Happy-Go-Lucky

Vasily Shukshin's 1973 film in black-and-white 'Scope—commonly considered his finest, and also known as That's How It Is—stars Shukshin and his wife (Lydia Fedoseeva-Shukshin) as a couple who travel to a southern spa by train from their Siberian village. Accompanied by a lot of balalaika music on the sound track, this rambling satire about the various interactions between a country bumpkin and various urban types whom he meets on his travels—including a snob, an engaging con artist, and a professor in linguistics—seems to lose something in translation. The film certainly has its moments (including a brief and bizarre dream sequence), and one can see why the late Shukshin was able to attract a fanatical cult in his own country; but it appears that much of his popularity rested on his grasp of local folkways and accents—details that are lost on non-Russian-speaking spectators—and without this context, much of the proceedings comes across as fairly lukewarm, both as comedy and as cinema. As a glimpse into Siberian culture, though, the film has its moments of interest, and Shukshin and his wife are both engaging actors.

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