|The Russia House
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- russian house
great movie...shows russian life and living conditions as they are in the real world...been there done that....james...more info
- How to make a Cold War spy drama in the days of Glasnost
This is a Tom Stoppard adaptation of a John Le Carr¨¦ Book, but apart from the fact that it is a spy drama, this is a complete contrast from Le Carr¨¦'s most famous work, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It's somehow less cynical, and more positive. Although Sean Connery's character Barley is a reluctant spy, you feel that if this were Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, he would have been killed for 'knowing too much' instead, the security services are quite civil to him, the worst he gets from them is raised eyebrows when he attempts independent operation. The story, set in the time of Glasnost makes some serious points which are a bit dated now, but were at the time an important change in the way in which spy dramas were written. The photography is marvellous and being filmed almost entirely on location, the vistas of Moscow and Lenningrad are like one long tourist advertisement. Jerry Goldsmith's usually excellent music is let down here by being too intrusive, almost as though the film's producers couldn't bear to leave any part of the soundtrack unfilled. By contrast, the clarinet playing of Branford Marsalis is appropriate and sublime, even if Connery hasn't quite got the hang of miming the thing! Sean Connery himself, as with all the players turn in strong performances, although it's a little unrealistic that someone 28 years younger than he would fall in love with him (I bet the ages were closer in the book!) especially as his make-up and wig aren't as 'young' as they usually are....more info
- A welcome change from overwrought missions impossible
When the rusty Iron Curtain disintegrated during Gorbachev's glasnost, Hollywood filmmakers finally got access to the image-rich expanse of Mother Russia for location shoots. Whereas before, when scenes of "Moscow" or "Leningrad" were actually filmed in, say, Helsinki, now American theatergoers can gaze upon the real thing. On viewing THE RUSSIA HOUSE for the first time, I was thrilled to see the onion domes and other architectural glories of Moscow and Suzdal, which I had seen in person several years before.
Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer are Barley and Katya in the screen adaptation of John le Carr¨¦'s novel of the same title. Barney is the world-weary and alcoholic London publisher to whom a book manuscript is smuggled by the Russian Katya, a woman Barley claims most emphatically not to know. Since the document is actually a survey of the status of Soviet defense weaponry, the British Secret Service, which intercepted the manuscript, views Barley's disclaimer as tepid at best. After intense questioning, and a call upon his loyalty to Queen and Empire, Barley is persuaded to return to Moscow to meet Katya, and determine her source of information. The latter turns out to be Dante, a well-respected physicist embedded in the Soviet defense establishment, who is known to British intelligence and is also Katya's boyfriend. Finally realizing the identity and potential value of the contact, MI6 approaches the CIA with a proposal for a continuing joint operation using Barley as the field agent. The moneyed Americans, of course, insist on playing the dominant mission controller, relegating the Brits to the role of interested observer.
A criticism of this film was that it's too boring. Not so, if one accepts and understands that le Carr¨¦'s plots are not action oriented by design. Rather, they revolve around character evolution and relatively subtle confrontations that are more intellectual and psychological than physical. Le Carr¨¦'s books are, admittedly, an acquired taste, and not for the shallow-minded. The filmed version of THE RUSSIA HOUSE is true to its literary roots. There are here no feats of 007-like derring-do confounding the evildoers on missions impossible. The storyline unfolds at a comparatively sedate, realistic pace.
The casting was perfect. Veterans Connery and Pfeiffer are magnificent together. The latter's portrayal of a Slavic damsel-in-distress is especially convincing. James Fox as the urbane, gentlemanly MI6 controller serves as the perfect foil to the abrasive, take-no-prisoners (stereotypically Yank) attitude of his CIA counterpart, played by Roy Scheider. Klaus Brandauer as Dante is appropriately enigmatic. The location cinematography is visually sumptuous.
After awhile, one gets weary of the steady diet of action spy thrillers that rampage across the silver screen. As a change of gait, THE RUSSIA HOUSE is supremely satisfying, especially the bittersweet ending. I loved it....more info
- Traitor or patriot?
One of my all time favourite movie.
