For some reason I almost always watch this when it appears on cable TV.
The plot, twisted and complicated as it is, is a bit hard to follow at
times although it does make sense if you pay attention. But I think
it's the general milieu that is evoked by the location shooting,
wardrobe, makeup, and art direction that makes this interesting.
Boy, it looks cold! Everyone seems to dress in multilayered dark clothing and the men wear Pelzkappe, those big furry caps. When characters speak in outdoor scenes, their breath steams, though not always, so you can pretty much distinguish the scenes shot in the studio from those outside. Smith's novel was a bit more explicit about the material culture of Moscow than this movie is. Not only doesn't Chief Investigator Hurt's cheesy looking compact car have a heater but his shoes are made partly of cardboard.
Viewers usually don't pay much attention to makeup unless it draws attention to itself but the makeup department should get a medal for this one. First off, everyone is pale, as they should be in the midst of a Russian winter. The usual tendency is to pile on the suntan and make everyone glamorous. If you want to see an example of what I mean, watch "A Time to Love and a Time to Die", the scene in which John Gaving as a German soldier returns from months at the front during the winter and takes a bath naked so we can all admire his muscles and that tan he sports all over his body, suggesting not November in Kursk but a summer at the beach in Zihuatanejo. Then there is Joanna Pacula's makeup. She's pale too but she's given just enough eyeshadow or kohl or whatever it is, and her brows and lashes are emphasized just enough to make her look even more modelesque than she ordinarily would. If her eyebrows were any darker she'd look like Audrey Hepburn in "Sabrina." As it is, with her blue eyes framed by those orbital rings and her chestnut curls cascading around her cheeks, she looks slightly predatory, maybe like a sable. In some later movie she played a vampire, I think, and I can see why she was cast. William Hurt, likewise pale, even paler than usual come to think of it, is likewise nicely handled. His thin stringy hair has been blackened for some reason. I don't know why. There are plenty of blond Russians. Look at Alexander Gudonov.
Hurt's character is nobody's idea of a superhero. He's just an earnest cop who can be beaten up, as he is several times. After he has killed a traitor who happened to be a man of considerable importance in the Soviet bureaucracy, he next shows up on screen with a small shiner the color of a storm cloud on one of his eyelids and a slight scab on his lower lip. He's been clobbered by the KGB for the killing, you see. But we don't see it on screen, or hear it described. The bruises on his face tell the story. How tempting it must have been to make more of these possibilities. A Makeup Department could have gone ape here -- one cheek stuffed with cotton, bandages on his head, his face a welter of bruises. But this is tastefully done, giving you all the information you need in order to know what happened. Actually, there is one tan face in the crowd -- Lee Marvin's. But it suits him. And he's an American businessman who only visits the USSR from time to time so, between visits, for all we know he may be stretched out on the beach at Bora Bora. He even wears beige and dark browns that match his suntan, and he's the only one in the bunch who actually looks spiffy. William Hurt may be chewed out by his superior for not having shaved closely enough but that would never happen to Marvin, who looks like he just stepped out of five-hundred-dollar a head hair salon.
There isn't a line spoken by Marvin that doesn't ring with irony. Every pause, every facial twitch, every curious line reading, tells us that this guy is very clever and he knows it. Pacula's performance is that of a model who's taken acting lessons. William Hurt, a fine actor, does some strange things here. He LOOKS the part of the determined militia detective, relatively quiet, rarely smiling, seldom physical -- but he drapes his speech in British locutions: "yore" for "your", "bean" for "been," and so on. We can only guess why. The two Americans (Dennehy and Marvin) speak frank American. The actors playing Russians are all from the UK except Pacula, who is Polish and kept help her Slavic accent. So by adopting a Brit accent Hurt places himself among the "Russians." Dennehy, by the way, is at the top of his form. Marvin is absolutely magnetic, as is Ian Bannon, whose readings have the same ironic pitches and stress as Marvin's. You never believe a word he says.
The film ends on a noble note. Pacula gets to go to America which, as everyone knows, is rich, democratically pure, and free of corruption. Hurt stays behind to save her from being followed and killed by KGB. The novel had a different ending. The hero follows the girl to New York City. They sit down to watch television. The program is one they have never seen before. It's title is, "The Price is Right." ("Come on DOWN!") The hero says something like, "THIS is what it's all about? Money?" And gets up and goes back to Russia leaving the girl flat.
Action / Crime / Drama / Mystery / Thriller
Action / Crime / Drama / Mystery / Thriller
An investigator on the Moscow police force relentlessly pursues the solution to a triple homicide which occurred in Moscow's Gorky Park. He finds that no one really wants him to solve the crime because it is just the tip of a complex conspiracy which involves the highest levels of the Moscow city government.
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October 18, 2014 at 01:57 AM