1 item from 1999
"The Gambler" stars Michael Gambon playing Fyodor Dostoevski as he faces a write-or-perish dilemma in St. Petersburg in 1866.
In Karoly Makk's conservatively directed but involving 1997 drama, based on a true story in the Russian novelist's remarkable life, the bearishly sexual, unpredictably epileptic and all-around self-destructive future writer of "Crime and Punishment" is saved from ruin and a dead-end career by his inspired stenographer, Anna (Jodhi May).
With one month to write a novel or sign away his earnings to a venomous publisher (Tom Jansen), Dostoevski, hitherto convinced he's a failure, rallies under the initially cautious and professional but soon genuinely caring attentions of Anna.
While distractions abound and Fyodor has to deal with his own awful mean streak, the well-observed tale he's writing about a young gambler (Dominic West) in the midst of an orgy of roulette playing and backstabbing, hooks Anna and the viewer. The film alternates between the Dostoevski's fiction and the real world.
Two-time Oscar winner Luise Rainer appears on screen for the first time in 55 years as the controlling grandmother of West's character in the story within a story. In several exciting sequences, she gets the wild look of a gambler on a streak of incredible good fortune and, despite overuse of slow-motion and editing to build tension, splendidly captures the delirium and brutal shocks of winning and losing.
Notwithstanding their differences in age, his furious temper and the pressures of creating a whole novel in mere weeks -- with her taking dictation, transcribing her shorthand and copying out the manuscript by hand -- Anna and Feodor fall in love.
In a fine performance, May ("The Last of the Mohicans") has a pale strength and beauty that tames the tattered literary lion, while Gambon is terrific in one of his best roles.
1 item from 1999
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