Shukshin's heartfelt first feature sets up his major themes
Certainly, it's unnecessary to say that a creative effort by Shukshin was heartfelt. Everything he did came from the gut. This is his first full-length feature about a happy-go-lucky driver Pashka in a typical Soviet village. The driver is played by Kuravlyov in an effortless performance. His character is a simple man, but hardly a simpleton. He is basically a really decent, honest guy, even though he lies a lot. He is looking for happiness, for love. Doesn't find much of either but keeps going with a sigh and a smile. Shukshin's story is sympathetic to most of the characters, but doesn't shy away from showing some rifts. A major theme is that of culture and education. The villagers are losing young people to the cities, and those who remain fall behind in education and the latest cultural developments. Of course, Shukshin's story mocks some of this new "culture," especially during a hilarious traveling fashion show. Shukshin appears to still be on the side of the village life, which keeps people closer to nature and basic decency. The few people from the cities appear untrustworthy and lacking in wholesomeness. It's as if Shukshin exalts a certain way of life but realizes its inevitable metamorphosis. Like Pashka, these people are going to have to get with the times. And it can only be hoped that they can retain the best of their earthy qualities... In short, this is a great, moving film from a truly unique voice in the wilderness.
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