26 November 2012 10:35 AM, PST | Thompson on Hollywood | See recent Thompson on Hollywood news »

What's old is gloriously new again in Joe Wright's magnificent "Anna Karenina." He boldly conveys the complexity of Tolstoy's epic love story through the simplicity of a puppet-like theater, compressing time and collapsing space in a real theater. It's an elegant metaphor depicting 19th century Russian society rotting from the inside out. Yet it's wholly cinematic in its theatrical approach, evoking Olivier's "Henry V" and Powell and Pressburger's "The Red Shoes," among others, and production designer Sarah Greenwood is the first to admit that it would've been a mistake to make a traditional period adaptation. "There was talk of doing the paired down minimalism of Lars von Trier's 'Manderlay,' but it was not firm so we carried down a conventional route," Greenwood explains. "But shooting in Russia and how much it cost and the epic quality of the book and how we translate that into a 12-week. »

- Bill Desowitz

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