Sunday, 30 January 2011

The American doctor

Never saw the movie Doctor Zhivago? Where the hell have you been living in the last decades?

Never mind, even if you have seen the film you will probably have positive memories about it which are good to recall.

Besides world cinema pieces which clearly explain why "actresses" and "actors" of the kind of Jennifer Lopez are a BIG zero, I also love watching old classics, pieces that have shaped the history of cinema, and not by being the most forgetable ones - which can often be said about the films you can catch in the Cinema Cities of today.

So last night's program was Doctor Zhivago - by David Lean, from 1965. What we all know: the story is set in the era of the Russian Revolution, showing us a panorama of the Russian history and society through telling the story of a man and his family. David Lean has an experienced hand in creating colourful tableaus with such a great scope (but only after directing more intimate films, like the wonderful 1945 love story "Brief Encounter"): he directed "The Bridge on the River Kwai", and "Lawrece of Arabia", from where he also took his cinematographer to Doctor Zhivago. There is another person he took from Lawrence of Arabia and made him famous - the Egyptian-born Omar Sharif.

Originally Lean wanted to shoot this movie in the then-Yugoslavia but in the end the location was Spain. But you will not notice, Russia is all around. I must say that at the same time the USA is all around too, and this is why the film is not 100% perfect in my eyes. If it had been made by a Russian director (impossible in those days), Julie Christie playing Lara would not be wearing perfect make-up all along the story and Omar Sharif playing Zhivago would also have some more hair on his face when travelling for weeks on a cattle train with his family.

Indeed, this was a great classic of its time and no wonder why. The story was great, the common fate of the Russian people provides many stories to be told. The colours are beautiful, the actors do their best, and the landscape plays an equally important part in the movie. Once the director said "I think people remember pictures not dialogue. That's why I like pictures." No more explanation is necessary. In this, David Lean did a perfect job.

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