16 November 2008 | ilprofessore-1
The Korda Touch
How can one possibly turn Tolstoy's novel into a "short" film? Even at 139 minutes in the uncut Korda version so much must be lost. What we end up, sad to say, is a first-rate melodrama without the psychological subtleties of the book. But that's the bad news. On the plus side, we have the sort of lavish the sky's-the-limit big, big, bigger budget production that only the Hungarian Alex Korda could have produced a few years after the world war on the sound stages of London --sets by the Russian Andreiev, costumes by the English Cecil Beaton; deep-focus photography and lighting by the French Henri Alekan ("Belle et Bete"), and music by the English composer Constant Lambert. Technically, this film contains some of the best B&W work ever done in Britian. Perhaps the greatest fault of the film is in the style of the acting. Vivian Leigh is a great beauty, very aristocratic, very British in her reserve, but when she falls in love with Vronsky she seems constitutionally incapable of the unbridled passion that Garbo brings to the role. Ralph Richardson, however, is perfect --far superior to Basil Rathbone. Richardson displays all the rigidity of Anna's husband; his enormous pride and wounded vanity; his total incapacity to understand his wife's heart. Needless to say, Kieron Moore as Vronsky tries very hard, looks wonderful in costumes, but he seems more a West-End juvenile than the great aristocrat and officer that Tolstoy depicts. Laurence Olivier would have been a perfect Vronsky. Why Korda chose not to cast him beside his wife is a mystery.