MOSCOW DOES NOT BELIEVE IN TEARS -- In Russian with subtitles. At the Key in Georgetown.

And now, direct from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, here's a film about working women. Two and a half hours could pack a bunch of propaganda, but "Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears" does not believe in cheers.

The movie plays like romantic comedy, probably because it is, and takes more than a few deft swats at The System. What's going on here, anyhow? Are commies people, too?

Director Vladmir Menshov and screenwriter Valentin Chiornykh, both well ensconced in the Soviet arts establishment, present a world where folks lose in love, drink too much, grapple with bureaucrats, and still manage to have a good time. As a rare look at Russians looking at Russians, the movie's well worth seeing. Beyond that, though, it's often entertaining.

"Moscow" starts as a '50s saga of countr y girls in the city, sharing a room at the workers' dormitory but determined to make good. Baker's assistant Liudmila, played to coquettish extremes by Irina Muravyova, has high hopes. "If I love, I'll love a king," she tells her best pal, Katerina, "and if I lose, it'll be a million." Factory worker Katerina would rather go to college, but ends up in a fling with a suave TV cameraman. Roomie Antonina, meanwhile, weds a bumpkin like herself.

Cut to 20 years later: Antonina's happily married, but the sultry Liudmila has settled for, then divorced, a drunken hockey player. And Katerina, played as a driven but vulnerable career woman by stage star Vera Alentova, is raising a daughter from the disastrous affair while she runs an important factory. The rest of the movie, which grabbed the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1981, centers on Katerina and her checkered pursuit of happiness.

Though "Moscow" sometimes drags like a Volga boatman, and boasts a soundtrack evoking an Italian restaurant, it has bright spots enough to charm: A young man putting his arm around his date as they stroll down the street, only to be scolded by a trio in red armbands, "You seem to have forgotten you're in public." Or a bureaucrat telling Katerina and Liudmila at a dinner party, "Call me Anton," then introducing himself dourly to the other men present as "Kruglov, deputy chairman of the board." Or just the vignettes of workaday Moscow, which was not prettied up for the occasion.