By the end of the 1970s, Andrei Smirnov had had enough. One of the best and brightest auteurs to emerge from the Soviet 1960s couldn't stand constant harassment from the authorities anymore, and quit cinema for good. At least as a director; he stuck around as a screenwriter and actor. But then, after 32 years, he returned with Žila-byla odna baba (2011). Now A Frenchman suggests he's back to stay, and will continue directing.
A Frenchman, the story of a French exchange student's adventures in late 1950s Moscow, makes us painfully aware what a formidable cinematic mind and soul Smirnov has: discrete, educated, good-humoured, politically poignant while never dogmatic – the kind of public intellectual we perhaps need these days more than ever. Watching this film is like looking at a lost world, in more ways than one.