Dark Eyes (1987)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Drama  |   Release Date - Sep 26, 1987 (USA)  |   Run Time - 118 min.  |   Countries - Italy , United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Translating Chekhov to the screen can be a tricky business, but Dark Eyes makes a very good stab at it and succeeds at least part way. Some of the nuance is missing, and the underlying mixture of comedy and melancholy isn't mixed together in the correct proportions, but Eyes is still an intriguing, engrossing film, a sadly romantic comedy. Nikita Mikhalkov has perhaps been more successful in his role as screenwriter (with Alexander Adabachian and Suso Cecchi D'Amico than as director. Not that his direction is at all bad; however, he strains a little to achieve his effects and he also has a tendency to pace things laboriously. This does allow him to create some beautifully ornate compositions and to explore in detail the gorgeous settings of the film, but at the price of the story's momentum. Ultimately, however, Eyes rises or falls on its lead actor, and Marcello Mastroianni makes sure that it only rises and never falls. The actor is sheer perfection as the kept man who has gone through life without living it, and who throws away his safety and security when he discovers the spark that has been missing -- and who comes to regret his timing. It's a nuanced, masterly performance, with Mastroianni conveying volumes merely by the way he inclines his head. Yelena Safonovais also superb as the love of his life, and Silvana Mangano is excellent as his wife -- but it's Mastroianni's picture all the way.