Sunday, December 2, 2012

Anna Karenina and the Art of Cinematic Seduction

ANNA KARENINA AND THE ART OF CINEMATIC SEDUCTION -- From the moment the first images come onto the screen, you are seduced. And the seduction continues, layer upon layer, scene after scene, until you the viewer are caught up in this dance of love, infidelity, passion, jealousy, betrayal, defiance and human tragedy that is the new film from director Joe Wright that brings a beautiful sadness to the ill-fated romance of Anna Karenina -- a masterpiece of a novel written by Russian Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy in 1877.  Keira Knightley and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are brilliantly cast as the star-crossed lovers Anna and Count Vronsky -- but equally sharing the limelight is the production design, art direction and sumptuous lighting as well as the luscious set decoration by Katie Spencer (Sherlock Holmes, Atonement and Pride & Prejudice) which all combine to cast a spell from start to finish.  If some of the scenes have a slightly familiar look to them, that is perhaps due to the sun-dappled, pasteled references to iconic French Impressionist paintings (Degas and Manet) as well as Russian artists of roughly the same period. The musical score as well hints at Tchaikovsky and Satie for its haunting effects. And the clever use of St. Petersburg's famed Mariinsky and Kirov theaters as the setting for a good deal of the film is nothing short of genius on the part of Wright, allowing for a new way of telling this classic love story by injecting a different way of seeing it compared to set notions of previous film adaptations (it's been done 10 times before from 1914 to 2000). And we love seeing Downton Abbey vets Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Crawley) and Thomas Howes (William Mason) in the mix as well! But -- and this is a big one -- the ultimate seduction for Studio of Style is Taylor-Johnson's Count Vronsky, a complex, mysterious character if there ever was one.  Remember, it was he that began the pursuit -- and who wouldn't want to fall for those baby blue eyes, his boyish yet manly features and his character's noble mannerisms?  Taylor-Johnson charms us into this affair and for the sake of love, we want to take the thrilling, forbidden ride. And at first, we're just as smitten as he is with finding this enchanting creature of Anna who has passion in her eyes at all times. But as the film unfolds, Vronsky's moods twist and turn and we are left wondering just who he really is....and how sad we become for Anna and even for Jude Law's astoundingly spot-on role as Count Karenin who must suffer all sorts of embarrassment, indignation and ultimately heartbreak over his wife's infidelity.  And just as we thought we knew Tolstoy's book by memory, Wright and his artistic ensemble redefine how powerful love is and will always be in the scheme of things. From the mesmerizing dance sequences to the candle-lit interiors of a snow-covered dasha in the Russian countryside, to the blue damask wall coverings (which you can't forget) to the costumes, jewelry and those wonderful little alphabet blocks (you'll have to see the movie!), Anna Karenina is one heckuva stylish film. Don't think twice about seeing this film -- just watch it without prejudice, without any comparisions to previous adaptions and you'll want to fall in love all over again. And if a Count Vronsky should come your way.....well, all we can say is that you can't ask why about love!