Two bored rich friends play strange games with each other in "Happy People," an incomprehensible, close to unwatchable exercise in direc-torial narcissism from the Ukraine. On his third feature, director Aleksandr Shapiro ("Cikuta," "The Guidebook") drops every hint of narrative in favor of overwrought images of contempo decadence, riddled with machine-gun editing remi-niscent of a video clip or a car commercial. Out-of-focus shots and substandard tech work add to the misery of this low point in the Berlin Panorama, which tallied numerous walkouts.
Dressed like a latter-day Blues Brother, businessman Herman (Konstantin Zabaykalski) runs around a gray, concrete city with shaggy-haired free spirit Bambizo (Vitaly Linetski.) Though rich, they're not happy, because life is so boring. It's a stretch to make sense of their non-stop non sequi-turs, but apparently they take turns giving each other a mission to carry out. As the film wears on, an attractive researcher, Dr. Adlernova (Katya Vinogradova), tells Herman about Bambizo's brilliant past. Random attempts at modernism in voiceover, noise over, and post-industrial city-scapes are too little to hold inter-est in this confused would-be farce.
Camera (color), Mikhail Tonkonogov; music, Evgeny Kekukh; production designer, Ivan Levchenko; costume designer, Sergey Yermakov. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 13, 2006. Running time: 105 MIN.