Anna Karenina [1997]

Garbo won two consecutive New York Film Critics Awards for best actress in this and Camille--an altogether more satisfying selection. At 95 minutes, this handsome David O. Selznick production for MGM hasn't a prayer of doing justice to the rich supporting cast of characters in Tolstoy's thick novel (notably Kitty, through no fault of the perky Maureen O'Sullivan). That was equally true of Clarence Brown's 1927 silent version Love (1927), also starring Garbo, but it was both more passionate and more fluid; Brown's direction here gathers no momentum within scenes or in the film overall. Garbo's quiet "Too late, too late," as she realizes early on what a tragedy her obsessive love affair must lead to, is exquisitely doomed; but Fredric March makes a tiresome, even petulant, Vronsky. It's a measure of the film's misdirection that Basil Rathbone, icy-cold as the careerist husband Karenin, inspires more sympathy. At least he's entertaining. --Richard T. Jameson

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