Doctor Zhivago (David Lean, 1965)

What's it about? Set in the early part of the 20th century against the backdrop of WWI, the Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War, it's an epic tale of how these events impact upon the love affair between Dr Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif) and his mistress Lara (Julie Christie).  

Is it any good? Once again, Lean proves a master at balancing the epic and the intimate, setting quiet moments of human drama against the vast sweep of Russian history and landscape. Sharif and Christie make for a devastatingly pretty leading duo, although they both pale beside Sharif's hair which is truly a thing of beauty, remaining immaculate throughout. It starts a little slowly and finishes rather abruptly (the film, not Sharif's hair), but in between it's stirring stuff, visually sumptuous and all helped along by Maurice Jarre's lovely score.

I don't trust you. What do others think? The Soviet Union wasn't too impressed, banning the film for many years until the mid 90s (Boris Pasternak's source novel was also banned there until the late 80s, meaning the film had to be shot in Spain, Finland and Canada). Elsewhere, the 4-hour running time put some critics off and it received mixed critical reviews. However, the public loved it and, when adjusted for inflation, it stands at No. 8 in the Top 10 grossing films of all time in the US. You just don't get this sort of epic any more.

What does the Fonz think?  The hair's good, but as long as I'm around, he'll always be second best.

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