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    Rubljowka – Russian Tenderloin for Millionaires

    By Ron Holloway | August 24, 2008

    One wonders how Irene Langemann ever got permission to shoot her stunning documentary Rubljowka – Strasse zur Glückseligkeit in the first place! But since the German-Russian filmmaker was born in Siberia, worked in Moscow as an actress and filmmaker before emigrating to Germany in 1990, she knows her way around the Russian ministries. Still, Rublyovka – Road to Bliss, an inside report about Russian millionaires living just 30 miles outside of Moscow known on the Rublyovka-Uspenskoye-Chaussee, might send shivers down the backs of some of the nouveau riche.

    For seldom in today’s New Russia can a foreign tv-reporter obtain official permission to shoot how security guards patrol Rublyovka Road with an iron fist, how traffic policemen stop cars indiscriminately to check papers, how local citizens are jostled off the sidewalks whenever a limousine entourage passes through. Yet Irene Langemann wandered freely inside the guarded Rublyovka compound, where she tactfully filmed a lawn party at a “palace” (some valued at 20 million dollars), weaned tell-tale comments from a louche real-estate agent, and resorted to hidden-camera tricks to document the salient facts.

    To her credit, Irene Langemann avoided heavy-handed question-and-answer dialogue to allow people simply to speak for themselves. A precocious 12-year-old (whose Romanov family name hints of tsarist descendance) sketches the 30-kilometer-long tenderloin, including the enclave where President Putin lives. A property middleman confirms that residents number not just powerful politicians and well-healed business tycoons, but also honored artists and stage-and-screen personalities, among them the daughter of composer Dmitry Shostakovich. A 27-year-old single, who lives off her parents’ wealth, commissions a flattering portrait from prominent painter Nikas Safronov. A glib fur-designer extols the wonders of the Russian sable while draping one over the shoulders of a millionaire’s hussy. A real estate entrepreneur phones a business partner in Paris on a mobile from her limousine to ask why contract papers are not in order. The “Crazy Ducks,” a club of sportive teenagers on expensive motorbikes, roam the Rublyovka backroads in make-belief races.

    Meanwhile, the poor and needy live on the other side of Rublyovka Road. Among these are longtime residents who are being driven from their homes by dubious means to clear the property for new millionaires. Also, construction workers, mostly laborers from Central Asia and the Caucasus, are glad to find work here to support large families back home. They don’t even need residence papers because Rublyovka, a “a state within a state,” need not be burdened by rules and regulations. One scene in Rublyovka – Road to Bliss is worthy of its title. It’s when Shostakovich’s daughter pays a visit to the villa of Mstislav Rostropovich, and the cellist happens to be home and not in Paris. What follows is a warming recollection of how much the cellist felt he owed his friend and mentor. A few months later, in April of 2007, Rostropovich died.

    – Ron Holloway

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