Mne dvadsat let (I Am Twenty). 1965. USSR. Directed by Marlen Khutsiev. Screenplay by Marlen Khutsiev, Gennady Shpalikov. With Valentin Popov, Nikolay Gubenko, Stanislav Lyubshin. In Russian; English subtitles. 189 min.
Together with its loose sequel July Rain, I Am Twenty is “the cinematic manifesto of an entire generation” (Peter Rollberg). Khutsiev incurred Khrushchev’s very public wrath by evoking the spiritual, intellectual, and sexual restlessness of young Muscovites during the Thaw. He dared to repudiate the tired aesthetics and orthodoxies of Socialist Realism by instead adopting New Wave techniques of handheld on-location camerawork, breezily elliptical storytelling, and an interior monologue of metaphysical and erotic angst. Surrogates for the filmmaker himself, Khutsiev’s youthful protagonists find little solace in communing, in Hamlet-like fashion, with the ghosts of fathers who had been killed in the war. They seek pleasure and purpose in Moscow’s counterculture of jazz, folk music, and poetry. (Khutsiev even films literary stars of the Russian New Wave, including Bella Akhmadulina, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Andrei Voznesensky, and Bulat Okudzhava, in an onstage poetry reading at the Moscow Polytechnic Institute.)