Monday, August 30, 2010

1965 - DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, David Lean's Russian soap opera

The second in David Lean's trilogy of super epics, Doctor Zhivago was at the time of filming  10 months in actual production.  This larger scale production has everything great photography, big sets, and crowds, an impressive film to watch.

At the time of release in 1965, the film got some of the worst reviews that David Lean had ever received, the chief focus was on Robert Bolt's screenplay which many critics felt cheapened and simplified Boris Pasternak's book.  The reality probably was that not a lot of people had actually read this very long and difficult novel.

What appears to have appealed to David Lean about Doctor Zhivago was the story of the gifted poet tormented by his love for two women.  Lean himself had a very messy personal life, so he probably could relate to the basic situation.

This was the film where I discovered how important photography could be in a film.  The cinematographer F.A. Young really outdid himself.  You could probably pull a still out of almost any part of the film and frame it.  Young filmed in 35 mm and blew it up to 70mm, you couldn't even tell, it's that good  Watching the film today, the photography's  impressive if maybe a little glossy, still it's a real pleasure to watch this gorgeous film. 

After all the careful filming and planning, MGM forced Lean to rush through the post production and editing process to get the film into theaters due to their poor financial position.  The composer Maurice Jarre had very little time to score the film, he ended up writing a love theme called "Lara's Theme" which they used a lot throughout the film.   The song became very popular and was covered by just about every mainstream crooner in the world.

Doctor Zhivago's a very fine film that  didn't really turn out to be the masterpiece that David Lean had hoped for.   But he really knew how to put a film together and move the story along. Not a boring moment can be found in the entire 3 hours and 20 minutes. 

This film was extremely popular with audiences at the time of release and made a lot of money.

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