East-West

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Overview

French director Regis Wargnier's fifth feature film is a romantic period drama which is also a tribute to the victims of a tragic Stalinist episode. In June 1946, Stalin launched a major propaganda campaign aimed at Russians who had settled in the West, offering them amnesty and an opportunity to be involved in the postwar restructuring of the USSR. Many people who believed Stalin and returned home were executed, interned, or subjected to repression. The protagonist of Est-Ouest, Alexei Golovin Oleg Menshikov, ...
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Overview

French director Regis Wargnier's fifth feature film is a romantic period drama which is also a tribute to the victims of a tragic Stalinist episode. In June 1946, Stalin launched a major propaganda campaign aimed at Russians who had settled in the West, offering them amnesty and an opportunity to be involved in the postwar restructuring of the USSR. Many people who believed Stalin and returned home were executed, interned, or subjected to repression. The protagonist of Est-Ouest, Alexei Golovin Oleg Menshikov, takes his young French wife Marie Sandrine Bonnaire and son Serioja with him on the long journey back to his native land that he has missed so much. On the board of the steamship taking them to Odessa, people like them celebrate the new life that they anticipate. However, reality strikes when they reach shore. Many people are immediately executed or sent to work camps. Alexei is spared to use his skill as an accomplished doctor. He is sent to Kiev to work in a dispensary and live in a communal apartment. Alexei accepts his fate but Marie dreams of escaping to freedom. Opportunity comes her way when she meets Gabrielle Develay Catherine Deneuve, a famous French actress on tour, passing through Kiev. Tension mounts as the relationship of Alexei and Marie is put to test. For the script of this co-production between France and Russia, Wargnier had three other collaborators: Louis Gardel, who had previously collaborated with Wargnier on Indochine; Sergei Bodrov, a well-known Russian filmmaker best-known for his award winning S.E.R. and The Prisoner of the Mountains; and Azeri scriptwriter Rustam Ibragimbekov, best remembered for his scripts of Nikita Mikhalkov films.
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Amy Robinson
Régis Wargnier, director of the international hit Indochine, once again marries period grandeur to an intimate human story in his award-winning East-West. Following the Second World War, a Russian doctor Oleg Menchikov living in Paris is lured back to his homeland by Stalin's promise of amnesty. The grinding poverty and brutal oppression under the Soviet regime prove unbearable for his French wife Sandrine Bonnaire, whose desperate desire to escape threatens their marriage. While East-West does an impressive job of generating a stifling political atmosphere, it functions essentially as a domestic melodrama about a husband who has grown unresponsive to his wife's needs. As the determined wife, Bonnaire is passionate, vulnerable and focused, and Menchikov neatly captures the doctor's conflicted pragmatism. Fascinating and intense, filled with sympathetic and well-rounded characters, East-West is an epic of ordinary people that illuminates a little-known and tragic passage in history.
All Movie Guide - Mike Cummings
Postwar Russia under Joseph Stalin is hell, Circle Number 9. This film descends into that Stalinist netherworld after the Soviet Union opens its Iron Curtain in 1946 to beckon natives living abroad to return to the mother country to live in peace and build a new society. But after returnees debark at Odessa, the curtain closes seamlessly, sealing them inside a nightmare of repression. French director and scriptwriter (Régis Wargnier) gives the film an epic sweep with grandiose music, stunning cinematography, and high melodrama. Flags wave, soldiers march, citizen spies wag tongues, and love spins a tangled web. Wargnier and his co-writers center the story on the fictional Golovine family from France: Russian native Alexei (Oleg Menchikov), a talented physician; his beautiful French wife, Marie (Sandrine Bonnaire); and their son, Serioja (played at age seven by Ruben Tapiero and at age 14 by Erwan Baynaud). Upon their arrival at Odessa, they witness the murder of an uncooperative returnee, then undergo humiliating interrogation. A Soviet thug beats Marie. Functionaries then assign the Golovines to a communal Kiev apartment as depressing as their prospects for a happy life. Wargnier uses the dismal living quarters as a microcosm of Soviet domestic life. Furnishings are spare and dingy. Officious neighbors listen through walls. Paranoia and claustrophobia become the norm, motivating Marie to make escape an urgent priority and to take foolhardy risks. Alexei, who has settled into his job as medical director of the Red Flag Factory, pleads for prudence and careful planning. Arguments estrange them, and they find solace in alien arms. Overall, the screenplay brilliantly depicts Stalinist tyranny and the nebulous void that cocoons Soviet citizens. The acting is strong, the period atmosphere authentic. Catherine Deneuve adds star power in her appearance as a visiting French actress who abets Marie's escape plan. Though the film lacks the artistic subtlety and understatement of so many other French motion pictures, it is nevertheless a good production with more strengths than weaknesses.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/13/2001
  • UPC: 043396049529
  • Original Release: 1999
  • Rating:

  • Source: Sony Pictures
  • Presentation: Subtitled
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Sandrine Bonnaire Marie
Oleg Menshikov Alexei Golovin
Catherine Deneuve Gabrielle Develay
Sergei Bodrov Jr. Sasha
Ruben Tapiero Seryozha, age 7
Om Puri
Linda Bassett
Erwan Baynaud Seryozha, age 14
Grigoriy Manukov Pirogov
Tatyana Dogileva Olga
Bogdan Stupka Col. Boyko
Meglena Karalambova Nina Fyodorovna
Atanass Atanassov
Tania Massalitinova
Valentin Ganev
René Féret
Daniel Martin
Hubert Saint-Macary
Technical Credits
Regis Wargnier Director, Screenwriter
Sergei Bodrov Screenwriter
Delphine Bonnemason Asst. Director
Christophe Cheysson Asst. Director
Laurent Dailland Cinematographer
Dominique Dalmasso Costumes/Costume Designer
Patrick Doyle Score Composer
Louis Gardel Screenwriter
Yevgeny Gindilis Executive Producer
Rustam Ibragimbekov Screenwriter
Vladimir Kapitonenko Asst. Director
Stefan Kirilov Executive Producer
Alexei Levchenko Art Director
Yves Marmion Producer
Gerard Moulevrier Casting
Alexander Rodnyansky Executive Producer
Partick Sandrin Executive Producer
Herve Schneid Editor
Guillaume Sciama Sound/Sound Designer
Vladimir Svetozarov Art Director
Galina Toneva Executive Producer
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Foreign Film Worth Seeing

    As a foreign film buff, I see every and any french foreign film that comes out. this however is by FAR one of the greater triumphs. while a tad long, the movie gives great detail to the situation regarding Russia and it's new French citizens. C'est un bon film. Je pense que vous aimeriez. Alors, Regardez-le!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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