1 item from 1998
An English-language winner featured in the second Hungarian Film Festival of Los Angeles, "The Gambler" (screening tonight at Laemmle's Music Hall) stars Michael Gambon as Fyodor Dostoevsky 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 Grigoryevna Snitkina (Jodhi May).
With one month to write a novel or sign away his earnings to a venomous publisher (Tom Jansen), convinced-he's-a-failure Dostoevsky rallies under the initially cautious and professional but soon genuinely caring attentions of Anna.
While distractions abound and Fyodor has an awful mean streak, his well-observed tale of a young gambler (Dominic West) in the midst of an orgy of roulette playing and backstabbing hooks Anna and the viewer, with the film alternating between the fictional and real worlds.
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, Makk 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, then translating her shorthand and copying out the manuscript by hand -- Anna and Fyodor 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.
UGC DA International and Channel Four Films
in association with Hungry Eye Pictures and KRO Drama
A Marc Vlessing production
Director: Karoly Makk
Producers: Charles Cohen, Marc Vlessing
Director of photography: Jules van den Steenhoven
Production designer: Ben van Os
Editor: Kevin Whelan
Costume designer: Dien van Straalen
Music: Brian Lock
Casting: Celestia Fox
Fyodor Dostoevsky: Michael Gambon
Anna: Jodhi May
Alex: Dominic West
Stellovsky: Tom Jansen
Grandmother: Luise Rainer
Polyna: Polly Walker
General: John Wood
De Jriex: Johan Leysen
Blanche: Angeline Ball
Running time -- 99 minutes
No MPAA rating
1 item from 1998
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