It makes you question as to what it takes to be a patrior and what it takes to be a traitor. The movie has great plot and dialog. ...more info
- A Strange, Poignant Tale Well Told
The cold war defined the first 27 years of my professional life as an aerospace engineer. I left that profession with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and visited Moscow not long afterward. This story is a sort of elegy for the USSR, and was to some degree prescient. Like "Barley", I too am fond of Russians and things Russian, and I greatly enjoyed the scenery of Moscow and Leningrad. Viewing it brings back vivid memories of my visit there, the colleagues I met, and the persistent sense I had of one tremendous chapter of history having just closed, and the next but dimly apprehended.
I have assembled a kind of personal "Cold War Archive", and this has an honored place in it along with "Smiley's People", & etc. It is a dandy story well told, not the usual "chase'm around and shoot'm up" action spy "thriller" of which we are all so tired. I give this four stars only because I believe the 5 star award in this category has been permanently retired with "Smiley's People"....more info
I am not trying to be witty here but this is probably the worse movie I have ever seen. Yes, I am experienced with watching a lot of movies. I have even taken a film class. Now my grade in film is not important and don't ask what it is. The point is...this is the worse movie ever. It's as if the director woke up and took out his bottle and said let me think... No neurons firing! Well if you watch it...do it at your own risk. You are sure to be bored.
Or maybe the movie was so good that I missed the plot.
- Russia House -->Terrific!
Although I have not seen the DVD (it hasn't been released yet) I have watched the VHS version at least 40 times. A spy movie set during the Cold War, The Russia House stars Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer. Connery is a British publisher, Barley Scott Blair, who is sent manuscripts by a Russian woman named Katya (Pfeiffer). However, the manuscripts are intercepted by British intelligence and are analysis of the Soveit Empire's nuclear capabilities. Blaire is convinced to play the role of spy for the British, and he must befirend Katya in order find the author of the manuscripts (the mysterious Dante.) As the story unfolds, Blaire and Katya grow closer to each other, and Blair soon finds himself trapped between the loyalties he has to his mother country and to Katya.
This is an extremely terrific movie, but is also very confusing. I had to watch it 7 times before the plot really made sense to me, but once I understood what was going on, it was a joy to watch it over and over again. This is not one of Connery's most famous works, but it is certainly one of his best. Reprising his role as spy, Connery does a much better job of it than as James Bond. Michelle Pfeiffer is similary convincing as Katya, who is caught in between the politics of Russia and Britan.
I whole heartedly recommend this movie, but I do caution anyone who has not seen it before to rent it first. A DVD version is long overdue and still the features the DVD will have are only subtitles and widescreen, which is perfect for some of the beautiful landscape scenes in Russia....more info
- Checking Out The Cracks in Glasnost
The movie "Russia House," starring Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer, is based on the spy novel of the same name, by that master spy-meister, the British John LeCarre. It's a very acute look at Russia, just as their "Glasnost," policy of openness begins to end --but not quite-- the cold war. The talented British playwright Tom Stoppard adapted the script, largely faithful to the novel. The respected director Fred Schepisi helmed. Like most of the movies adapted from LeCarre's oeuvre, it reflects his extraordinary abilities with plotting and dialogue. Though, mind you, the dialogue is quite mannered, as also reflects LeCarre's works, not to mention Stoppard's.
The plot, set in London, Russia, and some other glamorous continental cities, concerns an informant, unknown to the British Secret Service, MI5, who has suddenly popped up, in this period of glasnost, with very valuable, top secret data as to the Russian military's preparedness. The Secret Service doesn't quite know what to make of it, so they press Scott Barley Blair (Sean Connery), an alcoholic publisher specializing in Russian subjects, into service. He's to go to Russia (several times, it turns out) to locate this most secret of spies. Along the way, he meets and falls in love with Michelle Pfeiffer, never better as an actress, nor more beautiful, as a single mother who works in publishing.
The movie shows us quite a lot of snow, and life as it was lived in Russia at the time. The everyday struggles for the underprivileged, as Pfeiffer's character, despite her glamorous job,is. Three generations living cramped in a tiny apartment, the queuing for necessities, the difficulty of obtaining new clothes, and, as for shoes, forget it. The privileges of the privileged: the nice cars, the dachas (the greatly-desired country homes), the designer duds. It further deals with the usual suspicions between the British and American secret services. Finally, it gives us an honest, unsensationalized, non-mawkish view of middle-aged love, though it is burdened with a Hollywood happy ending that you won't find in the book.
