The first chapter's title is "A Martyred Artist?" and the question mark hints that some cherished preconceptions are about to be overturned. Tarkovsky seems to have enjoyed thinking of himself as a martyr, and the image has been enthusiastically endorsed by those in the West who believe in Hollywood freedom and Moscow manipulation - four legs good, two legs bad. Johnson and Petrie provide a perspective without slipping into that Charybdis of revisionist critics, the Dreaded Debunker Mode. The director emerges (from extensive interviews with a commendably large number of his collaborators) as a deeply dedicated, troubled artist, charming, impossibly perfectionist, sometimes childishly arbitrary and spiteful, hell to get along with but definitely worth getting to know. After some useful background information on the various hoops to be jumped through in the Soviet film industry and on Tarkovsky's own methods, there are individual critical chapters on all the major works after Ivan's Childhood, and the information they offer is often invaluable for a proper appreciation of the films. Particularly useful is the chapter on the outstanding masterpiece Andrei Rublev, which fills in some of the historical detail behind Tarkovsky's elliptical storyline. At the end are detailed plot summaries, running times and notes on different versions (interestingly, films like Solaris, released intact in the USSR, were horrendously hacked about in the "free" West); and four chapters covering matters of style which are perhaps the least substantial parts of this very satisfying book. The authors are remarkably fair to the Soviet film industry, presenting its bureaucratic meddlers' committees as not so very different from a Western studio or executive producer, and certainly not as monolithically philistine as we've often been led to believe. Tarkovsky was allowed virtually to make Stalker twice over when the original version didn't satisfy him - something Stanley Kubrick might possibly have finagled for himself, but it's hard to imagine anyone else in the West being permitted to do anything of the sort. Quite apart from its very fine critical comment, this book is a much-needed corrective to those myths about the director which have distracted too much attention away from the films themselves - attention which, as the book also shows, they ruthlessly demand and richly deserve.