9 September 2011 | lor_
Well-meaning "message" picture benefits from Liv
Mauro Bolognini is among my all-time favorite directors and I was one of the few people on Earth who had praised (to the skies) his film made just before this one, LA VENEXIANA, when I reviewed it after a Cannes Film Market screening. So my disappointment with FAREWELL MOSCOW has to be tempered.
It's simply not my kind of movie. Bolognini's strengths come with his poetic/realistic works, like the Pasolini adaptations of the '50s, his sumptuous period pieces of the '70s, and his bold eroticism. FAREWELL MOSCOW is the sort of Stanley Kramer "serious" cinema that by the '80s had been relegated to TV movies, and not surprisingly this one was backed by RAI.
It deals in harrowing detail with the Soviet government's persecution of Ida Nudel, a Jewish activist who refused to knuckle under when her loved ones managed to get exit visas and leave their beloved Russia, but she was denied for trumped-up reasons. She's a scientist working at an observatory, but her boss's retraction of his affidavit that she's not privy to any state secrets causes her visa request to be shelved, and her escalating protests make her persona non grata.
Aurore Clement as her sister and Daniel Olbrychski as her boyfriend escape, but unfortunately they leave the picture entirely early on, turning it into a one-woman-show for Ullmann. Her uninhibited, no-holds-barred histrionics are amazing, earning her the David di Donatello award as best actress (in an Italian film) back in 1987, but that doesn't make for a successful movie.
Bolognini stumbles early on with the unmatched, grainy second-unit (or stock?) footage of Moscow, since such an anti-Soviet project could hardly have been filmed there, several years before the breakup of the Evil Empire. More atmospheric is the sub-zero, Siberian-set snowscapes as Liv is shuttled between work camps, an internal exile. Scariest sequence has the KGB cruelly assigning her to an all-male camp, where she has to fend off with a knife horny inmates anxious to gang-rape her.
Finale is simple and quite touching, as Liv addresses the camera directly while British and French vérité documentary journalists visit her. It's a strong, quiet ending, which she sums up, directing them to "say Ida lives -that's enough".
Unlike the standard English-dubbed fare, this film has the cast articulating in English, with Robert Rietty credited with directing the dialog and vet dubber Nick Alexander as the ADR editor. Result is an impassioned, engrossing performance in English by Liv, dominating the show.
Ennio Morricone contributes a romantic and suspenseful score, though hardly up to the brilliance of his fabulous THE RED TENT music for that official Soviet/Italian co-production back in 1969.