Clowning his way through life, 40-year-old Seryozha feels infinitely superior to his far more staid and steady colleagues and friends; he's ambitious, attractive and, it seems, free. But beneath the wayward liveliness lies a sad reality of loneliness, insecurity and despair; when his wife and mistress meet each other, they both leave him; when he accuses his fellow workers of moral hypocrisy, he loses his job. Balayan's film, a subtle, sensitive tragicomedy, traces its charismatic but dislikeable hero's picaresque odyssey from complacency to confusion with an admirable ambivalence of attitude. On the one hand, a petulant, selfish prankster who's never grown up; on the other, someone who refuses to play by the rules of conformist society. Central to the film's ability not only to hold interest but also to convince is Tarkovsky's leading man Yankovsky's remarkable performance, as edgy, exciting, charming and suggestive of vulnerability as De Niro at his best.
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