Like The Thief (1997), which was also nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, Regis Wargnier's East-West is a turbulent romance set against the political backdrop of post-World War II Russia. But instead of a ma... more »n, a woman, and a child, the story revolves around a man, a woman, a child--and another man. Shortly after the war, Alexei (Oleg Menshikov), his wife, Marie (Sandrine Bonnaire), and their son travel to Russia from France to make a new life for themselves. But they quickly find that the situation in Alexei's homeland isn't quite as advertised and that they can't leave. Sacha (Sergie Bodrov Jr.) is a young athlete who lives in the same overcrowded apartment complex. Like Marie, he wants to escape, while Alexei decides to make the best out of an awful situation. Inevitably, Marie and Alexei grow apart as Sacha and Marie grow close, but one of these characters is harboring a secret that won't be revealed until the end. The film does double time as a thriller in that, at any time, any of these characters could be imprisoned or killed--including French actress Gabrielle (Catherine Deneuve, star of Wargnier's Oscar winning Indochine). She befriends Marie during a tour of Russia and offers to help her and Sacha make their getaway. At its worst, East-West threatens to strain credibility, but Wargnier's assured direction and the sympathetic performances he elicits from his cast make for a believable and compelling drama. Although not an epic on the scale of Doctor Zhivago, Wargnier takes a more intimate approach to similar subject matter and, arguably, offers the superior bittersweet conclusion. --Kathy Fennessy« less
Chapulina R | Tovarischi Imports, USA/RUS | 08/06/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this movie at a cinema in Southern California, surrounded by elderly Russian immigrants. It had such an emotional impact that at least one lady was overwhelmed and required physical assistance leaving the theatre when it ended. "East-West" is a stunningly open Russian/French-produced film about life in post-war USSR. Although the characters are composites, the story is based on cruel historical events. When Stalin "welcomes back" all expatriated Russians, Alexei is overjoyed to leave his long self-exile in France and sail to his beloved homeland. Aboard ship, he and his fellow passengers celebrate their imagined homecoming to the glorious "Workers' Paradise". None of them has any idea of the brutal changes which have occurred under "Uncle Joe's" regime. Only betrayal awaits them. Upon the instant of their arrival, they are thrust into a nightmare of totalitarianism from which there is seemingly no escape. Many of the returning countrymen are arrested or executed as "traitors of the state". Alexei, as a physician, is considered valuable and spared, although his French wife comes under immediate suspicion and surveillance. How their sudden culture shock, loss of human rights, miserable living conditions, persecution, and bleak future inexoribly erode their marriage is heart-breaking. The film would be overwhelmingly depressing, but love, hope, heroism, and sacrifice can prevail even under the iron hand of Stalin. I highly recommend this video. Although unflinchingly honest about the Soviet system, it treats the long-suffering Russian people with sensitivity and compassion."
A fascinating, brilliant film.
Casey | Mission Viejo, CA | 04/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Though the only theater even relatively close to me where East-West was playing was 20+ minutes away, the drive was worth it. Partially in French, partially in Russian (with English subtitles), East-West is the story of a Russian doctor who was residing in France until after World War 2 who returns to the communist Soviet Union with his French wife and son. While the rest of the repatriated Russians are executed or sent to camps, the doctor is used as a model, and he is given a job and living space. His wife, however, dreams of nothing except impossible escape back to France, an obsession that she will stop at nothing for and even puts others in danger for. Her hatred for her new life creates a seperation in the marriage, and they must struggle for their lives in the crowded apartment buliding under constant watch. A famous touring French actress meets the wife and does everything she can for the family, which is virtually nothing. A haunting, thought-provoking film, I enjoyed it tremendously. The acting, music, directing, it was all outstanding and I recommend the movie to everyone. It deserved the foreign film Academy Award nomination it got. The only flaw I found with the film was towards the end when they kept jumping from year to year, but it had to be done for the realistic element because it did have to take a long time for the events to unfold. Overall, however, I loved the film and almost wish that all of today's theatrical releases could be of this quality!"
An emotional, beautiful story of love, and deception.
