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A full-length 'Solaris' still exceptional at 30

November 22, 2002|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

The Nuart today brings back Andrei Tarkovsky's beautiful and astonishing 1972 masterpiece "Solaris" for a one-week engagement in advance of the Nov. 27 opening of Steven Soderbergh's remake starring George Clooney. In 1976 the Nuart held three screenings of the most complete version of "Solaris" available at that time, and, according to the theater, this is the version that it is again presenting, although its 167-minute running time is six minutes shorter than the print it first screened.

Fiercely demanding but newly fitted with more comprehensive English subtitles, "Solaris" is a dazzlingly imaginative work with awesome production values and special effects that bear comparison to those of "2001." In essence, it is the odyssey of a Soviet scientist (Donatas Banionis), a trained psychologist who travels to a space station orbiting the remote planet Solaris. The Soviet government would actually prefer to abandon the station, regarding reports of some of its findings as too incredible to believe.

Once the station had a crew of 85; now all that remains are two men, whom Banionis has been sent to investigate

The molten surface of Solaris seems to possess intelligence, and when Banionis dreams of his dead wife (Natalya Bondarchuk), Solaris causes her to materialize -- as a kind of bionic woman capable of regeneration and instant recovery from injury. What ensues allows Tarkovsky to contemplate the meaning of life itself through the interplay of science, philosophy and emotion. "Solaris" is finally an unabashedly romantic work in which the primacy of love is asserted -- but, as Jarvet says, "To preserve the truth we need mysteries."



MPAA rating: Unrated.

Times guidelines: Complex adult themes.

Donatas Banionis...Kris Kelvin

Natalya Bondarchuk...Hari

Yuri Jarvet...Snouth

Vladislav Dvorzhetsky...Burton

Anatoly Solonitsin...Sartorius

A Corinth Films and Kino International release of a Mosfilm Studios production, Director Andrei Tarkovsky. Screenplay Friedrich Gorenstein and Tarkovsky; based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem. Cinematographer Vadim Yusov. Music Eduard Artemev. Chorale Prelude in F minor by J.S. Bach. Editor Ludmila Feiginova. Art director Mikhail Romandin. Special effects V. Sevostyanov, A. Klimenko. In Russian, with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours, 47 minutes.

Exclusively at the Nuart, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 478-6379.

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