Michael Jackson: Moscow Case 1993

Michael Jackson: Moscow Case 1993
5
My uncle immigrated to Canada from Russia in the late '70s. He's told me stories about Western products like Levi's jeans and Beatles records being sold for exorbitant amounts on the black market while the Communist regime was in power. So imagine what it must have been like when Michael Jackson, the King of Pop and ultimate American commodity, visited Russia in 1993 for a Moscow concert just after the fall of the Iron Curtain. This collision of worlds inspired Jackson to write the song "Stranger in Moscow," and the backdrop has the potential to make a great movie. Unfortunately, Moscow Case isn't that film. The documentary predominantly consists of interviews with Russian people who either attended the concert or were involved in putting on the show, and all of these interviews are overdubbed with the voice of a bland narrator. And while the differing first-person accounts, from contradicting descriptions of crowd size to ticket prices, may serve to illustrate the chaotic environment in Russia at the time, they aren't presented in a way that makes for a coherent viewing experience. Also, there is zero footage of the actual event, which is supposedly the focus of the film, and rather than Jackson songs providing the soundtrack, the score is populated with folksy sound bites of Russian-style accordion melodies. All of this brings us to the main issue with the film: it's not so much made for Jackson fans as for students of post-Cold War Russian history. Until the second half, Jackson is almost beside the point. We learn about the deteriorating Russian economy, the rising Russian mafia and the unpreparedness of the country for the arrival of an international star. On the positive side, there's some interesting footage of Jackson's visit, including a scene of the pop icon decked out in full glam regalia marching with a military contingent, as well as some insightful shots of him spending time with kids at an orphanage. The orphanage scenes are by far the most revealing of Jackson's character. One Russian music expert, Art Troitsky, addresses the charges of abuse in the film and says, "I'm sure in reality it was in no way pedophilia; he was just a child himself and he wanted to play with kids. The situation is indeed tragic." However, this is a rare moment in which the movie actually focuses on Jackson. For a documentary that bills itself as a "must for fans of Michael," there isn't much about the music or the performer. Don't expect any moonwalks across the Kremlin. (MVS)