Like Vanya, in Malle's last film, Milou never left the family estate. His mother dies during the May 1968 student uprising in Paris. The brother who is the London correspondent for Le Monde... See full summary »
A French boarding school run by priests seems to be a haven from World War II until a new student arrives. He becomes the roommate of top student in his class. Rivals at first, the roommates form a bond and share a secret.
An uniterrupted rehersal of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" played out by a company of actors. The setting is their run down theater with an unusable stage and crumbling ceiling. The play is shown act by act with the briefest of breaks to move props or for refreshments. The lack of costumes, real props and scenery is soon forgotten.Written by
Malle's adaptation handles Tchekhov's notoriously difficult shifts in mood and context excellently, investing every scene and almost every word with an edge of ambivalence and frustration, and the performances are all first-rate. Moore in particular, from her first appearance in the film (which is without dialogue) to the final scene constructs a really intelligent performance as Yeliena, I feel, and she seems to cover the whole gamut of Yeliena's character from the giggly and superficial to the introspective.
With all due respect to the American school this film could have descended easily into overwrought Tennessee Williams-esque Naturalism with lots of method-style spitting and uncomfortable truth. Instead the intellectual, spiritual dimensions of Tchekhov's play are always brought to the fore, in addition of course to Tchekhov's dark brand of humour, where the actors (particularly Julianne Moore) laugh through their tears and visa versa. Avoiding the common temptation of drawing out the play's anguished characters at a snail's pace, Malle also paces the film well, with an emphasis on lightness and subtlety of delivery - the result is both intellectually and emotionally satisfying.
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