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A Fan's Notes From Russia

June 05, 1988|George Stein

SOVIET MEDIA coverage of Southern California has been spotty since 1984, when stories aimed at drumming up support for the Soviet decision to boycott the Olympics disparaged Los Angeles in dramatic terms. ("In Moscow," the narrator of one network television program told viewers, "the worst thing we had to worry about was, would there be rain during the (1980 Olympics) opening ceremonies. In Los Angeles, they wonder how many seconds will pass before another person is killed on the streets.")

The Soviets still show Los Angeles as a gang-ridden, repressive area dominated by military and industrial interests and a Hollywood whose films foster anti-Soviet stereotypes.

But softer views sometimes creep into smaller publications. For example, Iskustvo Kino ("Art of Film") magazine published the travel notes of film critic Victor Dyomin, who came to Los Angeles in March, 1987, as part of the Entertainment Summit.

After an exhausting 32-hour flight from Moscow, Dyomin reported that he was pleasantly surprised that U.S. Customs had waved him through, wanting to know only where he was staying. At the Bel Age, he told them, confiding to readers that he privately relished the thought that this was the scene of a romantic encounter in "Prizzi's Honor."

Dyomin was surprised again at the demeanor of the hotel owner, Sevryn Ashkenazy, who greeted the Soviet delegation in the lobby, looking "young, tall, very thin in the waist, with an untypically intelligent expression. Several of us took him for a writer or a State Department official."

Dyomin was in Los Angeles to scold American film makers about the ABC miniseries "Amerika" and "Rocky IV," but before the meetings could begin, he took a breather on a balcony. And there he saw Sunset Boulevard. "About 200 meters away, a three-story cowboy on a two-story horse aimed a six-cylinder Colt revolver at me. It was an ad for a new Western. I could have taken out my pen and written of the cult of violence. But the cowboy was very nice, very happy, and the Western, perhaps, was a parody. Let my pen stay in its place."

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