Monday, January 18, 2010

Watching for... THE LAST STATION (2009, Michael Hoffman)

"Christopher Plummer, at the crest of a long career, gives an impassioned portrait of the artist as an old man - Leo Tolstoy in his eighties, imposing, stentorian, and almost alarmingly active. Helen Mirren is Sofya, Tolstoy’s wife of forty-eight years. The movie is raised to the level of greatness by its two acting demons, who go at each other full tilt and produce scenes of Shakespearean affection, chagrin, and rage. . . .
"Shall Tolstoy leave the vastly profitable copyrights of his worldly masterpieces to his wife and their children? Or shall he bequeath them to the 'Russion paople,' to be administered by an organization that propogates his late-in-life obsessions - a cultish neo-Christian, neo-socialist religion that runs communes, advocates passive resistance to violence, and renounces sexuality. It's not hard to guess which side the movie chooses in the philosophical dispute between asceticism and sensuality. Hoffman doesn't parody Tolstoy's religious and pedagogical beliefs which, after all, exerted a major influence on Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., yet the movie implicitly suggests that exalted, self-denying spirituality, however noble, is less powerful as a guide to living than everyday love."
David Denby, The New Yorker, December 14 2009

Vancouver opening: Friday, January 29 at Festival Cinemas

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