By DENNIS HARVEY
U.S.-film-schooled multihyphenate Sasha Valenti’s first feature “Tasty Bits” is set in her native Russia, but recalls ’70s Stateside pics like “Between the Lines” and “Steelyard Blues” for its amiably shaggy caper plot hinged on counterculture hipster types.
Breezy vid-shot effort shows real enterprise that’s considerably undercut by low-budget execution (the film’s entire budget is $7,000 and it shows). Nonetheless, it reps a viable fringe TV pickup, and a solid calling card for helmer and lead thesps.
Julia (Julia Muranova) is creative director and jazz DJ for a regional station about to be devoured by a bigger fish. Anticipating the axe or, worse, corporate programming interference, she schemes to con potential takeover buyers. Plan goes awry, inviting the ire of Russian mafia types. Surprise last-minute intervention from Julia’s new ex-stripper love Tanya (Tatiana Alyokhina) rescues all involved.
Smart, confident, reckless heroine is the rare lipstick-lesbian construct who’s not at all a straight man’s fantasy. Subsidiary characters are also nicely drawn, while blasé attitude toward heavy drinking, drugging, and miscellaneous weirdness among Russo artistic types also feels fresh. But lively pace, busy soundtrack and spry if far-fetched storyline are somewhat undone by variable sound recording and at times impenetrably underlit DV photography.
About a year ago LesbiRu.com had a chat with the movie’s director and announced a casting call for the starring role in “Tasty Bits”. What came out is a delicious comedy with a bouncy soundtrack, chewy one-liners and a sizzling lesbian couple amidst all the quirky action. The film features an array of Russian thespians plus a bunch of non-professional actors. “Tasty Bits” helmer Sasha Valenti is a young Russian-American filmmaker who is taking her creation back to the U.S. right after the Russian premiere.
27th San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
The succulent characters in this Russian comedy are smart, sexy, and skilled at repartee. Filmed in digital video, TASTY BITS is the first lesbian narrative from the former Soviet Union. The film focuses on the relationship between Julia, a hip radio station’s creative director, and Tanya, a former stripper. (Lesbian identity is refreshingly not the subject of the film—as Julia, Tanya, and their friends are realistically portrayed and provide an infectious hunger for life.)
The two women meet at a party and connect in an entirely palpable way. Julia, certain that the one-night stand is just that, is surprised when Tanya calls in to Julia’s radio program and, while on air, makes her willingness and availability known.
Enter Mikhail, Tanya’s ex-boyfriend and small-time gangster, who informs Julia that Moscow’s government is trying to exert control over her radio station. She can either watch this happen or use her media savvy to prevent the hostile takeover. Julia is then propelled into a screwball scheme to save the station.
Veteran actress Julia Muranova, starring as Julia, exudes a magnetic energy—her sultry voice is not only effective for radio broadcasting, but also in the vocals she lends to “Whiskey,” one of the film’s signature songs. A literal former exotic dancer, Tanya Alyokhina was surprised to land a lead role. Her debut performance as Tanya, we hope, will result in future roles so we may see her again. —Erica Marcus
New York Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
Set against the backdrop of everyday absurdities in modern Russia, Tasty Bits focuses on Julia, a beautiful young creative director of a local jazz radio station, and a bit of a lesbian Don Juan. But her love-’em and leave-’em mentality changes after she meets the intriguing Tanya and has a steamy encounter or two.
Although her sex life takes this surprising turn, Julia’s work is threatened when the radio station is caught in a hostile takeover, leading her, with the help of co-workers and Tanya, to develop a mad plan involving sensitive gangsters, business-minded prostitutes, and neurotic businessmen which may actually save the station.
Valenti presents Julia and Tanya’s relationship as simply matter-of-fact – which is fascinating to note since Tasty Bits is the first Russian-language romantic comedy to center on a lesbian couple. Delightfully outlandish, and incorporating delicious musical interludes, Tasty Bits is simply delectable.
The 21st L.A. Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
Mix sexy Russian lesbians, gangsters, the KGB and old-school musical numbers and you get TASTY BITS, the first lesbian comedy from Russia – with love!
Heavy drinking, buxom blonde radio personality Julia is used to getting what she wants, from fame to the most delicious women. When her radio station is threatened with imminent sale, she employs high-rolling thugs and mysterious women to wheel and deal her way out of obscurity – and into a bit of naughty fun along the way!
TASTY BITS is chock-full of sapphic sex, physical comedy and one-liners as only Russians can deliver. “I am tender like a night on the tundra,” declares Julia’s foxy girlfriend. Pass the vodka and enjoy the debauchery, post-Soviet-style. —LS
OUT IN AFRICA
South African International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
It seems that the biggest success of the “iron curtain” was hiding Russia’s sexy lesbians from the rest of us. But that’s been kalachnikov’d out of the water with the first Russian-language, lesbian-themed feature.
The blonde Molotov cocktail, Julia, is openly gay and the creative director of a radio station. She works hard and fast professionally, but her playtime is even more feverishly active. No glass of vodka or single woman is safe from this dyke Don Juan. Until she meets her match in the titillating Tanya. Here lesbian sex doesn’t mean talking, it means sex!
The movie also has its fair share of action, as Julia is thrust into the world of politics and gangsters in an attempt to save her station. An indie film that ropes you in.
The 13th Annual Toronto Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival
Right in the heart of Russia, there is a little jazz station whose young and perky staff are happy to share their passion for freedom, music and each other. Julia, the informal leader of this gang, is the station’s creative director – a sexy daredevil who’s bright, ambitious and openly lesbian. She and her trusty sidekick, Roman, daily liven up the airwaves with their edgy show “Tasty Bits”, where they mix funky tunes with snappy banter.
Julia’s love life is more about sex than love, but unexpectedly she meets Tanya at a birthday party and the euphoria of this new relationship puts her lesbian Don Juan status at risk. The girls’ mutual attraction is instant, their repartee is slick and their nights are steamy. The day when Julia finds out that her radio station is facing hostile takeover changes everything. Unwilling to be pushed aside by the high and the mighty, she secures the support of her colleagues and her lover for the risky venture of saving the station.
Julia’s gutsy decision sets off a mad race full of sensitive gangsters, business-minded prostitutes and neurotic businessmen – all part of a bumpy ride towards self-discovery and personal liberation. Tasty Bits is a musical adventure comedy about finding the taste for life and freedom. Its characters are intelligent, creative and hungry young people who are ready to risk everything for their right to stay free!