Advanced Mid/High The Greatest Swindler

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Watch an episode of a slapstick comedy The Twelve Chairs (1971) directed by Leonid Gaidai, a television adaptation of an ageless humorous novel of satirists Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov. In one of Russia’s best-loved books, a 28-years old con artist Ostap Bender and a former aristocrat Ippolit Vorobyaninov strive to find the diamonds which Vorobyaninov's mother-in-law once hid in one of her set of twelve chairs. The problem is that the suite of furniture has already been taken away to who knew where and the plot revolves around the search for the chairs. At the end of the novel Vorobyaninov is even trying to kill Ostap only to discover that the jewels were found, and they have been spent on constructing a public building.

In this episode, 1) Ostap gathers some wealthy townspeople for a meeting of Союз меча и орала The Union of Sword and Plough’ (the secret society that Ostap Bender creates in Stargorod, ostensibly, to support homeless children, “those flowers of lifeдети цветы жизни) to raise significant sums for homeless children. He promptly pockets the cash and laughs at how easily the contributors were fooled. 2) A shrewd, cynical, but, at the same time, an attractive wheeler-dealer proposes and marries poor Madame Gritsatsueva to seize and disembowel the coveted chair of hers. 3) Yet another personage seeking easy wealth -- Father Fyodor took advantage of the deathbed confession, and has also set off to recover the fortune.

Memorable quotes taken from The Twelve Chairs are well-known, and incorporated into everyday language. Russians typically make extensive use of aphorisms and hilarious catch-phrases from the sources conventionally perceived as witty. More often than not countless quotes taken from The Twelve Chairs communicate a range of subtle messages about identity and worldview, personal aspirations and social expectations. To many Russians, the spirit of Ostap Bender is the driving force behind the “Wild West” capitalism of the 90s in the country. He is also a kind of symbol of post-Soviet anarchy and is “alive and well all over the world.” On another level, benderisms reproduce and reaffirm certain key social and cultural themes. For example, Bender is one who knows (четыреста сравнительно честных способов отъёма денег у населения" (four hundred comparatively honest ways of taking money away from the population’). This famous quote comes from The Golden Calf -- another famous satirical novel by Ilf and Petrov. Bender's sarcastic expression "Может быть тебе дать еще ключ от квартиры, где деньги лежат?" 'Perhaps you'd also like the key to the apartment where the money is?' is used as a formula of rejection when someone has expectations of you or makes unreasonable demands. Bender’s personage has become more than just a fictional character as he philosophizes about his lot in life and shares his understanding with others: “Жизнь, господа присяжные заседатели, это сложная штука, но, господа присяжные заседатели, эта сложная штука открывается просто, как ящик. Надо только уметь его открыть. Кто не может открыть, тот пропадает” ‘Life, gentlemen of the jury, is a difficult thing, but this difficult thing, gentlemen of the jury, can be opened up as simply as a drawer. One only has to know how to open it up. Those who fail to do it, perish’.