Posted March 14, 2012 by David Watson in Films
 
 

How To Re-Establish A Vodka Empire


Let’s establish a drinking game.

Let’s establish a drinking game. Every time you mutter, spit
or yell the words “F*CK OFF!” at befuddled, bumbling filmmaker Daniel Edelstyn during his documentary
cum extended booze commercial How To
Re-Establish A Vodka Empire
, down a shot of vodka. It’ll improve the film.

It’s all Nick
Broomfield
’s fault. Ever since
he first treated audiences to his onscreen persona of bumbling middleclass
posho able to disarm and dissect racist demagogues, serial killers and
genuinely inhuman monsters (Courtney
Love
and Carol Burnett
immediately spring to mind) it seems no-one can make a documentary anymore
without (a) making themselves the star of it and (b) bumbling around like an
ineffectual Hugh Grant
impersonator. Louis Theroux, Dave Gorman, Dave Gorman’s speccy mate; they are all
the illegitimate offspring of Broomfield, their increasingly banal,
self-indulgent films content and risk-free parodies of the master. Broomfield risks life and limb spending
time with Afrikaaner white supremacist Eugene Terreblanche, Theroux meets Paul
Daniels and Jimmy Saville. For How To Re-Establish A Vodka Empire, the
bumbling Edelstyn courageously ‘risks’ his financial security in order to make
a film about his exploits trying to sell expensive vodka to Sefridges.

Beginning ostensibly as a voyage into his family history
after the ‘chance’ discovery of his grandmother Maroussia Zorokovich’s journals, Edelstyn and partner, artist Hilary Powell (who seems to do most of
the actual filming, as well as the Guy Madden-influenced fantasy sequences),
journey to Ukraine and seek out Maroussia’s hometown the depressed,
poverty-stricken village of Dubouviazovka. Born into a wealthy Jewish family in Tsarist Russia,
Maroussia lost everything in the Bolshevik Revolution and, upon discovering the
family used to own the local distillery, Edelstyn decides that the best way to
honour her memory and bring prosperity back to Dubouviazovka is to import the
village’s vodka to the UK. It’s a crazy
plan but it just might work.
Particularly if you’re a posh, bumbling, middleclass twit
narcissistically basing your first feature documentary on your own life.

So, with the aid of some sepia-tinged fantasy sequences
illustrating Maroussia’s tumultuous life which also serve to comment on Edelstyn’s
struggle (Look! Maroussia escaping
execution at the hands of the Bolshies is just the same as Edelstyn’s meeting
with local bureaucrats!), How To
Re-Establish A Vodka Empire
charts Edelstyn’s attempt to carve out his own
niche in the UK’s luxury vodka market while beset by highs and lows; people
like the vodka, people don’t like the vodka, they almost lose their cavernous
artists’ loft studio (we’re told), Powell has a very minor freak-out then
announces she’s pregnant, Saatchi & Saatchi get involved, they have a baby,
their dog dies, they supply vodka to Selfridges and trendy, London hipster
bars, it all works out in the end. Za vashe
zdorovya!

In concentrating on
his own story however, Edelstyn loses sight of Maroussa’s which is genuinely
fascinating as she goes from wealthy Jewish capitalist to showgirl to
wife. A political and financial
refugee she escapes the fledgling Soviet Union, wanders Europe, settles in
London. She’s a writer, a
musician, a performer. Too poor to
eat during the day, at night she hangs out at the Savoy with the likes of HG Wells and his wife, drinking
champagne. Eventually joined by
her husband and having just given birth to Edelstyn’s father, she moves to
Belfast in the aftermath of the Irish Civil War and while her husband joins the
Orange Order and the Masons, ingratiating himself with Ulster’s ruling
Protestant elite, she defiantly renounces her Judaism and converts to
Catholicism, siding herself with the city’s oppressed Catholic minority. A bold, independent woman, the snippets
of her life How To
Re-Establish A Vodka Empire
gives us
just don’t do justice to her.

How
much you enjoy How To Re-Establish A Vodka Empire rather depends on how much
you like Edelstyn, how much you want to see him succeed. If you’d like to
see the locals drag him off into a hidden room of the vodka factory and torture
him Hostel-style, you’ll be disappointed. If you’d like to see him lose
everything, you’ll also be disappointed. How To Re-Establish A Vodka Empire
will just plain disappoint you.


David Watson

 
David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com