“Onegin” (1999)

I bought this DVD because I heard Toby Stephens played a good role in it; I had never seen it before last week.  This film is very smart, subtle, touching, and thought-provoking.  It is based on the novel by Alexander Pushkin.  It was directed by Martha Fiennes (Ralph’s sister) and has some creative/unusual shots.  The cinematography is simple gorgeous, as are the locations, sets and costumes (which make the actors stand up straighter and creates elegant lines).

Eugene Onegin (Fiennes) is a wealthy playboy from St. Petersburg, Russia.  He is bored with his urban life: costly mistress, social obligations, and frivolous friends.  Onegin inherits a huge country estate after his elderly uncle dies, and he ventures out of the city to have a look at the place.

Onegin, the brooding/pessimistic aristocrat, makes friends with Lensky (Toby Stephens), an optimistic/energetic/naive country gent with dreams of becoming a poet.  Though the men are polar opposites, they are both well-educated and neighbors.  Lensky has long been in love with Olga (Lena Headey), a conventional girl who dreams of city life.  But Olga’s younger sister Tatyana (Liv Tyler) is the girl who intrigues Onegin.

It is soon obvious that the impressionable Tatyana has fallen in love with Onegin, or in love with who she thinks he is.  She borrows books from his library, and expresses modern opinions (much to the changrin of her widowed mother).  One night, Tatyana pores out her heart in a letter to Onegin, unable to keep her feelings boxed up (as social convention dictates).  How will the seemingly cool-headed Onegin react?  Can he return her feelings?  Watch to find out!

Ralph Fiennes, an internal actor, quickly disappears into his role of the dissatisfied Onegin.  Toby Stephens provides a refreshing counterbalance to Onegin.  Liv Tyler gives a terrific performance, proving that some actors don’t need to study for years to create fine characters.  They just have the “it” factor!

A clip from Onegin:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvr-iemGsyE

More about the movie:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119079/

About the book Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Onegin

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Movies I’ve seen recently…

An Education (2009)

I saw this smart indie movie over Thanksgiving break w/ my mom in Indy; we both liked it very much.  The writing is terrific, and the actors fit their roles perfectly.   Jenny (24 y.o. rising Brit Carey Mulligan) is a pretty, intelligent, and wise-beyond-her-years schoolgirl in early ’60s suburban London.  Her ambitious parents, esp. father Jack (Alfred Molina), are prepping her to attend Oxford the following year.  Jenny thinks she can make it to Oxford, but she also wants to know more about the world; she loves anything French, and dreams of going to Paris.

One rainy day, Jenny meets David (Peter Sarsgaard, the only American in this British cast), a charming man in his 30s.  Their relationship develops slowly, unlike many other movies with the younger woman-older man dynamic.  David has sophisticated/fun-loving friends (Rosamund Pike and Dominic Cooper), and introduces Jenny to a world of fine art, food, music, etc.  Jenny eventually falls in love with David, and it feels like her life has finally begun.  But David is not all that he seems…

 

Fighter (2007)

This is a Danish martial arts drama that is a combination of The Karate Kid and Bend it Like Beckham.  Aicha is an athletic, determined high school senior from a working-class Turkish Muslim family in North Copenhagen.  Her dad (who she’s very close to) wants her to be a doctor, like her older brother.  “I don’t want you to struggle like me,” he says in a regretful tone.

But Aicha is struggling in school, and she has a secret- she loves (and is very good at) kung-fu.  Against her father’s wishes, Aicha sneaks around to train at an exclusive martial arts club.   She quickly discovers that she’s better than most of the boys there.  A cute blonde boy she trains with, Emil, develops a crush on her.  Though Aicha is gaining skill/confidence/respect doing something she loves, she is also taking a huge risk in the eyes of her family/community.           

Trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njeLU_uvhM8

More about the film:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0995029/

  

The Shop Around the Corner (1940) 

This is a classic comedy (starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan) that is funny, quirky, and sweet.  Alfred Kralik (Stewart) is the top salesman at small shop in Budapest where Klara  Novak (Sullivan) desperately comes to look for a job.  The owner is convinced by her words, and agrees to take her on, but Mr. Kralik is not too happy.

Stewart is great (as always) as a young/hardworking guy with dreams of meeting the woman of his dreams and proposing to her on Christmas.   It turns out that his anonymous pen pal is Klara, a woman who annoys (and yet attracts) him with her personality.

This movie was remade twice- In the Good Old Summertime (in 1949 w/ Judy Garland and Van Johnson) and You’ve Got Mail (in 1998 w/ Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks).

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033045/