Monday, December 20, 2010

12 Days of Favorites: Dr. Zhivago

The story of Love &Squalor begins many years before the fateful meeting of Wilde.Dash and M, long before the almost nightly movie marathons on uncomfortable and rank smelling dorm furniture and Sound of Music sing-a-longs. From the mid 80’s on, unaware of each others’ presence, M and Wilde.Dash were bonding with family, not over board games or a large family meal (ok, there was a lot of that too), but over the likes of Woody Allen and Walter Pidgeon. The holidays in said families were filled with the usual Christmas fair, but also with strange family film favorites and traditions. So hang your stockings with care and when your sister starts complaining about your billionth viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life and how boooooring it is, spend your 12 Days of Christmas with the movies that have followed Love & Squalor from infancy to bloggerhood.

Nothing says winter like my favorite Egyptian bridge player struggling to keep love alive in the barren wastelands of Communist Russia. Dr. Zhivago, the epic Russian romance that stars Julie Christie and Omar Sharif as two lovers thwarted at every turn by fate and politics, isn’t something you want to watch unless you expect a good cry and a lingering feeling of despair for a few hours afterward. Like the forces keeping love apart, it was fate itself that brought me to Dr. Zhivago. Even though I was known for being totally obsessed with Omar Sharif since I saw him narrate an IMAX presentation on Archeology when I was a tiny, I didn’t see the movie until college. I was working at Blockbuster, and mysteriously, we were shipped a DVD copy of it without a case. It wasn’t on the invoice, and for all intents and purposes, it was a really random thing to have sent to you with other new releases. I took the orphaned disc home, and the rest was history. My giant crush on Omar Sharif aside, the film is brilliantly engrossing. It’s epic, stretching across decades and moving from the high class surroundings of Moscow and St. Petersburg, all the way out across Siberia. It’s tense, as the lovable characters struggle to find a balance between personal politics, reality, and the upheaval violently wracking the country. Sharif is the key to the success of the whole film, and his sympathetic and subtle performance (in addition to his prettiness) makes you desperate for everything to work out for him, and darn pissed when things don’t. I won’t tell you what happens, but you might want to make it a double feature with a comedy to close.

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