Good Bye, Leningrad

After the special issue of Popular Music and Society on post-soviet popular music was published I was contacted by the movie director and photographer Christine Bachmann who asked if I had heard of the movie “Good Bye, Leningrad” – which I had not. After some technical complications I finally got a review copy of the bilingual movie (Russian, German) released in 2005.
Directed by Bachmann “Good Bye, Leningrad” follows 5 musicians from the St. Petersburg based band Pudra. Interplecting images from their daily routines the musicians describe their ties to St. Petersburg and how Pudra was founded. While thus essentially a band portrait the movie at the same time offers a good glimpse into the life of an upcoming St. Petersburg based rock band: most of the musicians moved to the city, they are not full time musicians but have day jobs and they rehearse in the basement of a residential building. Ideologically St. Petersburg is seen as the Russian rock city, but the musicians are as pessimistic regarding the state of Russian rock music as they are optimistic about why their music is special – something common for many underground bands I talked to during my fieldwork in St. Petersburg. In my fieldwork this disregard for Russian rock was most poignantly reflected in Leningrad/Spitfire’s Roman Parygin’s answer to my question what russkii rok is: “Polnoe gavno!” (Complete shit! – interview with author, 23.06.2006)
Leningrad also brings us to the movie’s title “Good Bye, Leningrad” and what makes Pudra a little different from most other similar St. Petersburg bands: they warmed up for Leningrad in Palast der Republic in Berlin on November 9th, 2004 (while Leningrad’s vocalist Sergei “Shnur” Shnurov sees himself as the grave digger of russkii rok I will leave any interpretation of the movie’s title to the readers ;-)). The movie does not indicate how/why the band played in Germany, but Pudra has a connection to Germany through the bass player, who studied in St. Petersburg as an exchange student and who joined the band while living there. Playing abroad is a logistic and bureaucratic nightmare since not only are contacts in Germany needed but the band members need foreign passports (zagranpasport / zagranichnyi pasport), visas and some kind of upfront financing. Seeing Pudra warm up for the cult band Leningrad which has gathered a considerable fan base in Germany is thus quite impressive.
The concert in Germany, however, only bookend the movie – the main theme is the band in St. Petersburg. This is also what makes the movie in my eyes special since it offers a nice description of the musicians’ life and motivations. In other words, the movie is definitively recommendable for anybody interested in Post-Soviet popular music!

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