs advertising for jazz musicians, and two apparently unemployed street-musicians, Stepan and Georgii, sign up. They don't know what jazz is, but they are attracted by Kostia's promises of the fame and glory they will achieve as the country's first jazz band. The group begins practicing in a park. But some official-looking men in suits, accompanied by a burly thug, break up their rehearsal. Kostia blames this on the group's poor playing. They need less antics and more hard work, he tells them as they sit on an empty beach.

Just when it appears that the disgruntled Stepan and Georgii will abandon their dedicated leader, two very well dressed men approach and offer the group 600 rubles-an impressive sum-to play the next evening at a birthday-party at the Paradise Restaurant.

This "gig" is a great success. The band-Kostia on piano, Stepan on banjo, Georgii on drums-sounds much better now, and the audience is most appreciative, particularly the distinguished honored guest, a man of about 60 who has the appearance of a successful businessman. He reminisces with Kostia about the ragtime music he had heard in Chicago in 1908, and both men exchange stories about their favorite American tunes and

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