Picks and Pans Review: East-West
With the war over in 1946, a Russian doctor living in France heeds Stalin's call urging all true patriots to return and rebuild the motherland. The doctor brings along his French-born wife (Bonnaire) and their little son. They no sooner arrive than the Iron Curtain clangs down and traps them in a life of privation and suspicion. While the husband, wormier by the minute, seems to accept Party discipline, the wife plots to escape.
The French-made East-West, Oscar-nominated for best foreign film, is a strangely conflicted epic. The narrative sweep (months, then years fly by) feels very Russian. But the psychological tension—subtle, taut, unpitying—is decidedly French. Yes, the wife endures hardship, even prison. But in her scheming she more or less seduces a much younger man (Serguei Bodrov Jr.) lodged in her dilapidated tenement, winning him to her side, while she constantly undermines her husband's career—that is, endangers his life. Noble yet opportunistic, headstrong yet calculating, she is at times une petite creep.
Deneuve swoops in and out as an actress who takes up the woman's cause. Normally I'd be content to watch her slurp borscht, but she's not very good here. (PG-13)
Bottom Line: Unsatisfying tale of fools Russian in