The Cherry Orchard

Rated NR

The 80-year-old Cypriot director Michael Cacoyannis, who brought the world the 1964 classic Zorba the Greek, directs his first film in eight years with this adaptation of the famous Russian stage play by Anton Chekhov. Cacoyannis, who also wrote the script, opens the play up beyond the confines of the beautifully decaying Russian estate where a once-rich family is slowly losing everything. Especially effective is an added prologue in Paris. A Greek-French co-production shot in Bulgaria, the film ably balances Chekhov’s wry humor and moving pathos against cinematography that calls to mind an impressionist painting. It’s a wistful group portrait— following the fall of imperial Russia and facing the arrival of the 20th century—that at the same time sympathizes with and criticizes the habits of both nouveau-riche peasants and impotent fading aristocrats. The entire cast is superb, but Charlotte Rampling is magnificent as the family’s haunted patriarch, and Alan Bates a delight as her eternally childish bachelor brother.

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