Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Film #76: Doctor Zhivago

Julie Christie hit it big in 1965. She won a Best Actress Oscar for portraying a sexually adventurous fashion model in John Schlesinger's Darling, but it was her role in David Lean's pristine Doctor Zhivago that really propelled her to stardom that year. Omar Sharif plays the titular doctor/poet who endures wars, winters and his own marital problems in order to spend some quality time with his one true love, the bewitching Lara (Christie, looking stunning in every frame). Screenwriter Robert Bolt's adaptation of the Boris Pasternak novel is often criticize for plodding along slowly (all of Rod Steiger's scenes as the villain of the piece seem to slow the movie down, so much so that it's hard to remember he's in it).

But, while this is no Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago remains an entertaining rumination on the tragic impositions history places on human relationships. And, of course, Lean's gift for capturing the wondrous on film--Zhivago's trek on foot across Russia, the massacre of anti-Czar protesters, the visit to a sad, ice-covered country home--hooks us immediately. Preferably seen in its 30th Anniversary edition, so that the delicious Freddie Young photography, John Box art direction and Phyllis Dalton costume design can best be appreciated. All, plus Bolt's screenplay and Maurice Jarre's legendary score, won Academy Awards. Geraldine Chaplin, Alec Guinness, Tom Courteney, Rita Tushingham, Ralph Richardson and Klaus Kinski co-star.

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