There was a moment after the first ten minutes of Anna Karenina when I thought director Joe Wright had somehow confused Tolstoy with Tchaikovsky—it would be understandable, what with both names having that Russian thing going on, and beginning with Ts and ending with Ys—and I was looking at a filmed version of The Nutcracker Suite. Then the drama settled over the dancy-pransy stuff like thick ice on a Siberian lake, and the characters lapsed into something resembling normal film dialogue, although the balletic quality remained as the dominant conceit for the remainder of the film.
In that respect, Anna Karenina is a satisfying holiday piece, especially if you’re sitting, as I was, next to your mother in a theater on the Upper East Side of wintery New York, an area of our own imperial city that would be the modern equivalent of the locales in St. Petersburg where the film’s action takes place. The fact I was wearing a short shearling jacket that makes me look like a hussar—a middle-aged Count Vronsky, perhaps, none of whose lovers ended under trains, but some of whom have definitely been emotional train wrecks—added to the meta quality of this particular movie-going experience.
Anna Karenina isn’t just a ballet confettied with words that are spoken more like sequences of musical notes than sentences that have a meaning to which one can attach real emotion. It is a feature-length fashion film, which explains why so many spreads in the glossy women’s magazines, indeed entire collections from designers, have been inspired by this. In that respect, it is supremely successful. I do not want to go to a black-tie event ever again in my life unless everyone there is styled the way they are in Anna Karenina. And if Marc Jacobs shows up in a see-through lace frock, throw him under a train. (Please. Finally. Thank you.)
Think back. You’ve touched your face within the past minute or two, haven’t you? You’re probably doing it now, after running your hands over that bacteria farm of a keyboard no less. Bad move. Oh, and take that finger out of your ear. You don’t know where that finger’s been!
Those last two lines belong to a scene from the movie Airplane! (1980) in which a man offers that sage advice to another character who is using his ear for a nose. Yes, you know the sequence, but I bet you don’t know who that man was. He was acclaimed movie director Steven Soderbergh.
"Call Ryan Murphy, tell him I'm sorry I fucked up the Prince "Kiss" number in 'Glee.' And don't let that screeching harridan Madonna sing 'Like a Prayer' at my funeral."
That’s actually not true at all. I made it up. I’m sorry. But you’ll excuse me for getting confused, because Soderbergh’s new film, Contagion, dispenses the same message as Airplane! did 31 years ago: Take that finger out of your ear! It’s dirty.