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Interview with Kuznetsova, Lydia. Moviegoing in St. Petersburg in the 1980s and 90s (2011)

Analysis of Interview with Lidya Kuznetsova.
Conducted by Alex McGrath (’13) and Monika Bernotas (camera and sound) (’12) in July 2011.
Transcribed and translated by Micah Butler (’16), Julia Seeley-Hall (’16), and Spencer Small (’16) in Spring 2015.
Analysis written by Spencer Small in Fall 2015.

Link to Swem Library Digital Archive


Analytical Note:

Lidiia Kuznetsova was born in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Russia. She grew up in the family of musicians: Her mother is a music teacher and piano performer.  Her father taught theory of music at a university .  Kuznetsova wrote her  PhD dissertation (Kandidatskaia Dissertation) in Russian philology and second language acquisition.

Kuznetsova has always been fond of children’s films, and associates many good memories with films such as Mio in the Land of Faraway (dir. Vladimir Grammatikov 1987), Cat City (dir. Bela Ternovszky 1986), and Legend of the White Horse  (dir. Jerzy Domaradzky 1986) (3:13 – 3:38). Her mother worked in a movie theater as a piano player: she performed before the screenings in the movie theater’s foyer. Lidya would  go to the movie theater with her mom and spend a lot of time there.  She remembers that she would never finish watching the film because her mom was tired and wanted to go home after she finished playing piano before the screening.   These childhood experiences triggered Lidya’s interest in cinema and foreign films specifically.  According to her films gave her an insight into different cultures and fantasy worlds (7:57 – 9:02).

Kuznetsova still has a fascination with foreign films, directors, and performers today. In the late 1980s and early 1990s Kuznetsova remembers visiting film screenings in video salons (screening rooms with VHS machines and tv monitors), one of the first privately owned businesses in late socialist and early post-socialist Russia.  These salons would show Hollywood films that were not available in state-run movie theaters.  She also recollects with a particular fondness screenings at apartments of her friends who owned their own VHS players.  During these home screenings people would watch bootlegged videos that were banned by the state. Finally, Kuznetsova is a true cinephile.  She talks not only about themes and stories narrated in the films, but also expresses interest in evolving film technology, such as surround sound and 3d films, and its effects on cinema as art and media industry (4:42; 10:04)

Kuznetsova discusses the role of film going in contemporary Russian life. She notes that moviegoing changed after the fall of the Soviet Union.  It became mostly part of youth culture.  Teenagers and young adults comprise the present day St. Petersburg movie theater audience.  These moviegoers usually dress casually, and even act as they might at home.  In the screening room they laugh, talk, sometimes even yell at the screen and throw popcorn at one another. However, Kuznetsova maintains that there are still theaters that require a certain amount of decorum. For example, the city cine-club Dom Kino (14:08 – 16:03). She continues to discuss the current state of films in Russia, with particular reference to the role of advertisements, which she claims became more moving image oriented.  Instead of posters and print ads distributors use trailers that function as smaller versions of the films themselves and at times compete with features in the level of visual and aural sophistication (22:48 – 24:08). Kuznetsova views film, and to an extent the film industry, as a constantly evolving art form, reflecting current cultural norms and attitudes.