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The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

Sunday, February 6, 2000
Dark Eyes
Nikita Mikhalkov Italy, 1987

(Oci ciornie). The plot of Dark Eyes is drawn from four Chekhov stories, but in style and tone it owes as much to Fellini as it does to Russian literature-appropriately, since the script was written specifically for Mastroianni, Fellini's frequent star and alter-ego. Richard Corliss called this role "a virtual anthology of Marcello males": the story of an aging man summing up his life and loves is a tailor-made vehicle for the actor's manifold talents, from boyish exuberance and philandering buffoonery to mature pathos. Mastroianni plays a married gentleman who half-jokingly seduces a melancholy foreigner at an Italian spa; with her, this aimless, clownish man unexpectedly discovers a depth of longing that might almost redeem him. The film's tragedy hinges on a crucial moment of cowardice; as Mastroianni tells a life-changing lie, all the weight of his decision shows on his face. This elegant and passionate performance won Mastroianni the Best Actor award at Cannes.-Juliet Clark

• Written by Alexander Adabashian, Mikhalkov, with the collaboration of Suso Cecchi D'Amico, based on short stories by Anton Chekhov. Photographed by Franco di Giacomo. With Marcello Mastroianni, Silvana Mangano, Marthe Keller, Elena Sofonova. (117 mins, In Italian with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, Permission New Yorker)