The film depicts the three lives of Oscar Rabin, who is probably the most famous living Russian artist.
His first life is a life of poverty and wandering. At the age of 13, he was orphaned and left totally penniless. In 1944, at the age of 16, he leaves Moscow for Latvia to study painting – without a passport, ticket or money – and is caught train-hopping but is released.
With no formal education, Oscar – like the Renaissance painters – becomes an apprentice to the famous underground painter Evgeny Kropivnitsky and later marries his daughter. This is how he starts his second life, as an underground painter. He earns a living working as a foreman with ex-convicts who have recently been released from Stalin’s prison camps. He lives with his family near Moscow in an old hut recently inhabited by prisoners. His first exposure to Western painting comes in the form of some albums stolen from the 1960 American Exhibition in Moscow.
At the beginning of the 1960s, a British collector, with the help of a Soviet collector, takes some of Oscar’s paintings to London, where he organizes the first personal exhibition of an unofficial Soviet artist. Completely against his will, Oscar becomes the leader of underground art in the USSR and is persecuted by the authorities. The authorities prohibit public exhibitions of his works. However, Western diplomats begin buying them surreptitiously.
In 1974, he organizes a prohibited open-air art exhibition, which the KGB smashes using bulldozers. The following day, the event is publicized worldwide. But the Soviets are alarmed by Oscar’s event and within two weeks nevertheless allow the unofficial artists to hold an exhibition. It is attended by thousands of Muscovites and referred to as the “Soviet Woodstock”.
In 1977, Oscar is placed under house arrest. Shortly thereafter, he and his family are exiled from the USSR and Oscar is stripped of his citizenship.
In Paris, Oscar’s third life begins – the life of a French artist. He becomes famous; his paintings are sold at auctions and end up in the collections of big museums.
In 2006, the Soviet ambassador to France visits him at his Paris studio, asks forgiveness and personally returns his passport. His paintings are austere, but devoid of malice and shine with hope.
Throughout his life, Oscar has refused to follow the order that he depicted on the road barrier in this picture: “Stop, you bastard!”
He refuses to stop and choses his own road, A ROAD OF MANY COLORS.