talism, knocked the socks off a lot of us -- though it may have appeared that its strong and sexy leading man Lior Askenazi (Walk on Water) was the linchpin many of us remembered most. For his part, Mr. Kosashvili went on to make Matana MiShamayim (English title: Gift from Above) in 2003, which, though nominated for eleven Israeli Film Academy awards, was not much seen outside its home country.
Now comes this director's ANTON CHEKHOV'S THE DUEL (with a screenplay by the film's co-producer Mary Bing), an English-language adaptation of the Russian master's novella. Cast with some lesser-known but top-flight U.K.talent, the movie takes place in the Caucuses (for which Croatia proves a sumptuous stand-in) and details the plight of a young aristocrat (Laevsky, whose behavior and attitude define the term ne're-do-well), his lively and attractive mistress (Nadya, toward whom he is feeling less and less kindly disposed), a highly intelligent and somewhat condescending scientist (Von Koren, who has taken an intense dislike to Laevsky) plus other other assorted friends and neighbors.
Andrew Scott (shown at right in the two photos above), as the little twat Laevsky, will have you wanting to throttle him in no time. This actor's spectacular talent at finding innumerable ways to be insufferably annoying (until -- and this is Chekhov's great gift for rich, humane characterization -- you actually begin to love him for it) is something to see -- as is his bizarre nervous breakdown over a chess board. Tobias Menzies (shown below) as Von Koren, brings both sturdiness and stud-liness to his role, his jealousy for Laevsky's station and what the man gets away with kept barely, but quite handsomely, in check. Fiona Glasgott (shown at left in the two photos above, and also at bottom) turns Nadya into a whirlwind of contradiction: loving, needy, highly sexual, and finally more vulnerable than either we or she suspects. In the supporting cast, Niall Buggy makes a sensible, kindly doctor, while Michelle Fairley captures both the imperiousness and fear of an important lady of the town, who, in one of the movie's strongest scenes, gives Nadya a sudden and nasty ultimatum.