Why would I want to watch a film that is 55 years old? Well maybe one reason for the inspiration to watch Anastasia came from watching Piano in the Factory at the Sarasota Film Festival a few weeks ago. That film was filled with Russian music.
The other reason is that the lead players of this film, Ingrid Bergman, Yul Brynner, and Helen Hayes are all Oscar winners, and the film did garner Oscar nominations. Bergman herself won the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress. Anastasia was directed by Anatole Litvak, and was a Cinemascope production, which was state-of-the-art at that time, in 1956.
The film is the tale of an opportunistic Russian emigre living in Paris in 1928. This would be Yul Brynner as General Bounine, a former officer in the White Russian Army. After the Bolsheviks overthrew the Tsar of Russia, and he and his family had been shot dead by a firing squad in 1918, many Russians fled from Russia; Bounine included.
He fled to Paris, escaping with his life, and most of his money, and a pair of his longtime associates. They set up a restaurant/night club in Paris so that he and so many other Russian emigres might remember the good times of the past, and still be able to enjoy the food and the music from the old country.
He and his pals played by Akim Tamiroff as Chernov, and Sacha Pitoeff as Petrovin, were also conmen and schemers of the highest order. For nearly a decade they had been trying to locate the one daughter of the Tsar who supposedly had survived or escaped from her family’s execution – or lacking the real woman, who was quite likely dead, a reasonable facsimile, as Bounine put it. They had been given lots of money by the expat Russian community to aid in their efforts – all of which had proven futile to that point. Time was rapidly running out. The financial backers demanded results, or Bounine and company, would be thrown into jail as frauds. The deadline was a mere 8 days away.
Enter Ingrid Bergman as a desperate and suicidal woman who was ready to give up by throwing herself into the Seine River in the dead of winter. She is saved at the last moment, at the edge of the river bank just beneath the elegant Alexander III Bridge, by Bounine and his friends. Continue reading