Gloss: The Director's Cut

Ultimately as vacuous as the world it hopes to represent.

Released in 2007, certified UK-Not Yet Rated. Reviewed on 09 Jul 2008 by Scott Morris
Gloss image

I love watching Russian films. Mainly because it gives me another chance to look at their whacky alphabet. This outing from director Andrei Konchalovsky purports to be a satire of sorts on the world of high fashion, which observant audiences will know has already seemingly been flogged to death by Pret-a-Porter and The Devil Wears Prada, and perhaps a bunch of other films, but it's not exactly a sub-genre of cinema I play close attention to so you'll have to forgive my complete lack of caring.

I suppose Konchalovsky has also noticed the seam has been mined pretty much completely, as throughout the film there's a very real sense of it being made up on the spot. Following the life of Galya (Yuliya Vysotskaya) as she ups sticks from her humdrum life as a seamstress in a coal mining town, leaving her small time gangster boyfriend and moving to Moscow dreaming of making it big as a model.

We're also introduced to a bitchy fashion magazine editor and her equally bitchy daughter, whose relationship seems to be important to the film for about fifteen minutes before they're rudely dropped from the face of the Earth entirely, which is roundabout where I first questioned what, exactly, this film is supposed to be focussing on and what, if anything it's trying to say.

As the film goes on, neither of these questions are answered in any particular fashion. After working for a cliched fashion designer who puts out collection subtitled "100% Shit", at which point I was really hoping that Zoolander's Mugatu would show up and show off his derelicte range, Galya goes on to work in a high class whorehouse cum marriage arrangement service before catching the eye of one of the corrupt oligarchs, who's in-between wives and also London-based football teams, one assumes.

Gloss image

It's presented as a 'modern absurdist fairy tale', and I suppose on at least some level it does work as that. Regardless of how unpleasant the characters, or at least their desires are, everyone does seem to get what they want of the arrangements made and no-one seems to be getting hurt in the process, so I suppose that's okay in this Moscow where love seems to be an entirely alien or outmoded concept.

The level it doesn't work on is having any sort of coherent focus, or even any noticeable attempt at social commentary. Without this it pretty much turns into two hours of Russians bawling at each other, and it's not particularly easy on the ears or, despite the presence of largely nakkid models flouncing about, particularly easy on the eyes, with the overdriven visual stylings smattered about the piece not so much detracting from things as simply provoking the question of why they were shoehorned in there in the first place.

For all it's structural failings, I have to concede that Gloss is not, in fact, a miserable way to spend two hours in a cinema. It's pacy and punchy enough to bomb through what little passes for a story without seeming to drag, and it is, in a colorful, glossy, and entirely vacuous way, more or less enjoyable to someone with no interest whatsoever in the subject matter. One supposes, and this is a supposition pulled entirely from my ass with no verification whatsoever, that this may actually prove rather appealing to the Sex & the City crowd, with the added advantage of only featuring one poster of that horse faced harridan Sarah Jessica Parker rather than an entire film full of her.

Still, all that said, the official recommendation is to watch Zoolander again instead, because it has David Bowie in it.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 2/5 TippyMarks.

Andrei Konchalovsky
Cast list:
Yuliya Vysotskaya (Galya)