In this movie, Sir Sean Connery shows us a side of him we don't often see: tenderness. His sax-playing among Russian friends (voiced by Branford Marsalis), is quite moving. Also on view is that sly Scottish sense of humor Connery spices his movies, and his conversations with: I once interviewed the man, in his trailer on New York's Fifth Avenue, while he was making some film or another: and his humor was so sly, my editor complained that it was a boring article. Oh well, I guess you had to be there.
As to the rest of the cast, Michelle Pfeiffer does very well, as mentioned above. Klaus Maria Brandauer also stands out as "Dante," the most unusual secret Russian informant. There was also some money spent on the supporting cast: Americans J.T. Walsh, Roy Scheider, John Mahoney. Brits, Ian McNeice, James Fox, Michael Kitchen, David Threlfall.
"Russia House" was written, and filmed, at the optimum time for its plot, and thereby acquires a resonance it might otherwise not have had. It was a lucky break for author, filmmakers, and us.
- Tough to rate....
Ok, here goes:
This movie is a bit of a tough watch, and a tough one to rate. The positives are the acting - Connery, Pfeiffer, Brandenauer, etc all play their parts very well. And the settings were good - Russia looked like what we (American point of view, here) imagine it to be, and the same for Portugal...
I'd like to give it more than 3 stars, just for the above reasons and the fact that I personally liked the theme.
Unfortunately, the plot is tedious a la the LeCarre novels of the Karla trilogy (Tinker Tailor, Smiley's People, etc) written for 1970s pseudo-intellectualism with very little of the action we've come to expect from "spy thrillers" such as the Tom Clancey genre. The plot can leave you yawning at times and its easy to get destracted watching it unfold in the first three-quarters of the movie. And once that happens, you've lost the story.
Some specific points:
I mentioned the acting above, but one draw back was the somewhat stereotyped portrayal of the characters (not the actors' fault): the Brits are all understated, "old boy" public school establishment types; the Americans are brash, somewhat impatient and with some strong language; the Russians are all intellectual and fatalistic....Way too stereotypical for good character development.
Connery and Pfeiffer seemed a mismatch to me, though both played their roles well. It might have come off better with a perhaps slightly younger actor for Barley (rather than Connery) or an older female actor for Katya (Pfeiffer). I think the latter would have been best.
I'm uncertain as to what the denouement was meant to be: the revelation of Dante's intention with the manuscript he gave the West, or Barley meeting Pfeiffer and her family at the docks in Portugal as they defected?
The music was good, but was played redundantly throughout the film. It needed at least some VARIETY.
Not a bad flick, but its NOT a "spy movie". Its a drama. So be prepared to pay close attention; this isn't a casual watch....more info
- The Russia House
Great movie. Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer play very convincing parts. It is a very believable story....more info
- TRULY INTRIGUING THEME WASTED BY WANDERING DIRECTION
You truly cannot go wrong with a combination like Connery (who is instantly likeable) and Pfeifer (who is stunningly moving in her role as a working Russian mother of two). But despite what could have been a pretty gripping theme with unpredictable twists, this just ends up being a directorial mess. Another reviewer suggested that this ought to be viewed as a spy drama not a spy thriller. To me, that sounds like a poor excuse for story telling gone astray.
Blair (Sean Connery) is a British publisher with a clear affinity for Russia, and has received a manuscript from Pfeifer's character, Katya, which he believes contains Soviet military secrets. The British intelligence SOMEHOW gets to know of this (will we ever know how and when) and Blair gets reluctantly involved in a plot to find out more about Katya and her associations. We are sort of made to feel on whose side Blair is on, and who the "bad guys" are (clue: CIA and the Queen's men of course) but my problem with the movie is it never really quite grabs you by the collar and drag you into the theme, or at least give the impression that anything terribly important is at stake.
