review for We Live Again on AllMovie

We Live Again (1934)
by Craig Butler review

The name Anna Sten was something of a Hollywood in-joke for many years, as the Russian actress was given an enormous buildup by Sam Goldwyn, only to bomb in a very visible way. We Live Again was one of her very public flops, and her unfortunate reputation has tarnished that of the film over the years. In truth, both the film and the actress deserve better. We Live Again is certainly not a great adaptation of the classic Tolstoy novel, but as a piece of cinema, it works reasonably well. The story has been greatly condensed and bowdlerized, of course, and is told in strokes that are much too broad. But it's been given a sumptuous production, and while director Rouben Mamoulian is clearly off his form here, he still manages some impressive sequences (such as the lengthy Easter service and the segments involving the czar's ballerinas). Mamoulian may also be the victim of studio interference, as the choppy and awkward editing suggests that his vision did not make it to the screen intact. Sten acquits herself quite well. If she's not the Garbo that Goldwyn desperately wanted, she's also not the horror many have made her out to be. Though prone to overacting, she's also capable of holding things relatively in check, and she does have a definite "look." Fredric March tries hard and has some effective moments, but he's a little on the dull side. Overall, We Live Again is a fairly engrossing costume piece.