In ancient Bagdad, Hafiz is a beggar - self coined the King of Beggars - and a master of the slight of hand. He often likes to wander the streets late at night pretending to be a Prince, ... See full summary »
Young Princess Sophia of Germany is taken to Russia to marry the half-wit Grand Duke Peter, son of the Empress. The domineering Empress hopes to improve the royal blood line. Sophia doesn't like her husband, but she likes Russia, and is very fond of Russian soldiers. She dutifully produces a son -- of questionable fatherhood, but no one seems to mind that. After the old empress dies, Sophia engineers a coup d'etat with the aid of the military, does away with Peter, and becomes Catherine the Great.Written by
John Oswalt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #109. See more »
After Catherine stamps with her foot on the gold locket containing the portrait of Count Alexei, smashing it, she then flings it out of the window. The camera follows it as it falls slowly, glistening in the moonlight, through the branches of the tree outside her window, but it is completely undamaged. See more »
A life in cinema leads sometimes to a life of and about love.
Often its fictional or fictionalized love stories that are in the movie itself. But much more fascinating are the love stories that drive the movie, and for me, the most engaging of these are when a director, directs an actress (usually and actress) with whom he is in love and sleeping with.
Sometimes it is subtle, but often not the way the camera lingers, the way the staging is manipulated, the way the situations are bent in the service of love. The least interesting of these engagements is simple worship, as we have here. But in this case its so extreme it has its own charm.
The story is that there was a mundane but driven filmmaker, a copyist, and a pretty actress with adventuresome sexuality who coupled. This transformed them both and film along the way.
She developed a stage persona for him, and he leveraged her and his cinematic worship of her into a career. This was their greatest adventure, probably because after 6 years, he had to do something extreme. We benefit. Now this movie is horrible in all the non-worship parts: the acting, the story are miserable. The score is effective but simply bombastic.
Its all the visuals that are amazing. Some of this is cinematic in nature, meaning related to the camera itself: lights, placement, movement, occlusion. But the key thing is her face never her body in the context of these bizarre images and settings. We start with a child, then explicitly sexual torture, then highly eroticized ripeness. These images set the tone for the larger situation: the entry into the perverted reality of Russia.
She enters this strange, demented version of the church, with odd gargoyles in ordinary rooms, with immense spaces and gigantic doors, everything twisted a bit. Its based on images and setups from Eisenstein's Ivan films. It leverages the fear we've always had about their strange religion, and their dark sexual intrigues.
Against this, we have three sexual phases starting with the erotic innocent, whose wondering eyes the camera hypnotically explores. Then we have the open sexual opportunist, the schemer, the favor provider.
And finally the triumphant hedonist, the white furry goddess whose sexual confident stride charms a nation.
They aren't the roles or context I would have chosen. That they were engineered so is visually intriguing. Curiously rather than sensuously engaging. But engaging nonetheless. Theirs must have been a bed of negotiation, roles, mercurial power and force.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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