Picks and Pans Review: Oblomov

updated 04/20/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/20/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

The novel Oblomov is one of the most treasured but, outside the Soviet Union, least read masterpieces in 19th-century Russian literature. Written by Ivan Goncharov, an eccentric contemporary of Dostoyevski, it chronicles the hohum life of a gentleman landowner gone to seed, who tries to snooze his way through most of the book's 485 pages. "Lying down was not for Oblomov a necessity, as it is for a sick man or for a man who is sleepy," wrote the author. "It was his normal condition." In this Soviet screen version (with English subtitles), the passive hero (played by Oleg Tabakov) goes from bed to worse once he is coaxed from his couch by his bubbly best friend. He is dragged on a dizzying round of social visits in snowbound St. Petersburg and falls helplessly in love with a simpering virgin, Elena Solovei. So unstrung is he by this happiness, he abandons her and seeks refuge in his well-worn bunk. The performances are inspired, the cinematography is lyrical and, though no film could match Goncharov's understated, biting narrative, director Nikita (A Slave of Love) Mikhalkov makes a graceful attempt. Like Oblomov himself, this movie may turn out to be a Russian sleeper. (Not rated)

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