Scen.: Nikolaj Pogodin; F.: Sergej Polujanov; Scgf.: Vasilij Šerbak, Boris Erdman; Mu.: Jurij Birjukov; Su.: Viktor Zorin; Int.: Stanislav Čekan (Ivan Poddubnyj), Aleksandr Michajlov (Anatolij Durov), Anatolij Solov’ev (Boucher), Boris Petker (Truzzi), Irina Arepina (Mimì), Georgij Vicin (Enrico), K. Ignatova (Esterina), G. Abrikosov (Fiš), L. Topčiev (Orlando); Prod.: Mosfil’m; Pri. Pro.: 09.12.1957. 35mm. D.: 94′. Col.
It’s no mystery that the 1950s were a difficult time for Barnet, struggling with doubts, with the fear of being left on the outskirts of production and with films destined to little success. Nevertheless, Borec i kloun is a high moment of this period. The film was begun by Konstantin Judin and, according to his own wishes, completed by Barnet after Judin’s death. The screenplay V starom cirke [In the Old Circus], written in ’53, told the story of a friendship between the famous wrestler Ivan Poddubnyj and the clown Anatolij Durov, known for his satirical performances. Barnet remained faithful to the linear narrative style of his colleague and friend, leaving unchanged the original idea of an adaptation capturing the atmosphere of the circus at the end of the 1800s and beginning of the 1900s and the inner development of the protagonists observed behind the scenes. As proof of the human sensitivity and mutual esteem that bound the two filmmakers, the film’s tone maintains its consistency, perfectly balancing comedy and melancholic lyricism, while the conflict between athletes of different nationalities is unfettered by Stalinist rhetoric due to the new political trend and reacquires its competitive spirit.
The sophisticated style of Borec i kloun charmed Godard, who defined it “a very entertaining comic work” and observed its strong connections with classic Hollywood films.