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The Three Sisters (1966)

 |  Drama
6.9
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In a small Russian town at the turn of the century, three sisters (Olga, Irina, and Masha) and their brother Andrei live but dream daily of their return to their former home in Moscow, ... See full summary »

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Gerald Hiken ...
David Paulsen ...
Albert Paulsen ...
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John Harkins ...
Salem Ludwig ...
Tamara Daykarhanova ...
William Paul Burns ...
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In a small Russian town at the turn of the century, three sisters (Olga, Irina, and Masha) and their brother Andrei live but dream daily of their return to their former home in Moscow, where life is charming and stimulating meaningful. But for now they exist in a malaise of dissatisfaction. Soldiers from the local military post provide them some companionship and society, but nothing can suffice to replace Moscow in their hopes. Andrei marries a provincial girl, Natasha, and begins to settle into a life of much less meaning than he had hoped. Natasha begins to run the family her way. Masha, though married, yearns for the sophisticated life and begins a dalliance with Vershinin, an army officer with a sick and suicidal wife. Even Irina, the freshest, most optimistic of the sisters, begins to waver in her dreams until, finally, tragedy strikes. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

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The Method Backfires

During the mid fifties the British theater scene was in the doldrums while the New York scene was buzzing with a new generation of players connected with the Actor's Studio's. These actors under the spell of Lee Strasbourg and his "method" were turning in indelible performances, (most notably Marlon Brando in "Streetcar Named Desire".) The British theater establishment viewed "the method" with much suspicion if not outright disdain. When the Actor's Studio production of "The Three Sisters" came to London, both critics and audiences received an opportunity to vent their feelings with a particularly savage reception. By all accounts, (and this film based on that production is testament), this was not a successful production. While the Actor's Studio and its alumni participated in many legendary productions, the Method was indeed not foolproof, backfiring badly with "The Three Sisters". Ironic that ultimately the British theater was to be shaken up by their American counterpart.

The Method was a means for the actor to find the emotional truth of a scene through his own "sense memory". It seems that the actors in "The Three Sisters" somehow did not manage to complete this process. Most of the time they seem totally self absorbed to the point that what we are presented with is a string of monologues with a minimum of interaction between the characters. It's all very narcissistic and undermining to the play.

Geraldine Page as Olga delivers a surprisingly unmemorable performance. As Irina, Sandy Dennis in her first major film role is given free reign to unleash all her idiosyncratic mannerisms. Her constant arm movements make it seem at times as if she were signing for the hard of hearing. When not flailing, she intermittently covers her mouth with her hand. For a short time it's interesting, but soon becomes quite unbearable to behold. Shelley Winters was not in the original staging but in a move of misjudgement was brought on board. She delivers the routine shrill Winters performance that would dominate her entire career.

And then there's Kim Stanley. It is reputed that the hostile reception received in London is to blame for her leaving the stage. While there may be some truth to this, no doubt there were many other reasons. She's the only performer here who generates any real interest with subtly nuanced acting. However it has to be said that by this point she was overweight and her features had become coarse, making the dapper Vershinin's attraction to her somewhat dubious. While never a beauty she passed as a screen siren in "The Goddess" some years back on the strength of her acting talent, (as did Geraldine Page in "Sweet Bird of Youth".) Stanley had the knack of seeming spontaneous and natural. It looked to be effortless and uncalculated and always interesting. Since her screen appearances are so few, she remains the only reason for seeking out this version.

But be warned, it's a tedious 167 minutes.

.


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