Pal/Secam [subtitled]


Pal/Secam is a 14 minute short, set in the Soviet Union in 1985. The setting may be foreign, and some of the specifics of the story may only make sense in their time and place, but a lot of what this film’s about is more universal.

Teenage Boris lives in a small apartment with his mom. They are the first people in the area to get a VCR, though apparently the only tape they have so far is something on Japanese disco dancing, which Boris watches over and over, still fascinated by the novelty of the device.

When his mother leaves for work, Boris goes to hang out with friends, mostly a girl who feigns indifference while he awkwardly tries to put the moves on her.

He gets her a little interested in accompanying him back to his apartment by telling her about the VCR, though she insists on liquor as well to seal the deal.

His uncle agrees to get him the liquor, in exchange for being able to watch the VCR, though he doesn’t mention as part of the deal that he’ll be bringing a porno tape and inviting over a few buddies (and charging them admission).

The seduction is sort of a success and sort of a debacle.

This is a well-done, interesting, fun little movie.

I could identify with plenty of it. It’s good at capturing the way most (not all) guys will do just about anything to have a shot at pussy, and the way most (not all) girls use that to their advantage. The negotiation is almost comically crass here, the way she plays hard to get as he tries to come up with ways to make it worth her while to give it up, but it’s not thereby unrealistic. (If not for this phenomenon, one wonders how drug dealers and diamond merchants would stay in business.)

In its way, at least with a couple of kids, there’s a kind of amusing sweetness to it, whereas with older more cynical types it might come across as just manipulative and objectifying.

The film is pretty solid as far as the social and psychological dynamics in general—the way people can be absurdly fascinated by a new gadget, the risk and thrill of trying to get away with something without being caught by your parents, the way allowing other people into your scheme can blow up when they don’t respect you and have their own agenda, etc.

I also got a little nostalgic kick out of thinking about the pre-Internet porn era of VCRs and rented tapes.

Overall, Pal/Secam is a winner. It’s easy to follow, and it has some insight and some humor.

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