This film violates all rules. Even today, when extreme screening duration seems to have become a new trend, three and a half hours is an extra challenge for the audience. Four stories, one location, a lot of characters, plus a “Tarantino-type” structure. For example, while in the first story the main characters are talking on the pier, in the background we see naked people jumping into the water. In the second story, however, the naked ones dominate the foreground, while the lovers from the first part loom somewhere in the distance. The action in all four stories is taking part simultaneously. Thus gradually the screen is occupied by real characters with individual fates, who are not just faces from an anonymous crowd, and whom the viewer gets to know. In the end, all of the plots and characters intersect. In the fourth story, for example, we see a “flower bed” of blue artificial flowers. One of these flowers is already familiar to the viewer since it has already been used as a sign of identification by the characters of the first story, called Love. By the way — Chapiteau-show (Shapito-shou) is a comedy of manners and really a good one, both absurd and lyrical at the same time, which is suggested by the titles of the four stories: Love, Friendship, Respect and Cooperation. Everything we need in life.
The characters from the first story meet on Internet, and need something extraordinary in order to recognize each other when they meet in real life — therefore the blue artificial flower. The girl is about twenty and is looking for someone on the net to go hitch-hiking with. A guy, called Kieberstranger — rather corpulent, not so young, and already loosing his hair — gets in touch and suggests his company for the journey. But the other journey — that from the virtual space to real life — turns out to be an extremely difficult experience for him. And Sergei Loban takes full advantage of it, creating a number of hilarious situations. Kieberstranger loathes the day and hour when he met the girl but — for reasons he himself can not totally fathom — he stays on. She also feels a strange attachment to this funny but solemn man. What is it — sticking together out of fear of loneliness, or is it just love?
The second story, Friendship, is about a fraternity of deaf people, which is nearly destroyed by the interference of the so called ‘normal’ ones.
The third story, Respect, is about the meeting of a young man, who dreams to become a film director, with his father — a famous actor who left his family many years ago. The father suggests they go to the Crimea Mountains in the hopes that during the journey he would come to know his son, and that the trip would be a test for the young man. But it turns out that the time together is a test for him as well, of his capacity to be human and loyal.
The main character of the forth story is a young producer trying to get off the ground a project called The New Victor Tsoy and prove that, in the modern world, there is no such thing as originality, as it the show-biz is increasingly overwhelmed by epigones. There is a lot of intellectual blabber in this story, much more than its structure could bear before beginning to crumble. Yet the film as a whole remains really funny, inventive and in a way brilliant. No wander Geraldine Chaplin (the chair of the main festival jury) gave her phone number to director Sergei Loban and asked for a part in his new film.
© FIPRESCI 2011