The annual Russian Film Symposium returns, now in its 14th year. The six-day symposium, co-presented by the University of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Filmmakers, begins Mon., April 30, and will offer 13 films, to be shown on the Oakland campus and at Melwood Screening Room, in North Oakland. This year's theme is "Camp Cinema: Russian Style," and where better to kick off the evening screenings than at the drive-in?
LIQUID SKY. Slava Tsukerman's cult 1982 film set in New York City is a celebration-cum-critique mish-mash of sci-fi, sex, drugs, fashion and post-punk ennui, as well as an eerily prescient pre-AIDS document. There's a semi-coherent plot about aliens sucking the brains of drug-addled humans during orgasm (supported by some dreadful visual effects), but any story is trumped by the outrageous fashions, the androgynous lead actress and the fascinating vibe of watching a sub-culture self-destruct. Tsukerman will introduce the film. To be followed by a screening of Doru Nastase's Vlad the Impaler (1982). 8:15 p.m. Tue., May 1. Riverside Drive-in, 2780 River Road, Vandergrift
HAPPINESS. Aleksandr Medvedkin's 1934 hour-long satirical fable follows a poor farmer as he longs for individual prosperity and tangles with corrupt religious figures, assorted villains and collective workers. Plenty of critique is woven amongst the slapstick and the absurd, with the tenets of collectivism coming under much comic scrutiny. Silent, with English intertitles. 7:30 p.m. Wed., May 2. Melwood
HAMMER AND SICKLE. Identity under Stalin is examined in Segei Livnev's 1994 dark comedy-slash-melodrama, about a peasant woman who has a state-ordered sex change in order to become the ideal Soviet man. Initially, the transformation seems a great success. But the perk-filled life of an exemplar proves psychologically confining, and the hero rebels, in search of his true self. In Russian, with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. Thu., May 3. Melwood