Friday, July 29, 2011
(December 1965, U.S.)
Every once in a great while I actually wish that I'd been born about 15 years earlier than I was. Sounds crazy, I know, but think of all the things I might have done if I'd been just a little older. I might have seen a Ford Mustang Convertible (my favorite vintage car!) when it was brand new. I might have gone to Woodstock. I might have seen Led-Zeppelin in concert "back in the day". I might have actually gotten into the legendary Studio 54 back when SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER was all the rage. Most of all, though, I might have been able to see some of the greatest screen epics of the 1960s, like DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, on some of the biggest movie screens in some of the most beautiful movie palaces during their exclusive roadshow engagements. On the other, I might have also gone to Vietnam. It's a thought like that brings me back to reality, hard and fast.
This great film takes place during the tumultuous period of 1912–1923, the years which included World War I, the Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War, as the regime of Tsar Nicholas II was overthrown and the Soviet Union was soon established. Through these historical events, we are learning about the life and loves of poet and doctor Yuri Andreyevich Zhivago (played by Omar Sharif). Despite his great popullarity as a poet throughout Russia, he is ultimately still just a man struggling not only to survive the horrors of war and revolution, but to also survive the double life he's created with his wife Tonya (played by Geraldine Chaplin) and his mistress Lara (played by Julie Christie). Of course, if you've seen enough historical screen epics, then you'll know that there's usually a love story just as epic to go with it (i.e., GONE WITH THE WIND and TITANIC). The affair with Lara takes on an extra interest as the story is primarily told through the perspective of Yuri's half brother General Yevgraf Andreyevich Zhivago (played by Alec Guinness) and he attempts to identify a young girl as Yuri's illegitimate child and his own niece. If you study the girl's face carefully, you can almost feel the emotional anguish that is accompanied with learning who your real parents are. In fact, when you watch this film, it's the faces of anguish, pain, love and triumph during a time of great turmoil that capture your attention most.
If you've seen much of David Lean's work, then his richly-textured camera work and cinematography speak for themselves. He is, in my opinion, a man who takes great pride in taking his time with a film; time with story, time with a specific camera shots and time with his performers and what they bring to the screen. In fact, as performers go, I have to say that despite the fact that the plot is centered on Yuri Zhivago and his love interests, it's Rod Steiger's character of Victor Komarovsky that grabs my attention most. Literally, almost every word he speaks throughout the film keeps my eyes and ears on the edge of my interest. Watch, listen and you'll know what I'm talking about.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Victor Komarovski: "And don't delude yourself this was rape. That would flatter us BOTH!"