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Philistines on the big screen: consumerism in Soviet cinema of the Brezhnev era

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As living standards improved in the Soviet Union under Brezhnev, the regime was faced with a challenge of growing consumerism among its population, especially young people. In these new circumstances, it became important to define the boundaries between acceptable norm and unacceptable excess in socialist consumption, and cinema took an active part in the public discussion that ensued. This article considers a wide range of popular films by a variety of directors, including those that often fall off the film historian's radar, to assess this contribution and to investigate the film-makers' motives for engaging with the topic of consumption. The article argues that the individual's relationship with material goods was a very prominent theme in Brezhnev-era cinema, but also one fraught with many contradictions, reflecting Soviet society's own conflicting attitudes to modern consumption.

Keywords: Brezhnev; Riazanov; Soviet cinema; byt; consumerism; consumption and socialism

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/srsc.5.2.227_1

Affiliations: University of Winchester

Publication date: December 20, 2011

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  • Studies in Russian & Soviet Cinema focuses on pre-revolutionary, Soviet and post- Soviet film, its aesthetic development, and its position between ideology and industry. SRSC invites contributions that constitute original research. The journal seeks to promote research from established scholars as well as to encourage researchers new to the field.
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