Vanya on 42nd Street Screen 6 articles

Vanya on 42nd Street


Vanya on 42nd Street Poster
  • Not all of Chekhov's social themes survive the contemporary trappings (as in My Dinner With Andre, some of the dialogue registers as yuppie complaining), but thanks to Gregory's sensitive direction each actor shines.

  • When the Skandies crew voted for Best Performance of the '90s (gender-neutral) a dozen years ago, Julianne Moore placed 4th...for Safe, in which she's indeed outstanding. But I cast my own vote for her stunningly unconventional interpretation of Yelena here, which seems every bit as miraculous and ineffable to me now—somehow, she finds a deeper truth in every line by playing radically against whatever emotion the words seem to suggest.

  • Often overlooked is the fact that Louis Malle didn't simply document what the actors were accomplishing week after week on the crumbling stage of the Amsterdam, but rather imposed upon their intuitive performances highly sympathetic filmic devices. The result is as slight and as radical a change as the one from The Wood Demon to Uncle Vanya; it's the translation from experimental theater to experimental cinema.

  • In the long history of stage-to-screen translations, there’s never been anything quite like Louis Malle’s Vanya on 42nd Street (1994), an astonishing hybrid blurring the boundaries between theater and film, rehearsal and performance, actor and character.

  • Malle strips the text to its essence, complementing it with an aesthetic that weds roaming camerawork with lush, painterly cinematography that roots the play in an echo chamber of the theatrical past while pushing it up to a meta-textual present that's governed by an intermingling of actors alternately in and out of their characters. These various jagged contrasts are cumulatively unmooring and emotionally devastating.

  • The actors home in on the precise dynamics of how comedy imperceptibly gives way to an inconsolable sadness of being. As Sonya, Brooke Smith’s mixture of humility and abased pride—a saintliness that is both snow-pure and bent on martyrdom with the resolve of a suicide commando—is a performance so exacting it puts the flashy histrionics of most of our big-time Award Winners to shame.

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