The Barber of Siberia

Film, Action and adventure
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Jane Callahan (Ormond), a go-getting, worldly wise American woman, falls in love with a proud but naive young Russian cadet (Menshikov) she meets in Moscow in the 1880s. The affair ends badly. What Chekhov would have dealt with in a few pages, writer/director Mikhalkov takes three hours to tell. (His original cut was reportedly twice as long.) The casting is perverse. Mikhalkov has hired an English actress to play an American and a 40-year-old as the juvenile lead. The director himself has a small cameo as the Tsar. The 'Barber' of the title is a giant wood-cutting contraption invented by the eccentric McCracken (Harris) to raze the Siberian forests. He needs the Grand Duke's backing to get the machine up and running, and is using Ormond as bait. To emphasise how vast, contradictory and magnificent Mother Russia really is, Mikhalkov throws in scenes of drunken Generals, dancing bears, cadets fighting Pushkin-like duels, postcard imagery of the grandest Moscow buildings, and shots of the untamed Siberian landscape. Like McCracken's hissing, spluttering machine, the film is lumbering and unwieldy.

By: GM

Release details

Duration: 177 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Nikita Mikhalkov
Screenwriter: Rustam Ibragimbekov, Nikita Mikhalkov, Rospo Pallenberg
Cast: Julia Ormond
Richard Harris
Oleg Menshikov
Alexey Petrenko
Marina Neelova
Vladimir Ilyin
Daniel Olbrychski
Robert Hardy
Elizabethg Spriggs
Nikita Mikhalkov

Average User Rating

2.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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What an unmitigated mess! This movie doesn't know if it wants to be a comedy, romantic drama, or sweeping historical epic. As such, it is none of them. The script is simply awful, with the most trite cliches one can think of. These are often reserved for the drill sergeant (1905 story) and Jane (Julie Ormond). Did a 15-year old write the script? Perhaps the problem is that the director doesn't speak English, and didn't really have a sense of how bad it is.The film rests mostly on Ms. Ormond as the lead character, and she is simply awful. Her faux-American accent is grating and irritating. Her acting is unimaginative and uninspiring. She is a complete anachronism; a 1990s woman in 1880s Russia. Richard Harris hams it up in every scene he's in. The decisons as to which scenes use English and which use Russian will leave you baffled. The meandering script and plot make this film hard to follow and, after three hours, one still wonder what the director is trying to say and, in fact, what the film is supposed to be about.

Oh yes - the dreadful bits were dreadful but the splended bits were more than splendid and in the majority. The main character is Russia and it s character. The trees were Milhalkov's final cast - so rich in beauty and nobility - emblematic of Russia herself. Yes. it was too theatrical - but in the same way as a 1950s Hollywood musical. I laughed out loud. But mostly it was a socialist movie made by a socialist director who is passionately in love with his country - so that I had to sheild my eyes from the horror of the murder of the majestic the trees . Three hours too long! I could have watched it forever - such beauty! But the American temptress brings with her the Amerian capitalist indiscriminate saw. Pity about Julia Ormonde ! For that it loses 2 stars.