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Thomas F. Wilson,
Yes, this is a period piece -- pre-WWI Russia, to be precise. I only caught the last third of the movie or so, but it was enough to captivate me. The characters were interesting; the music poignant, the scenery stunning. The acting is top-notch with the notable exception of Stahl, who never reflects the agonies and the ecstacies of growing up; he never lets the struggles of the character make their way to his countenance or his actions, and so appears as a painted-face marrionate simply reciting lines and moving about from place to place. The problem is that the retrospective English narrator is used in place of acting; while it's well done and appropriate, it is used to suture up the devestation caused by the poor acting of Stahl instead of complimenting him. But anyhow, enough on that topic. Again, it captivated me, and not many films can do that. Either there's too much trash, or the characters are stupid, unbelievable, or unheroic. This doesn't feel like a cheap Hollywood throwaway flick, and that has something to do with the source material -- Anton Chekov! There is a human warmth about it all and an artistry that is all too often abandoned in pursuit of a quick dollar. Now this isn't to say that this film is the best thing ever put on a reel. But it is enough to make me want to go watch the whole thing, and that is a rare thing.
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