King Lear

Grigori Kozintsev’s last film (1970), a follow-up to his celebrated 1963 Hamlet (both were based on Boris Pasternak’s translations of Shakespeare), makes optimal use of desolate landscapes and ancient battlements framed in black-and-white ‘Scope and a comparably grim Shostakovich score. The diminutive Estonian actor Juri Jarvet is oddly cast as Lear; Donatas Banionis (the lead actor in Tarkovsky’s Solaris) makes a more conventional Albany. The violence of the original is slightly attenuated, but at little cost to its dramatic force. Having directed the play for the Gorky Theater in 1941 and written about it at length, Kozintsev knew it like the back of his hand, which accounts for the film’s masterful assurance as well as its limited sense of discovery. In Russian with subtitles. 140 min. (JR)

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