“Celebrating Chekhov” Film Series at Gene Siskel Film Center, February 7-March 3

From the Gene Siskel Film Center site:

From February 7 through March 3, the Gene Siskel Film Center takes note of 2010 as the 150th anniversary of the birth of Russian playwright and short-story writer Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) with the series Celebrating Chekhov, presenting eight films based on or inspired by his writings.

Chekhov, one of the most beloved and internationally appreciated of all Russian writers, brought to his work a keen understanding of the circumstances and forces that shape human behavior. In masterworks including The Seagull, The Cherry Orchard, and Uncle Vanya, and in scores of short stories, his characters are aristocrats who sense helplessly that their era of privilege is coming to a close, or members of the middle class whose lives are strictly and frustratingly defined by the demands of propriety. Lost dreams, unfulfilled ambitions, unrequited love, lives undercut by indolence, perfidy, failure, and the greed of others–this is the eternal stuff of Chekhov. His body of work has proven to be as rich a source of material for the movie screen as for the stage.

Our series features the most recent Chekhov screen adaptation, Karen Shakhnazarov’s WARD NO. 6, the film that is currently Russia’s official submission for Academy Awards consideration. This harrowing tale of a smug doctor whose downfall is brought about through his obsession with a patient is made all the more fascinating by the fact that Chekhov was a practicing physician his entire career, and wrote in his spare time.

The fading milieu of princely living is evoked with relish in films including THE HUNTING ACCIDENT and THE SEAGULL, while the holiday atmosphere of the seaside resort of Yalta, where Chekhov himself lived for some years, is made to symbolize freedom for a couple meeting on the sly in THE LADY WITH THE DOG.

Directors Andrei Konchalovsky and Nikita Mikhalkov rise to the emotional challenge of Chekhov, eliciting magnificently nuanced performances from large ensemble casts in Konchalovsky’s UNCLE VANYA and Mikhalkov’s AN UNFINISHED PIECE FOR A PLAYER PIANO. Two more experimental treatments of Chekhov’s material are seen in Kira Muratova’s CHEKHOV’S MOTIVES and in Louis Malle’s VANYA ON 42ND STREET.

Celebrating Chekhov is a presentation of Seagull Films in collaboration with the National Gallery of Art and Mosfilm Studio.

—Barbara Scharres

For a schedule of screenings, and to purchase tickets, please visit: http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/chekhov

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