American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Little Vera" comes advertised as the first Soviet film to deal frankly with youth rebellion, discontent with the system, and sex. Its star, Natalya Negoda, has gained a measure of fame by being the first Soviet actress to appear nude in a fairly explicit sex scene. To help launch the film in America, Negoda posed nude for Playboy and told her story to People magazine.
The strangest thing about this process is that it has made a truly revolutionary Soviet film look like another one of those "One Summer of Happiness" sex romps from Scandinavia.
The strategy of selling a foreign film on its sexual content is tried and true, but "Little Vera" is not a sexy film, and its star is not the new Bardot or Loren. The sex in "Little Vera" is sweaty and passionate but not erotic. The film's real fascination comes from its portrait of everyday life in the Soviet Union - life that contains few surprises but never has been shown with such frankness and honesty in a Soviet film.
The film takes place in a provincial city where Vera, a restless teenager, lives in a cramped three-room apartment with her al coholic father and her thoroughly disillusioned mother. A brother has moved to Moscow. Life in the family is a drab routine: The self-pitying, unemployed father gets up in the morning and starts to drink, and the mother and daughter plan their days around his rages and remorses.