Doctor Zhivago

Doctor Zhivago. Beautifully set, shot, and acted, but know that this is pure soap opera. That said, after a little warm-up, I was rapt for the first two hours. The last hour is weaker. Just set your skeptic filters low and let yourself get swept away. It’s a great cast of imperfect people. Our hero, Omar Sharif, is a little annoying. The reliable Rod Steiger is a perfect asshole. Julie Christie is tough, and in her role as Lara is maybe the most attractive modestly-dressed character I’ve seen on film. Frumpy Russian winterwear never looked so good. Perfect lighting helps. Anyway, Ebert calls it “an example of superb old-style craftsmanship at the service of a soppy romantic vision, and although its portentous historical drama evaporates once you return to the fresh air, watching it can be seductive”. I would watch it again.

Brief Encounter

Brief Encounter. This was pretty good. I enjoyed it. It’s about an affair between two people, pretty tame by today’s standards. But that was a different era. Here’s a Criterion essay. And I got a couple semi-related thoughts:

  1. One of the most enjoyable things about old/foreign movies is that I often don’t know the cast. It can feel more immediately immersive to see the characters as characters, rather than recognizing actors and trying to set aside that I know they’re portraying people. There’s no baggage, no expectations, no known quirks or ticks. It all feels very fresh.

  2. This movie’s soundtrack relies heavily on Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, a few sections in particular. I wonder what it would be like, instead of scoring a film, to film a score. That is, take some work of music and make a movie such that every bit of imagery fits or bolsters (or undermines, why not?) the music in some way. Like Fantasia, I guess, but live-action and only focusing on one piece of music. Is there anything else in that vein? At the least, it would be an interesting constraint on the filming.