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Stefan and Dolly Oblonsky have had a little spat and Stefan has asked his sister, Anna Karenina, to come down to Moscow to help mend the rift. Anna's companion on the train from St. Petersburg is Countess Vronsky who is met at the Moscow station by her son. Col. Vronsky looks very dashing in his uniform and it's love at first sight when he looks at Anna and their eyes meet. Back in St. Petersburg they keep running into each other at parties. Since she has a husband and small son, they must be very discreet if they are going to see each other alone. —Dale O'Connor <email@example.com>
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The best "Anna"
It has always struck me as a pity that whenever film versions of "Anna Karenina" are discussed it is Greta Garbo's of 1935 that excites critical attention rather than Vivien Leigh's. I suppose this is inevitable given that Garbo's is the more memorable performance, but in all other respects I find Julien Duvivier's 1948 version the finer film. It was the first one I saw and got to know really well, so much so that when I finally caught up with the Clarence Brown film I loathed it by comparison. It somehow epitomised the worst of M-G-M by being so studio bound and schmaltzy whereas Duvivier seemed to have made every effort to give his a feeling for 19th century Russian atmosphere. Andrej Andrejew's art direction had a real period sense of style and the music score by Constant Lambert with its echoes of "The Five" was a world away from the Herbert Stothart syrup. But by far the biggest plus of the 1948 version is the magisterial performance by Ralph Richardson as Karanin which stands beside his other two great roles of the same period, that of Dr Sloper in "The Heiress" and Baines the butler in "The Fallen Idol". His Karenin is not the arrogant brute of Basil Rathbone's (too close to his Murdstone in "David Copperfield" made in the same year) but a deceived husband evoking pity through his inability to be loved. Even Kieron Moore's rather colourless Vronsky scores over Frederic March's as it suggests the character's innate weakness rather than his romantic dash. If the Duvivier film has a serious flaw it is the rather prissy "upper class" delivery of dialogue by the female characters. Even Vivien Leigh's Anna suffers from this. I have a theory that the fault may lie in Duvivier as I have noticed repeatedly how directors whose native language is not English fail to control the nuances of speech when directing an English language film. Antonioni's "Blow Up" and the dialogue of Harvey Keitel in "Angelopoulos's "Ulysses Gaze" are examples. Interestingly the version recently shown on the British Carlton Films TV channel restored an additional 15 minutes to the version I had previously known, mainly early scenes that established minor characters with greater clarity. However the most significant restoration was a closing shot held considerably longer, thus giving that additional weight to the final tragedy that a really thoughtful director of Duvivier's calibre must have originally intended.
- Apr 26, 2002
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