Solaris | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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After being circulated in various truncated versions in this country, Andrei Tarkovsky's beautiful, enigmatic, and highly idiosyncratic SF spectacle has finally been restored to its original 167 minutes. Although Tarkovsky regarded this 1972 feature (his third), beautifully composed in 'Scope, as the weakest of his films, it holds up remarkably well as a soulful Soviet "response" to 2001: A Space Odyssey that concentrates on the limits of man's imagination in relation to memory and conscience. Sent to a remote space station poised over the mysterious planet Solaris in order to investigate the puzzling data sent back by an earlier mission, a psychologist (Donatis Banionis) discovers that the planet materializes human forms based on the troubled memories of the space explorers--including the psychologist's own beautiful wife (Natalya Bondarchuk), who killed herself many years before and is repeatedly resurrected before his eyes. More an exploration of inner space than of outer space, Tarkovsky's eerie mystic parable is given substance by the filmmaker's boldly original grasp of film language and the remarkable performances by all the principals; while it may not be the equal of such masterpieces as Andrej Roublev and Stalker, it remains one of the key Russian films of the 70s, charged with poetry, passion, and mystery. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, January 6, 3:30 and 7:00; Sunday, January 7, 2:00; and Monday through Thursday, January 8 through 11, 6:00; 443-3737)

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