Monday, July 2, 2012

Museum of "Mosfilm Cinema Concern" and Other Things Worthy of Admiration

The excursion to Mosfilm film and tv studios on Friday was a little bit of a letdown.  It wasn't so much about how films are made as much as "here are some things that may or may not have been in films.  Admire them!".  Though the promotional material they gave us promised a "chance to see the mysterious and magic world of cinema", the tour was focused on showing off the studio's collection of antique cars and costumes.  This is something of a theme I've noticed with Russian museums/attractions: they aren't so much concerned with interesting facts, a unique experience, or "fun" as much as they are with forcing you to admire objects which they have deemed worthy of admiration.  For instance, I went to both the Tolstoy museum and the Pushkin museum today, and didn't learn anything new about Tolstoy or Pushkin.  The Tolstoy museum was focused on manuscripts and photographs (including pretty much an entire roomful of Lev Nikolayevich looking imposing and beardly), while the Pushkin museum was filled with portraits of Pushkin's relatives and contemporaries whom he might have known, and various trinkets from his life.  Each room of the Pushkin museum was also equipped with a startlingly pushy babushka to make sure you didn't breathe on the exhibits the wrong way and showed proper appreciation for all items.  For example, in the very first room:

Aggressive Pushkin Museum Lady: Did you read that sign*?
Us: Yes
Lady: It's very important that you read it!  Go read the sign.
Me: I read the sign.
Lady: Go read it again!
Me: Okay, I will! (hustles over to sign to avoid wrath of Russian museum lady) 
*There was nothing that important on the sign.  It just explained how the house came to be used as a museum.

She then started to single us out:
Lady: Did you look at the items on the table?
Megan: Yes, I looked at all of them.
Lady: What was that one called?
Megan: I don't remember...?
Lady: You weren't paying attention!  Some people think it's a candelabra.  BUT IT'S NOT.  It's a *somethingsomethingsomething*.
Megan: Okay, Sorry.
(We flee to the next room)

Later on in another room I am standing and reading a sign.  Around this room are chairs for guests to sit in.  You can differentiate between the chairs meant for sitting and the chairs meant for display because the chairs meant only for display have a little rope across the arms.  Apparently, while I was reading the sign my knee was touching a chair (WHICH WAS NOT A DISPLAY CHAIR BECAUSE IT DIDN'T HAVE A ROPE).
Me: (Reading sign)
Angry Pushkin Museum Babushka: Stop doing that!
Me: ?
Babushka: Don't lean on that chair! Why are you doing that?  Stop touching the chair, devushka*!
Me: (jumps away from chair to avoid further scolding...)
*devushka can mean "Miss" or just "girl" depending on context/tone.  The way she said it, I'm pretty sure it meant "girl".

Anyhow, back to Mosfilm.  No one got a scolding, but the tour guide seemed about as excited to be there as at a dentist appointment.  She explained in monotone how various props and costumes were acquired and what movies they were used in.

Costumes, yay
Room full o' heads

There were some neat things, though.  My favorite was a life-size recreation of a section of old Moscow.  The set was pretty large, big enough that you could go into the center and not see anything beyond the set, so that for an instant you could imagine you were in the Moscow of old.

Full-size model of several streets of Old Moscow.  Pretty cool.

This mural was pretty cool, too

The worst part was an animatronic diorama portraying a scene from the first horror film to be made in the USSR.  It's called "Viy", based off of Gogol's story of the same name, and is about a guy who has to read prayers for three nights over the body of a witch.  Terrifying things happen, and on the third night Viy, the King of Gnomes, appears and the guy dies of sheer fright.  The diorama was laughably cheesy and lame, but the gnomes were still dreadful.  These aren't cheerful little guys in green caps who steal flower pots and giggle.  These are eat-your-beating-heart-and-torture-your-corpse-for-eternity gnomes.  The recollection of it has been enough to make me uncomfortable to go to sleep for the past few nights.  I seriously considered running out for some holy water and chalk (which you can probably buy at any babushka kiosk.  They sell everything else under the sun, so I wouldn't be surprised).
Moving diorama of Gogol's "Viy".  Truly the stuff of nightmares. 
Afterwards we grabbed lunch at a popular and tasty cafeteria-style restaurant called Moo Moo.  This is usually an adventure in itself; I just put stuff on my tray and find out what it is when I bite in.  One thing that I expected to be a roll was actually filled with apples and cinnamon, and one thing I expected to be a dessert pastry was filled with veggies and egg.  Still good!
We then putzed around a big mall for a while.  Though I don't hang out at the mall much at home, I think it's a good sociological study to see what kinds of things people are shopping for, what people are wearing, and what is in demand/valued in a certain society.  People-watching is a great way to learn.

Promotional event for 'smooth taste' cigarettes outside the big mall near Kievskaya.  These talented individuals were teaching the crowd dance moves to 90s hip hop.  Way entertaining.