Various actors walk the streets of New York City to a run-down, dilapidated theater for a rehearsal of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya." With only a few interruptions to move scenery or get refreshments, they run through the play about professor Serybryakov and his young wife Yelena going to the farm run by his brother "Uncle Vanya," and being tended by Dr. Astrov. Astrov and Vanya both fall in love with Yelena, Yelena and Serybryakov's daughter from an earlier marriage, Sonya, fall for the disillusioned but ethical Astrov, and everyone meets with disappointment and the desperation of everyday life in rural 19th century Russia. There are obviously multiple levels to this skilled piece of artifice -- Chekhov's play, David Mamet's adaptation, the Andre Gregory-orchestrated exercise for actors enjoying their work for its own sake, and Malle's occasionally self-conscious camerawork do not encompass it all -- but the trickery is not thrown in your face. This 1994 collaboration between veteran film director Louis Malle, stage director Gregory, and writer Mamet will likely please fans of theater and Chekhov, but may strike the average filmgoer as puzzling and slow.
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The review of this Movie prepared by David Loftus