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Muichkine, a young Russian prince, returns home to St. Petersburg from a mental institution, determined to spread decency and kindness in the harsh and cruel world. He becomes betrothed to an innocent young girl while trying to save a less-innocent woman from her own travail, but jealousy and his own naivete conjoin to bring about unimaginable tragedy. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A romantic masterpiece - More French than Russian...
Gérard Philipe, in his first screen role, plays an impoverished Russian aristocrat with an angelic face and a kind heart who is condemned to tell the truth in a tsarist society whose corruption won't allow it. He is a saintly figure. Unfortunately, far from performing miracles, his innate frankness tends to make things worse for everyone around him after confronting them with their inner failures. This film boasts incredible production values (costumes by Escoffier, sets by Bakst) and some of the finest dialog of any French movie (by Charles Spaak). Even Maurice Thiriet's idiosyncratic music manages to sound Russian at times. The film's elliptical retelling of the Dostoeivski novel (in 91 compact minutes) cannot be outdone for sheer intelligent and elegant movie-making. The actors, down to the last bit part (Marguerite Moreno, Sylvie, Debucourt, Chambreuil), are superb and would have made a retelling of "The Three Little Pigs" just as fascinating: Philipe as an unstoppable El Cid figure out of his element is halfway between Don Quichotte and Paphnuce (in Anatole France's "Thaïs") and already reveals his genius; Edwige Feuillère has never been more expressive, magical and mysterious; Lucien Coëdel and Nathalie Nattier might as well have been born for their respective parts since this is one of their too few screen appearances. I just saw this film again on Ontario's French channel, TFO, tonight. It deserves to be restored and made generally available on DVD. If only to show the world what actors there were on this planet before Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio took over.
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