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United Kingdom 1965
Directed by
David Lean
197 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Doctor Zhivago

Although David Lean's 3 and a 1/2 hour epic romance set to Maurice Jarre's similarly scaled score took a swag of Oscars in its day(for Robert Bolt's screenplay, Freddie Young's cinematography, as well as score, set and art direction and costume design), it now looks terribly ersatz in many departments but particularly in locations (Lean used locations in Canada, Spain and Finland) and casting.

Overall the film suffers from a stifling air of self-importance with a raft of well-known British character actors of the time playing Russians with stiff English upper lips and public school manners. The results are by today's standards of realism simply too ridiculous to be taken seriously. As Lara, always looking like a 60s dolly bird Julie Christie makes for an especially unconvincing young woman weathering the storms of revolutionary Russia and Omar Sharif is insufferably dashing and more English than the English as the titular M.D. Much like (or perhaps because of) Lean's direction, most of the minor players are awfully wooden, with Alec Guinness embarrasing as a Soviet general and only Rod Steiger managing to make a decent fist of his part as the wily bourgeois, Komarovsky .

Heavy on sentimentality and sagging under the weight of the rambling plot, not to mention that damned "Lara's Theme" which reiterates in various guises throughout, if you can last that long, the film gets better towards the end as it closes down on the Zhivago-Lara relationship but you don't really need to wait if you don't want to.




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