Combustible Celluloid
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With: Iya Savvina, Aleksei Batalov, Nina Alisova, Pantelejmon Krymov, Yuri Medvedev, Vladimir Erenberg
Written by: Iosif Heifits, based on a story by Anton Chekhov
Directed by: Iosif Heifits
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Russian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 89
Date: 01/28/1960

The Lady with the Dog (1960)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Yalta Affair

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Anton Chekhov was unquestionably one of the great short story writers of all time, and though few of his tales have made the transition to the big screen, one couldn't ask for a better one than this, based on perhaps his best known masterpiece, "The Lady with the Little Dog." Filmmaker Iosif Heifits adapts the story in a lovingly relaxed style, focusing on faces and emotions, rather than re-creating a bunch of dialogue or words. While on a holiday in Yalta, married Dimitri (Aleksei Batalov) becomes enchanted with the sad, beautiful Anna (Iya Savvina), who is likewise married. They meet casually and begin spending time together. This leads to a night of passion, accompanied by a candlelight confession from Anna; she hates her marriage but now feels cheap for having betrayed it. The lovers part, and Dimitri feels he can easily let her go (when he retrieves one of her fallen gloves, he simply places it on a fence post), but finds he cannot. Amazingly, Heifits incorporates Jacques Tati-like rhythms, including meaningless, humorous asides from passerby. From this tapestry, a grand, aching passion indirectly arises, more potent than if it had been created directly. For some reason, this movie -- always held in high esteem -- has been difficult to find, so thanks to Facets for releasing it on DVD at last. Their fullscreen presentation has no extras, but it's very much worth checking out. (Note: I've seen the director's name translated in various ways, including "Iosif Kheifits" and "Josef Heifitz.")

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