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The movie is not recognizable from Volkov's book of sarcasm!
Volkov's book, by the same title, is a collection of sarcasms, unique to Russians, about living under the Soviet system. Except for use of sarcasm in the script, the book has no relationship to this very complicated movie. Some of these comments here, seem like they came from folks who have not read the book.
The movie is hard to categorize. I have never seen anything like it. Tony Palmer is a genius! I met Shostakovich in about 1960 when he attended, I think Meistersinger, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. From my impression of Shostakovich, I felt that Ben Kingsley had somehow studied the man and connected with him, Kingsley being as ideal as you would expect, such as his preparation and ability to portray Gandhi.
This movie is certainly for insiders; still there were a few things I didn't quite understand. I think perhaps the surreal moments had to do with the vanity of a pretentious society and it futility, such as his playing a keyboard on a raft in the fog and capsizing, or him walking among the clowns coming at you on the sidewalk.
Tony Palmer and Ben Kingsley got me very deep into the Shostakovich pathos and the conditions under which he survived, and I haven't been the same since.
The DVD has been released and there should be copies on eBay. I am disappointed that the DVD was not mastered from a better copy of the movie. I once had a pristine copy that I taped off of PBS. I loaned it to a noted conductor and never got it back.
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