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Doctor Zhivago

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Doctor Zhivago

Starring: Omar Sharif, Julie Christie
Director: David Lean
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 197 Minutes
Release Date: December 1965
Genres: Drama, Romance, Classic

*Also starring: Rod Steiger, Geraldine Chaplin, Alec Guinness, Tom Courtenay, Ralph Richardson, Rita Tushingham, Siobhan McKenna, Adrienne Corri

Review by Brian Koller
2½ stars out of 4

"Doctor Zhivago" is a good, if overlong, film adaptation of the Nobel prize-winning novel by Boris Pasternak. While not as good as "Bridge on the River Kwai" or "Lawrence of Arabia", director David Lean continued his winning streak, as the film was a commercial success and received ten Oscar nominations.

"Doctor Zhivago" has the cinematography of an epic, but the plot of a romance novel. The story takes place during the Russian Revolution. Young, idealistic poet/doctor Yuri (Omar Sharif) marries Tanya (Geraldine Chaplin), but is frequently separated from her due to war. Lara (Julie Christie) is a passionate woman mistreated by her lover, world-weary politician Komarovsky (Rod Steiger).

Lara leaves Komarovsky to marry revolutionary Pasha (Tom Courtenay), who conducts a brutal campaign against White insurgents. The storylines are connected as Yuri and Lara serve together in the war, and have an affair afterwards. Yevgraf (Alec Guinness) is narrator and half-brother of Yuri.

"Doctor Zhivago" goes on and on and on for 197 minutes. This is shorter than "Lawrence of Arabia", but it feels longer. Dramatic touches are sometimes laughable, such as Pasha's entrance after Komarovsky has been shot, the long-expected first embrace between Lara and Yuri, Yuri's bad luck upon seeing Lara for the last time, and Yuri's insolence when his life is on the line (which occurs often).

The theme music, which won an Oscar for Maurice Jarre, is hummable but repetitive. Robert Bolt somehow won Best Adapted Screenplay over "Cat Ballou" and "Ship of Fools". "Doctor Zhivago" deserved its Best Art Direction Oscar, as the sets are very impressive, especially a cottage filled with ice formations. As you would expect from a big-budget Lean epic, the cinematography (Freddy Young) is good.

While "Doctor Zhivago" is a competent film, it has been somewhat over-rated over the years. The characters of Yuri and Lara do not seem real enough to merit involvement. Still, the film does get across some of the horrors of war, and the irony of a 'worker's revolution' becoming just another despotic dictatorship.

Copyright 1995 Brian Koller

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