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Vanya on 42nd Street 1994 ****

David Mamet adapts Anton Chehkov’s play Uncle Vanya for director Louis Malle in the 1994 film, but the action is mainly restricted to a Broadway theatre where the play’s cast are rehearsing. There are few props, the actors are wearing their street clothes, and there are breaks for discussion and rehearsal. This experimental approach blows the cobwebs off the play, with George Gaynes (Lassard from Police Academy) showing his power as a dramatic actor as the professor, Julianne Moore as his second wife, and Wallace Shawn is the brother-in-law who claims that the professor damaged his life. By not opening up the play, Malle and Mamet lay themselves open to charges of theatricality, but Vanya on 42nd Street is a fascinating film, not so much breaking the forth wall as destroying it, and using the creative process of film-making to bring a classic text to vibrant life.


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