9 April 2010 | grahamclarke
Chekhov is well served by a stellar cast and a top director
Sidney Lumet has a mighty reputation for adaptations of classic theater to the screen. "Long Day's Journey Into Night" remains something of a masterpiece while "Twelve Angry Men", "A View From the Bridge" and "The Fugitive Kind" are works of distinction. (I have intentionally passed over "Equus" which to my mind was a largely misguided effort).
Like "A View from the Bridge", "The Sea Gull" seems to have been absurdly banished to oblivion. It seems incomprehensible that such a fine film of Chekhov's classic play should deserve such a fate, especially when so many mediocrities are rereleased. The stellar cast alone is reason enough for making "The Sea Gull" available..
Lumet does great service to Chekhov in thankfully preserving the play. The cast is astonishing with all turning in finely tuned and thoroughly convincing performances. Vanessa Redgrave's Nina is luminescent and David Warner brings to Konstantin a palpable intensity. As many critics have noted, the casting of Simone Signoret as Arkadina is problematic since her heavy accent is somewhat out of place, especially when her brother is played by Harry Andrews. English does not come easy to Signoret and some of her speeches are slightly clumsy. Still, overall this does not spoil the film. Arkadina is a prima donna actress and Signoret brings such presence and charisma that one soon forgets the accent.
What more could you ask when a classic play is beautifully filmed, wonderfully acted and superbly directed ? That it should be made available to all who value art.