Juris Podniek's "Is It Easy to Be Young?," which screens Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Melnitz Theater as part of the UCLA Film Archives' New Soviet Director series, is an underground documentary so startling in its candor for a Russian film that you can hardly believe your ears. There's a raw, jagged immediacy to Podniek's survey of the attitudes of young Soviets that brings to mind the early Godard in its vitality--and the somberness of its subjects, which include even incoherent drug addicts.
Podniek, who won an award of distinction for his film from the International Documentary Assn., opens with a rock concert so American in its style and energy that you can hardly believe it isn't happening here. Even in this period of glasnost you don't expect to hear a Russian state so forthrightly that "everything is so stagnant I doubt my generation can make any changes." Most important, Podniek reveals that for many young men Afghanistan is the Soviet Union's Vietnam. There's a poignancy--and a hope--in the discovery that young Russians are so like their American counterparts. For series schedule: (213) 825-2581.