Taming Leo

This Anna Karenina rips the heart out of Tolstoy

Going from music videos to the psychological horror of Paperhouse, the Grand Guignol of Candyman, and the florid excesses of that riotous Beethoven biopic Immortal Beloved, Rose wants to be the next Michael Powell, translating 19th-century artistic grandeur (from theater, ballet, and opera as well as the novel) into the kinesthetic sweep of the cinema. Unfortunately, he's more like Ken Russell, the petit-maitre of cheap effects. His wild lunges are occasionally beautiful--there's a gorgeous montage of Levin losing himself with his peasants in a bout of synchronized scything--but they rarely connect. In one daring prolonged shot, he films Kitty gliding into a ballroom and into a dance master's arms. The effect is exhilarating for a second or two, until you notice that the dancers' movements don't match the music. Rose slops Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Prokofiev all over the soundtrack, and in general he does them a disservice. He makes these composers seem lachrymose or melodramatic by extracting only the most obvious themes or climaxes from their intricate compositions. He does the same to Tolstoy.

Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.
Starring Sophie Marceau, Sean Bean, Alfred Molina, and James Fox. Written and directed by Bernard Rose, from Leo Tolstoy's novel. Opens Friday.

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