Hong Kong International Film Festival

HONG KONG -- In what is sure to be viewed as a Russian spin on "The Devil Wears Prada," director Andrei Konchalovsky ("Sibiriada," "Runaway Train") turns an only partially jaundiced eye at the modern fixation on celebrity and fashion.

This is somewhat outdated and well-worn material, and explorations of the encroachment of Western celebrity culture on developing nations isn't new either. On top of that, a good amount of the film relies on tired character archetypes. Although cinematically polished and possessing an engaging lead, "Gloss" never manages to take flight as an effective satire.

Any film skewering the fashion industry and what was once called the jet set is likely to get attention from independent and art house distributors. "Gloss" certainly has the production values for limited overseas release, but it's just as likely to be consigned to DVD after a spin on the festival circuit.

Galya (an appropriately low-rent Yulia Vysotskaya) is a working-class seamstress in the backwater town of Rostov-on-Don who dreams of becoming Russia's next great supermodel. After she's featured in a second-rate ad in a local newspaper, she decides the time is right to move to Moscow. She borrows enough money to get there from her on-and-off thug boyfriend, Vitya (Ilya Isaev), and quickly finesses her way into the office of the editor of Beauty magazine.

The editor, Marina (Irina Rozanova), lays the brutal truth on Galya: She doesn't stand a chance of making her mag's cover. Only temporarily defeated, Galya lands on her feet by working as a seamstress for the Karl Lagerfeld-like Mark (Yefim Shifrin), stumbles (literally) onto the runway in his new collection's show, loses her job and winds up working for erstwhile agent and escort mogul Petya (Gennady Smirnov). In the end, she does make the cover of Beauty after being transformed into a latter-day Grace Kelly and marrying up to politico Klimenko (Alekander Domogarov).

There's a lot going on in "Gloss," and Konchalovsky and co-writer Dunya Smirnova go to great pains to draw links among fashion, prostitution, power and celebrity while at the same time peeling some of the glamor from the glitterati. The film is populated by shallow, fundamentally unhappy people who are simply spinning their wheels.

Marina's magazine is just a little behind the curve, and she feels her age when she looks at her competition, some of which comes in the form of her arrogant, needling daughter Nastya (Olga Arntgolts). Rozanova is affecting as a former beauty facing forced retirement, but she's only in Galya's sphere for a fleeting moment. "Gloss" is loaded with partially explored ideas, but therein lies the problem: They're also partially unexplored.

A Mosfilm, Motion Investment Group, Cadran Prods., Studio Canal, Backup Films production
Sales agent: Fortissimo Films
Director: Andrei Konchalovsky
Screenwriters: Andrei Konchalovsky, Dunya Smirnova
Producer: Andrei Konchalovsky
Director of photography: Mariya Solovyova
Production designer: Yekaterina Zaletayeva
Music: Eduard Artemyev
Co-producers: Jeremy Burdek, Nadia Khamlichi, Adrian Politowski
Editor: Olga Grinshpun
Galya: Yulia Vysotskaya
Zhanna: Olga Meloyanina
Vitya: Ilya Isaev
Marina: Irina Rozanova
Nastya: Olga Arntgolts
Mark: Yefim Shifrin
Petya: Gennady Smirnov
Klimenko: Alekander Domogarov
Running time -- 118 minutes
No MPAA rating
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