Sasha | Dallas, Tx USA | 08/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This beautiful movie is about a couple and their child's experience living in and trying to escape from Stalinist Russia. The husband (Alexei, played by Oleg Menshikov) is Russian, and his wife Marie is French. When the Soviet Union decides to call back its emigrees, they return to Russia with their little child, As soon as they return, they realize that it is not as they had thought it would be. They are immediately interogated, terrorized, and threatened by the state. In the poverty of Kiev, they befriend Sasha (Sergei Bodrov Jr.), a swimmer, who is full of potential, and who wants out of Russia too. As the story progresses, they realize that they have a chance to escape... The ensueing drama is intense, and great sacrifices are made... Suspenseful, and emotional, this movie is a must see. The Russian background is beautiful, the acting superb, and the story touching. A must see for anyone who appreciates foreign films."
This film took my breath away
atammal | Desoto, TX USA | 07/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The story of one family's sacrifices for one another makes you value that which so many of us take for granted. Not only is this film an excellent recreation of life in Post WWII Russia, but it also has you cheering on the characters as you follow the story of Alexei, a Russian emmigrant who fled Russia only to return many years later with his family following the end of the second World War, Marie, his French wife, and their son. I appreciated how the film realistically showed that families weren't perfect, and that families did not necessarily mean blood relations, but instead those you loved and cared for. Catherine Deneuve is as strong as ever as she places an actress who tries to help Alexei and Marie escape the horrors they find in Russia. This film was not suprisingly nominated for Best Foreign Film 1999. For French speakers, it's easy to follow, despite the captions, and exciting to watch when you realize how much of the language you can grasp and understand. At least, it was for me. If you want a deeply moving film, then this is the one for you."
Just For Love: Stunning Epic behind Pitiless History
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 02/25/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Though "East-West" (originally "Est-Ouest") looks very political at first sight, the fact is that it handles with much universal theme, which surely moved the voters of the Academy and the Golden Globe Award to give it a deserved nomination for Best Foreign Film in 2000. For all its apparent flaws, the film does not fail to move your heart in the end, making you think about how much people can take under the severest conditions to protect what you love. After WW2, many exiles from Russia came back to their native country, and among them a doctor Alexei (Oleg
Menchikov, popular Russian actor) and his wife Marie (Sandrine Bonnaire). But as they land on the harbor of Odessa, they learn that everything is a lie. Deprived of her passport, and suspected as a spy sent from the West, Marie decides to return to France. While she survives the unhappy life in Kiev, being gradually estranged from Alexei, and her secret plans all end in disastrous results, her husband seeks for another solution. It soon becomes clear to them that it takes much longer time than they first expected."East-West" at its best shows the assured view on a family in this extreme situation, and their reaction to the harsh moment of reality. Real history gives strong support as a backgraond, but what we are impressed with is Marie's desperate and even manipulating ways of facing the reality, and Alexei's more comlicated, apparently cowardly action to autocratic rules during the Cold War. The changing relations between the husband and the wife is fastened by Bonnaire's strong performance, which suitably matches Menchikov's seemingly calm, resigned face. Those two actors with a good story is the best virture of the film.There are flaws in this film, some say, and in fact the script seems sometimes melodramatic. Some reviewers might complain the loss of credibility at several points, but as I don't know much about the facts about the historical events, I can't criticize those moments when we see a Russian soldier killing an innocent victim on the spot at Odessa, or a KGB officier torturing Marie tearing her passport apart. It is certain that Russian bureaucrats look like caricature, but how could I know? Let me say this way: the film IS melodramatic, but for all that the film does not fail to grab your heart. Whatever the complaint may be, the last scene pays off. And pays off very much. The film might have been better if it had taken a little longer time to bring everything to this conclusion. (I imagined there might be a longer director's cut somewhere in studio.) But, remember, the emotional power of "East-West" is beyond a doubt. Helped by the grand score of Patrick Doyle ("Bridget Jones' Diary" "Sense and Sensibility") and moody photography of Laurent Dailland, "East-West" is a triumph.A Russian swimmer Sacha, one of the key characters of the film, is played by Serguei Bodrov Jr., son of Serguei Bodrov, co-writer of this film and director of "Prisoner of the Mountains" and "The Quickie.""