The Art of Presentation: Anna Karenina

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

 As the theater darkened, I thought - I can't wait to be swept up in a romantic, dramatic, grand scale period piece.

And then Anna Karenina began with lighthearted hustle and bustle both on and behind a theater stage. The underlying music had comedic tones, the whole thing was choreographed as if it were the opening to a high stepping, rousing musical theater piece.  WTF!  What does any of this have to do with what I've known of Leo Tolstoy's immortal classic "Anna Karenina"?

Tom Stoppard's screenplay holds no poetry. It's deliberately streamlined. Certainly not written for anyone looking to get caught up in romantic, elegant dialogue or narration.  Director Joe Wright's decision to create an avant-garde fringe festival type showcase, instead of a sweeping, BBC-like epic drama, was quite disappointing to me. Seemingly the film's main objective was to light striking visuals and artistic camera angles.

Yet, the intricate dance at the ball was apropos choreography and an all together gorgeous scene. And after a time, I became accustomed and even impressed with the imaginative, dramatic shifts and movements as characters walk thru doors or out of frame and instantaneously find themselves in another scene.  And every once in a while, the sets do appear as you imagine the movie would be - rich and aristocratic; still, I never stopped being off put by the scenes taking place on stage.  At least the footlights were gas lighted, no Broadway klieg lights.

I suppose Wright and the producers felt they could take such liberties as they knew they had a perfectly cast actress in the lead role.  Keira Knightley is made for characters such as this. Her lithe frame allows her to wear beautiful clothing so elegantly.  Her unhinged jaw juts out at just the right angle to play a woman of means and spirit.  Her body language is so believable when portraying a fit of temper or slight madness.  Most importantly, you can imagine men falling helplessly in love with her in an instant. And she in turn, being a fool for love.

Jude Law is almost unrecognizable as the much abused Aleksei Aleksandrovich Karenin, his balding countenance and respectable, dignified bearing, left no room for the usual twinkle we associate with Law.  Even his role as the straight man against the gregarious Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes, did not prepare me for a truly unassuming Jude Law.

The other romance, between Anna's sister Kitty (Alicia Vikander) and her aristocratic farmer, Konstantin (Domhnall Gleeson) is delightful.  I recently saw Alicia Vikander in a beautiful period piece (currently in theaters) called A Royal Affair where she plays the Queen of Denmark.

Having never actually read the novel, I don't know if we are supposed to be rooting for Anna (Knightley) and her lover Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). I wasn't.  For me, their love story didn't feel like an all or nothing proposition.   I felt she could have easily had a brief dalliance with Vronsky and then dropped the affair before their relationship threatened her security, her son and standing in society.  After all, her husband, although dismayed, doesn't forbid Anna from seeing Vronsky, he only asks that she be discreet.  That to me sounds like an "I get to eat my cake and have it too" proposition - sweet! 

As I was leaving the theater, I thought this type of dilemma wouldn't work in a modern day story - and then immediately was put in mind of the General Petraeus / Paula Broadwell sex scandal playing out before us and thought... hmmm... maybe some things never change.

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About This Blog

is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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