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. —Rob Hartill
Russian Buffaloed (courtesy D. Mamet)
I sympathise with the Russian poster who took exception with Mamet's tampering with Chekhov but I still admire this film a great deal. As a non-Russian and non-Russian speaker I have loved Chekhov since the time I was able to distinguish great writing from mediocre and I have always felt that no matter how fine a given translation I was still losing the occasional untranslatable nuance to which Russian speakers have access. Vanya is also one of my favourite Chekhov plays and I just wallowed in this wonderful version. It's magical the way that once inside the rehearsal space with the actors schmoozing Wally Shawn stretches out on a bench almost imperceptibly and Larry Pine asks Phoebe Brand casually how long they've known each other and unless you really know Chekhov you'd think this was just actor small-talk instead of the first lines in the play between the Doctor and Nanny,or, to put it another way, Malle has led us both artfully and seamlessly into the performance and then, having done so, he throws in a touch of the Brechts by deliberately reminding us we're watching actors acting and not people living. The first time he tips his glove is via Wally Shawn's cup which has I Love NY written on it then later Andre explains to the visitors (who, I suspect, have been planted there for just that purpose) that it's now a different time. The acting throughout is beyond praise and a wonderful high note for Louis Malle to end his career. 10 out of 10 going away.
- Aug 6, 2005
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