The Luzhin Defence

Run Time: 106 minutes
Director: Marleen Gorris
Starring: John Turturro, Emily Watson
Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: September 18, 2001
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Only Vladamir Nabokov could spin a tale that would make the world of competitive chess actually seem exciting. It’s not that I don’t have great respect for anyone truly gifted at playing chess, it’s just that watching it is right up there with watching golf on my list of boring ways to spend an afternoon. John Turturro, as Russian chess master Alexander Luzhin, is brilliant, capturing the all-consuming passion of Luzhin’s obsession with chess. Emily Watson, as Luzhin love interest Natalia, plays well against Turturro, creating a chemistry that leaves you believing the two are actually involved. When Luzhin first sees Natalia on an Italian island, during a tournament to determine the world champion of chess, the two fall instantly in love, despite Natalia’s mother’s wishes for her to marry a man of society. Part story of love, part story of madness, Luzhin’s life turns into something of a mental chess match when his old mentor returns to try and thwart his chance at victory. The DVD contains commentary by director Marleen Gorris and a pathetically short “making of” that should have been labeled an extended trailer. The movie is brilliant, not to mention being one of the better book adaptations I’ve seen, and warrants multiple viewings. If you like good cinema, you’ll appreciate adding this title to your collection.


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