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Acclaimed international director Michael Cacoyannis (Zorba The Greek) and a dream cast of British screen talent revive Anton Chekhov's masterpiece of imprisonment in wealth and regret. Working from his own translation, Cacoyannis expands and condenses The Cherry Orchard with a fidelity that preserves Chekhov's emotional extravagance and unblinking eye for human frailty. In pre-Revolution Russia, Madame Ranevskaya (Charlotte Rampling) returns to her decaying estate after an exile in Paris. Ranevskaya's dissolute brother Gaev (Alan Bates), her insecure adopted daughter Varya (the late Katrin Cartlidge in one of her final film roles) and dotty butler Feers (Michael Gough) are as ill-prepared for the grim financial realities that threaten their existence as Ranevskaya is. At stake are the estate and its beloved cherry orchard, the pride of the extended family of aristocrats and freed serfs. As spring gives way to summer and memory threatens reason, the family must either find their footing in a Russia turned upside down or flounder in a sea of longing and doubt, a bittersweet luxury that they can literally no longer afford. Rampling (The Night Porter, Under The Sand), who the London Times declared "has rarely delivered a more exquisite performance," imbues Ranevskaya, mistress of an aristocratic dream world without predators now facing wolves at the door, with a grace and dignity rarely seen in this classic role of Russian drama. For The Cherry Orchard, Cacoyannis has liberated Bates (Gosford Park), Gough (Out of Africa), Cartlidge (Breaking the Waves), and the talented supporting cast from stage conventions, deftly shepherding them through the single most satisfying film adaptation of Chekhov's work ever made.

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KI2722 Cherry Orchard DVD (1999/Alan Bates/Charlotte Rampling) $29.95 $26.99