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Friday, August 28, 2015

Nicholas And Alexandra (1971)

In 1904 Russia, the Tsar (Michael Jayston) celebrates the birth of a son after four daughters. But he and the Tsarina (Janet Suzman) lead an insulated life and are oblivious to the poverty and suffering of their people. Or the brewing revolution that will soon topple the Romanov dynasty. Based on Robert K. Massie's biography of Russia's last Tsar, Franklin J. Schaffner's three hour epic is an intelligent piece of film making. Though not without its flaws (and some are major), the film takes an unsentimental view of Nicholas and Alexandra. Whether out of a misguided sense of their place in history or perhaps merely out of sheer stupidity, the film acknowledges that they were clearly complicit in the tragic fate that befell them. Schaffner and his screenwriter James Goldman (LION IN WINTER) effectively contrast the elegance of the Royals' lifestyle and the horrifying poverty of a downtrodden people who have no choice but to fight back. In the title roles, both Jayston and Suzman are pefectly cast but among the huge supporting cast, there are several standouts. Notably Tom Baker as Rasputin, Irene Worth as the Queen Mother and Alan Webb as a weary revolutionary. The beautiful Oscar nominated score is by Richard Rodney Bennett. With Laurence Olivier, Michael Redgrave, Jack Hawkins, Ian Holm, Brian Cox, John Wood, Fiona Fullerton, Timothy West, Lynne Frederick and John McEnery.

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