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THE LADY WITH THE LITTLE DOG

USSR, 1960 (MIFF 1961, Programme 6)

Director: Yosif Heifitz

Yalta, at the end of the last century was already a delightful dwelling spot far those who could afford to come and rest m the invigorating atmosphere ul lha Black Sea. It was there that the Muscovite official, Dmitri Gourov, and the pretty Anna Sergeievna became acquainted. This well-groomed lady always accompanied by her white Pomeranian, was styled by the villagers as the lady with the little dog.

The film is an adaptation of a Chekhov short story whose plot rather resembles that of Maupassant's — and Renoir's— Partfe de Campagne. The couple who meet at Yalta are both married For the official their subsequent liaison is but a passing flirtation, but once home again in Moscow he gradually begins to realise the tedium of life without the young woman. He seeks her out in the provincial town In which she lives; they agree to meet from time to time m Moscow. Only for a day or two at a time, but for both of them these days give meaning to their liives.

Stylised and stylish in the best sense of both words, the film has all the extraordinary Soviel aptitude for recapturing, with all its elegiac stillness and melancholy, the atmosphere of the period. The first forty minutes — the couple's meeting at Yalta, the development of their affair against the listless setting of a Nineteenth Century watering place — makes a sustained duologue, flawlessly played by Alexei Batalov and a new actress Ya Savina. Later scenes, introducing the man's family background, slightly break the spell; but the end, a return to the dialogue it is daringly grave and austere.

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