WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution and World War I, “Doctor Zhivago” tells the epic love story of a struggling poet and his muse as their paths cross over the decades. Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif) and the young, beautiful Larissa “Lara” Antipova (Julie Christie) may have separate lives, married to separate people. However, when fate, politics and war intervenes, they find each other and enjoy a small piece of happiness in an otherwise oppressive world
WHAT I LIKED
I’m not a huge fan of the films of the 1960s, and many of them just don’t click with me, even if they’re classics. Examples of this include “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and the original “Casino Royale.” Still, that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate the film for what it is. “Doctor Zhivago” was clearly a favorite of movie audience of its day, earning more than $100 million at the box office at a time when that number seemed almost unattainable.
In this sense, “Doctor Zhivago” to me is like “Gone with the Wind.” It’s a product of its time. It doesn’t necessarily hold up in terms of storytelling and pacing in this modern age, but it is to be respected for the massive success and artistry of the decade in which it was made.
From a political standpoint, this film was far more daring back then than it is now, with the Soviet Union a smattering of dust in the wind. Back then, it was a condemnation of not just Tsarist Russia but also of the Communist way of life. However, the movie does still tell a human story, which seems more in line with a modern Nicholas Sparks piece than for the pop culture of the 60s. Zhivago and Lara are star-crossed lovers that spend scant time together, yet their love is the driving force of this film.
In addition to some very stark yet impressive cinematography, “Doctor Zhivago” has some very fine performances from its stars and supporting players, including Alec Guinness and Rod Steiger.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Like I said, I’m not a fan of the star-crossed lovers who only see each other now and then. I prefer a traditional love story to one of the sweeping epic. So, with how little time the main characters spend together and how difficult their relationship is, it wears on me a bit.
Likewise, “Doctor Zhivago” was made in a time when you could release a movie north of three hours and not have anyone really care. Even by its era’s standards, though, “Doctor Zhivago” is long-winded. It might be partially because it has an Overture and an Intermission, but also because director David Lean takes his time with shots and dialogue, often lingering a bit too much for my tastes.
Finally, my other big complaint is something that always bothers me in movies... accents. I understand that speaking in a Russian accent isn’t speaking Russian. But at least give it an effort. Having a Russian nobleman using terms like “old chap” is just plain silly.
Rather than watching “Doctor Zhivago” on DVD or Blu-ray, I had the opportunity to download it via iTunes and watch it from my computer. Overall, this experience was fine, though the download time was almost as long as the movie itself. Still, the process to download using iTunes is exceedingly simple, the definition of point-and-click buying.
There are some drawbacks to downloading a film, including the loss of DVD and Blu-ray features like a chapter menu and toggling subtitles, as well as a lack of special features. However, it saves a trip to the video store or Wal-mart, and it works instantly (at least the purchasing end does), so you don’t have to wait a week or more to receive your movie. “On Demand” is a pretty accurate assessment of the process.
I did manage to plug my computer into my HDTV and watch the movie on the big screen, and while it was not 1080p resolution, it looked as good as any DVD that comes from a disc.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of the epic historical romance.