Saturday 26 Jul

TJ Mayes - "When Love Comes Down"

’50s era rock ’n’ roll had been long overdue for a rebirth. Thankfully, the stockpile of capable luminaries has not been in short supply over the past few years. 

07/23/2014 | Comments 0

Boare - "playdatshit"

The world is in the midst of an electronic music renaissance, and you find most of this boon of producers laying claim to the club-friendly, bass-dropping variety, holing up in the the free-flowing world of hip-hop beatmaking or pitching their tent on the out-there, boundary-pushing EDM camp.
07/23/2014 | Comments 0

Broncho - "Class Historian"

Broncho has never been hurting in the hook department. The success of the trio’s 2011 debut, Can’t Get Past the Lips, was predicated mostly on its ability to marry melodies with kinetic guitar riffs and anarchic energy. Yet we’ve heard nothing to the degree of pure pop catchiness on display in “Class Historian,” the new single from Broncho’s upcoming sophomore album, Just Enough Hip to Be Woman.
07/23/2014 | Comments 0

Manmade Objects - Monuments

No one wants to be forgotten; everyone wants some sort of legacy, a mark they leave behind as they exit this life for whatever lies beyond.

And for as long as there has been death, there have been monuments — whether austere or understated, abstract or concrete, prominent or tucked away in private — erected by the ones they loved to assure that remembrance, at least for a time.
07/15/2014 | Comments 0

Admirals - Amidst the Blue

Sometimes it helps to not be very good.

Some of the best albums and artists were born out of happy accidents owed to varying degrees of early suckage — the perfect note or chord for a song found by missing the one you are aiming for, failed mimicry of an idol bearing something entirely new and great instead.

07/09/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Music · Music · Surprisingly lively 'The Last...

Surprisingly lively 'The Last Station' chronicles the last year of Leo Tolstoy's life

Mike Robertson March 4th, 2010

On its surface, fame seems like a straightforward proposition: Someone does something that is spontaneously recognized by a large number of people. These people all agree together that this person is ...

On its surface, fame seems like a straightforward proposition: Someone does something that is spontaneously recognized by a large number of people. These people all agree together that this person is inherently kick-ass, which results in what we know as fame.

But there's famous, and there's megafamous. Sometimes a person comes along who is so continuously kick-ass that certain people will devote their lives to making sure he knows how kick-ass he is and to telling other people about his unparalleled kick-ass-itude.

Leo Tolstoy, the author of "War and Peace," "Anna Karenina" and several other books people know about but generally don't read, was one of those well-known people. His work, which chronicled the Russian life and celebrated the peasantry, was venerated practically as a saint in his home country and abroad.

In fact, in a deliberate bid to transcend his status as a mere novelist, Tolstoy began a "Tolstoyan" movement to spread his ideas, which he was convinced would change the world.
This is the contextual backdrop for "The Last Station," set in 1910, the last year of his life. Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer, "9") is living at his country estate, working among the chaos created by constant clashes between his Tolstoyan sycophants and his wife Sofya (Helen Mirren, "State of Play").

The sycophants, led by archsycophant Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti, "Duplicity") want the Great One to sign his copyrights over to the public domain, where they will forever belong to the Russian people. Sofya's more prosaic desire is to keep the copyrights in the family, so they can benefit the eight Tolstoy children and their progeny.

Our lens for this conflict is Valentin Bulgakov (James McAvoy, "Wanted"), a dedicated young Tolstoyan who is hired by Chertkov to serve as Tolstoy's personal secretary and, more importantly, as Chertkov's spy of Sofya.

Valentin is starstruck. As Tolstoy's acolyte, he seems to have no ideas of his own, and whenever Tolstoy asks him a question, he simply parrots back something Tolstoy himself has written on the subject. But he soon realizes that celibacy, vegetarianism and pacifism are ideals that don't always line up with the realities of being a human person. Valentin meets a young woman named Masha (Kerry Condon, TV's "Rome"), with whom he becomes romantically involved.

This further confuses and complicates his formerly Tolstoyan-only worldview.

This dissonance between adhering to the strictures of an ideology and actually living in physical reality is the movie's entire impetus. Chertkov is acting as the self-appointed agent of history, believing that if he divorces Tolstoy's humanity from his ideas and his public persona that he, Chertkov, will have control of the peoples' hearts and minds when Tolstoy is gone. Sofya doesn't care about any of that. She only wants to protect her family and maintain her marriage, which existed long before the Great Man-version of Tolstoy.

Despite some plot-dragging toward the end, the performances keep things lively, creating something much less ponderous than one would expect, considering the subject matter. "Mike Robertson

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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