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Context (Moscow Times)
February 8-14, 2008
Romancing the President
The hero of a romantic drama closely resembles President Vladimir Putin, but the film's producer says the screenplay is purely fictional.

By Marina Kamenev

She is a former air hostess; he is a fair-haired St Petersburg-born politician with a secret past and a thorough knowledge of German. Their love affair is depicted in a new film, "Kiss Me Off the Record," which will be released on DVD on St. Valentine's Day.

Despite the familiar-sounding characters, the film's makers claim that its hero is not Russian President Vladimir Putin, but a fictional Russian politician named Alexander Platov.

While Putin's name and patronymic are Vladimir Vladimirovich, the film's hero is named Alexander Alexandrovich.

He is played by television veteran, Andrei Panin, who starred in the popular gangster drama "Brigade."

"This is an original screenplay," the film's producer, Anatoly Voropayev, said at a news conference on Tuesday. "Obviously we built our ideas on existing facts. We weren't going to write a movie about a Russian politician based on a Martian."

The movie will not be making an appearance in cinemas and is going straight to DVD, except for a preview on Monday.

"For us it's very important that people watch this film with their whole family. People don't go to cinemas with their whole family," Voropayev said.

Filming began in 2001. The post-production finished two years later but Voropayev said that he waited five years to release the film because he was working for the government as the deputy governor of the Tula and Stavropol regions. "I thought it would be inappropriate to release the film while I was working there," he said.

"Also each fruit has its season, you can't pick an apple from a tree before it is ripe."

The film's poster looks like an image from a campaign tour. The president and his wife hold hands as he waves to an invisible audience. The background shows camera flashes and the red, white and blue colors of the Russian flag.

"For the first time we have the opportunity to look at the life of a politician from another side," the film's promotional material reads. "He's not just the person we see on the news, on magazine covers or at official receptions. He is also the head of his family, a loving husband, a caring father and son."

The trailer shows Platov's wife crashing her car and lying injured in a hospital bed and Platov rescuing his family from a burning house. These scenes echo incidents in Putin's life: his wife, Lyudmila, was injured in a car accident in 1993. When Putin's dacha burnt down three years later, he only managed to rescue a cross. He has spoken of this event as converting him to the Russian Orthodox faith.

The trailer ends with the couple seated on the couch of a hotel room. The wife asks, "Is this the presidential suite? Isn't there anything more luxurious?"

Despite the obvious biographical similarities between Platov and Putin, Voropayev refused to acknowledge them. He blamed the comparisons on the hero's hair color. "It is because the lead actor is blond. If he were dark-haired, you would compare him to another leader," he said.

Voropayev said the film had not been shown to anyone in the government. "If they want to see it they are allowed to, but am I going to go out of my way to show them the film? No."

But Moskovsky Komsomolets reported that the artistic director, Oleg Fomin, said that Putin had seen the film and liked it.

Voropayev said the film is perfect viewing for St. Valentine's Day. "It's a family story after all," he said. "It will be understood by women whose husbands are always busy at work."

"Kiss Me Off the Record" will be released Thurs. on DVD.