It starts, goes on and on with some guys doodling in a very CIA like fashion amidst some glorious shots of Moscow, and suddenly everything comes to an end with the bad guys left in the dust by a very cleverly hatched scheme by Blair and Katya -- so sinister a scheme indeed than even the audience is left bewildered. Yeah.
While the movie sports some clever, even funny, moments, overall the narrative is boggling and wanders from concept to concept. Some directorial coherence for the audience would have been great. If the combination of Connery and Pfeifer intrigues you, especially a Russian accented Pfeifer, this may be worth a watch. Otherwise, a strangely intriguing movie....more info
- My name is Blair...Barley Scott Blair...
Director: Fred Schepisi
Studio: Mgm/Ua Studios
Video Release Date: January 19, 1994
Sean Connery ... Bartholomew 'Barley' Scott Blair
Michelle Pfeiffer ... Katya Orlova
Roy Scheider ... Russell, CIA
James Fox ... Ned
John Mahoney ... Brady
Michael Kitchen ... Clive
J.T. Walsh ... Colonel Quinn USA
Ken Russell ... Walter
David Threlfall ... Wicklow
Klaus Maria Brandauer ... Dante
Mac McDonald ... Bob, CIA Agent
Nicholas Woodeson ... Niki Landau, Polish Sales Rep.
Martin Clunes ... Brock
Ian McNeice ... Merrydew, Embassy Rep.
Colin Stinton ... Henziger
Denys Hawthorne ... Paddy
George Roth ... Cy
Peter Mariner ... U.S. Scientist
Ellen Hurst ... Anna
Peter Knupffer ... Sergey
Nikolai Pastukhov ... Uncle Matvey
Jason Salkey ... Johnny
Eric Anzumonyln ... Nasayan
Daniel Wozniak ... Zapadny
Georgi Andzhaparidze ... Yuri, Russian Publisher
Vladek Nikiforov ... Tout
Christopher Lawford ... Larry
Mark La Mura ... Todd
Blu Mankuma ... Merv
Tuck Milligan ... Stanley
Jay Benedict ... Spikey
David Timson ... George
Yelena Stroyeva ... Anastasia
Fyodor Smirnov ... Watcher
Pavel Sirotin ... Watcher
Paul Jutkevitch ... Misha
David Henry ... Minister, Whitehall
Martin Wenner ... Scientist, Whitehall
Paul Rattee ... Army Officer, Whitehall
Simon Templeman ... Psychoanalyst, Whitehall
Gina Nikiforov ... Russian Guest
Raisa Ryazanova ... Russian Guest
Kate Lock ... Jacky
Charlotte Cornwell ... Charlotte
Craig Crosbie ... Technician
Keith Edwards ... Hoover
Michael Fitzpatrick ... Hoover
Rob Freeman ... Hoover
Gennadi Venov ... Katya's Father
Sasha Yatsko ... Russian Writer
Vladimir Zunetov ... Dan
Jack Raymond ... Lev
David Ryall ... Colonial Type
Alexei Jawdokimov ... Arkady
Constantine Gregory ... KGB Interviewer
Sergei Reusenko ... KGB Man
Yegueshe Tsturvan ... Flute Player in Restaurant
Jonathan Reason ... Delegate
Another Sean Connery spy movie, which he always does well. Playing a publisher, Bartholomew 'Barley' Scott Blair, when a Russian woman named Katya (Michelle Pfeiffer) sends him a letter and notebooks of someone using the name Dante, containing a manuscript which details weaknesses in the USSR's nuclear capability. British intelligence intercepts the material and opens his private mail, eventually persuading him to act as a spy in their behalf and go to Russia in search of the mysterious Dante, and verify the statements in the manuscript. That's the gist of the plot.
As usual, the intelligence officers for 'our' side are depicted as bad guys--at least equally as bad as the Russians, and it becomes a choice for Blair between Katya, whom he has come to care for, and his country. That is the basic conflict.
Like every Connery movie, this is a good one, if somewhat confusing at times. It would have benefitted from better direction, but I liked it. Connery's distinctive voice and lisp (or ith that lithp) identify him even when you are outside the room. I always enjoy his acting. He's one of the really great ones, in my opinion.
I think you'll like this film.
Joseph (Joe) Pierre
author of Handguns and Freedom...their care and maintenance
and other books