Luzhin can do three things ...
THE LUZHIN DEFENCE
©2001 SONY PICTURES CLASSICS
(Director: Marleen Gorris, 108 min)
In a world consumed by chess, Alexandre Luzhin (John Turturro) discovers something new and wonderful - love. A resort near Lake Como, Italy is the backdrop for the world champion chess tournament. Natalia (Emily Watson) is vacationing there with her mother Vera Katkov (Geraldine James). While Mrs. Katkov plots interesting encounters for her daughter with the dashing French Count, Jean Stassard (Christopher Thompson), Natalia is drawn to the eccentric Luzhin. He spends all of his time moving chess pieces in his mind - when he notices her, he opens his world to include a bit more than 'Queen to F4'. Luzhin is unorthodox in his courtship and rapid proposal to Natalia and when it becomes apparent that she might accept her mother sends for her father to intercede.
The Chess tournament begins - Turati (Fabio Sartor) and Luzhin are the favorites and move through the lesser opponents with great speed. The chess heats up, as does the relationship between Luzhin and Natalia. Valentinov (Stuart Wilson) resurfaces from Luzhin's past with singular cause - to destroy him. Through flashbacks we see the story of Luzhin's childhood - with his parents and with Valentinov as his tutor. It is easy to see why he seeks refuge in the ordered world of chess.
The setting and the characters are richly portrayed in this film. Emily Watson and John Tuturro both give excellent performances even if they sound nothing like their supposed Russian heritage. Alexander Hunting is beautiful as the young Luzhin - you get his struggle and the joy he initially has with chess. We enjoyed the characters of Turati and the French Count - both men are good and honorable, one is a gentleman champion, the other asks lots of questions.
"Luzhin can do three things - play chess, dance a little, and finally love. He does all three with a tragic beauty that I enjoyed. 4"
"I love chess movies that show one guy playing blindfolded against 10 people at once - it shows just how incredible these masters' minds work. Turturro is brilliant as the player who lives his life with such intensity. 3.5"
Honorary Movie Chick Peter "Emily Watson was terrific and I could identify with Alexander as the isolated genius. The only Nabokov story I read was Lolita (in search of the naughty bits) so I don't know how true to the story this is but I liked the film. 3.5"
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