Since Betty blogged about the story of Anna Karina in Leo Tolstoy's book and this newest movie production. I want to focus on my reaction to the movie and my last visit to the USSR. 

First, I was impressed by the presentation. The idea of melding opera, play, cinema and history felt distinctly Russian to me, and reminded me of the constant sense of historicity I felt when visiting St. Petersburg, Moscow and Krasnoyarsk (Siberia). People were people, work was work, life was life, but somehow they felt bigger -- grander --  emotionally and historically there. 

Second, I was impressed by the contrast: Scarlet red (flags) and pure white (snow); hot (feelings) and cold (winter); rich and poor. But what I want to blog about here an interesting contrast in food. When I mentioned I would like to taste "real" Russian food, I was taken to a restaurant just outside of Moscow which had a massive menu of wonderful Russian dishes. When I began to order, however, my guide suggested steak and potatoes. Being vegetarian by preference and having some Polish-Russian in my family, I kindly declined, and started to reorder things with names I vaguely recalled my grandmother mentioning. Again, my guide suggested steak and potatoes, and the waiter nodded his strong recommendation. Getting the hint, I ordered steak and potatoes. While we were waiting, my guide mentioned off-handedly that I had done the right thing, as the restaurant had only steak and potatoes that day. Similarly, when I visited a food store in Moscow, I was surprised to find rows of leather boots, peanut butter, and quite a few fresh cucumbers (grown in huge hothouses in the area) on otherwise empty shelves. Stark contrasts.

Finally, I was impressed by the passion, whether intellectual, political or in love that always seemed to be present. Life may sometimes be cold, dark, hard or difficult, but it was always balanced with passion like I'd rarely seen anywhere else. I experienced it personally when I visited the statue of Pushkin and, joining several local poets, read one of my own poems. Their passion for poetry bridged all cultural gaps, real or imagined. It would be an understatement to say that I felt passionately welcome. 

It's hard to characterize the former USSR, and current Russia, but, if anyone had captured it, it would be Leo Tolstoy in his various books and this modern movie version of one, Anna Karina.