An Italian tells his story of love to a Russian. In a series of flashbacks, Romano Patroni leaves his wife to visit a spa where he falls in love with a Russian woman. He returns to Italy resolved to leave his wife and marry his love.
Aboard a ship early in the 20th-century, a middle-aged Italian tells his story of love to a Russian. In a series of flashbacks filmed almost entirely in creams, whites, and ochers, the clownish and superfluous Romano Patroni leaves his wife's opulent home to visit a spa where he falls in love with a Russian woman whose marriage is a horror. He pursues her into the Russian heartland and returns to Italy resolved to leave his wife and marry his love. His amazed and appreciative Russian listener then narrates a shorter story.Written by
A Russian/Italian co-production sounds like an uneasy marriage of mismatched temperaments, but 'Dark Eyes' is a remarkably cohesive mutual effort offering the best of both worlds: a wonderfully romantic story, a healthy love of laughter and high spirits, and a lingering air of Slavic melancholy. It's being sold as a showcase for the perennial charm of Marcello Mastroianni, but the film has more than just his performance to recommend it. The script, condensed from several tales by Anton Chekhov, has the elegant simplicity of a classic short story, following a charming but buffoonish husband in his pursuit of an attractive young Russian back to her native country, where he discovers a nation of people even crazier than he is. Some of the smaller roles have been drawn for the broadest effect, but under Nikita Mikhalkov's meticulous direction every character emerges as a full blooded human being, with Mastroianni himself offering a sensitive portrait of a man too in love with life to take it seriously. A nagging reservation: the final irony revealed in the epilogue adds one coincidence too many, and comes close to spoiling the already poignant mood. Just pretend it never happened.
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