A retrospective in honor of Academy Award-winning actress Julianne Moore, who was the special guest for Feature VII, a fundraiser benefiting Film Streams.
On his list of favorite films film critic and scholar Nick Davis writes, “Even a Julianne Moore disciple can’t start a write-up of VANYA ON 42ND STREET with a nod to Julianne, or even to Louis Malle, whose movie this is, or even to André Gregory, whose minimalist workshop production of Uncle Vanya is the subject of this loving, sublimely attentive film. If you’re talking VANYA ON 42ND STREET you have to start with Chekhov, a playwright so very resistant to screen treatment and so very easy to misconstrue in areas of tone, delivery, and intent.”
Though Chekhov is certainly an important and dense writer, it is naive to say that Checkhov’s play, as perfect as it may read on the page was not intended to be performed, even imperfectly performed, by others.Part of Checkhov’s mission, and in reality, the mission of Russian writers like Tolstoy and Doestoevsky were to create real humans that did not blatanly act as symbols, metaphors, or allegories. If any actress is capable of that feat — of evoking raw pathos, in the spiri of Chekhov — it is Julianne Moore.
As Yelena, Moore shines. And in this early film, it is easy to see why she rose to stardom later in her career. The specificity of her performance, in this film and the rest of her oeuvre, is exactly what has kept her from being typecast. Yelena, or Alice, or Carol, or Maude are performed by the same woman, but those women are not interchangeable; few actresses can claim the same. Moore’s stellar performance in VANYA is one of a seasoned actress, before she even had a major starring role under her belt. Though Moore is not singularly responsible for this film’s artistic success, this film foretells the importance collaboration will have in her career — she is at her best when she can work with artists, the best artists, to match her skill.
— Diana Martinez, Film Streams Education Director