"Shapito-shou" is a Russian entry (English captions) to the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival. We approached it with some trepidation because it is 207 minutes long, so we expected some early exits, but found ourselves engaged and challenged by this absurd telling of four interconnected short stories. The first episode ends at the Chapiteau- Show featuring a Marilyn Monroe look-alike doing I Wanna Be Loved By You in a tent which we can tell is dimensionally transcendental (larger on the inside that it is on the outside) before it burns to the ground.

As we began the next episode, we were intrigued to discover we were back at the beginning, only this time with a different set of characters. However, those characters had served as background in that first episode and we recognize them and some of the locations. By the time we enter that tent again and watch another ersatz performer, this time Michael Jackson with his iconic moves, we realize that each person is the star or central character in his or her own drama. And of course the tent burns down.

Now the background is even richer, because by the third time, we recognize even more characters on the street, on the beach, etc., and before the Chapiteau-Show tent burns, we enjoy a performance from an ersatz Elvis Presley. This time we are in the company of a group of deaf people, so there is a lot of sign language and we see some outrageous actors and meet some alpha-male issues head on.

We are ready for the fourth short story and find it only mildly perplexing to discover that the performer to be imitated this time, Tsoi, is best known in Russia, so we don't know how well his copy cat measures up to the original. There is a LOT of discussion about whether or not we are really us or just ersatz copies of us.

There were so many unusual things to admire I won't attempt to list them all, but I was particularly impressed by the locations (in Crimea, Ukraine), and the flawless continuity. This was a visual feast, even though it was a narrative famine: the quasi-intellectual discussions were right out of high school.

This goofy thing is almost worth the investment of time, simply to see such unusual characters and to admire the skill with which the four segments are interwoven.