Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
If the Soviet Union had made honorable use of the idealism it inspired in the West, it might have survived and been a happy place today. Marxism seduced and betrayed some of the best minds of its time. The executioner was Josef Stalin. One of his cruel tricks, after the end of World War II, was to invite Russians in exile to return to the motherland--and then execute many of them, keeping the rest as virtual prisoners of the state.
"East-West" tells the fictional story of one couple who returned. Marie (Sandrine Bonnaire) is French; she married Alexei (Oleg Menchikov), a doctor, in Paris. He is eager to return and help in the rebuilding of Russia, and she loves him and comes along. Their disillusionment is swift and brutal. They see arriving passengers treated like criminals, sorted into groups and shipped away into a void, where many disappeared.
Alexei is spared because the state needs doctors, but the couple is lodged in a boarding house where the walls are thin and many of their neighbors seem to be, in one way or another, informers. Marie is suspect because she speaks French and therefore, given the logic of the times, could be a spy. The old woman who once owned the house also speaks French, comforts Marie, is informed on and dies--possibly not of natural causes.
The film, directed by Regis Wargnier ("Indochine") tells its story not in stark, simple images, but with the kind of production values we associate with historical epics. The music by Patrick Doyle is big and sweeping, as if both the score and the visuals are trying to elevate a small story to the stature of, say, "Doctor Zhivago." But Marie is not Lara Zhivago. She is a materialist Parisian who isn't a good sport about sharing spartan facilities, who complains to a husband who is doing his best, who unilaterally does things that endanger them both.