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EAST-WEST aka EST-OUEST
USA: Sony Pictures Classics
UK: Millennium Film
Cast: Sandrine Bonnaire, Oleg Menshikov, Catherine Deneuve, Sergei Bodrov Jr, Ruben Tupiero, Erwan Baynaud, Grigori Manukov, Tatyana Dogileva, Bogdan Stupka, Meglena Karalambova, Atanass Atanassov, Tania Massalitinova, Valentin Ganev, Nikolai Binev, Rene Feret, Daniel Martin, Hubert Saint-Macary, Jauris Casanova, Joel Chapron
Director: Regis Wargnier
Countries: Russia / France / Spain / Bulgaria
Languages: French / Russian (English Subtitles)
USA: 120 mins
UK: 124 mins
USA Rated: PG-13 for violence and brief sensuality
UK Certificate: 12 for infrequent moderate language and violence
USA Release Date: 7 April 2000 (Limited Release - Los Angeles and New York)
USA Release Date: 3 March 2000 (Limited Release - Los Angeles and New York)
UK Release Date: 24 November 2000
June 1946: Stalin launches a vast propaganda campaign aimed at Russian emigrants living in the West, offering them an amnesty, a Soviet passport and the chance to participate in the post-war reconstruction of the USSR. Alexei Golovine, an emigrant living in France misses his mother country and responds to this appeal along with many others. He decides to return taking his young French wife, Marie, and his son Serioja, with him.
On arrival in Odessa, Stalin's welcome is not what they had expected. Many of their travelling companions are executed on the spot or sent to forced labor camps. Alexei and his family escape this fate and are sent to Kiev simply because the Soviet authorities realise that they have much to gain from this young doctor. He will be paraded as an example, a model "returnee". This is the price Alexei has to pay to save Marie and Serioja.
He is posted to the infirmary of a textile factory and he and his family are allocated a single room in a communal apartment where a complete lack of privacy and petty acts of deception are a reality of daily life. Despite the strength of their love, Alexei and Marie gradually grow apart. Alexei conforms, accepts, waits whereas Marie refuses, bridles and has one sole aim: to leave again, to regain her freedom... But all her attempts are doomed to failure, blocked by Alexei.
When a leading French theatre group, led by the famous actress, Gabrielle Develay, arrives in Kiev on tour, Marie knows that this is her chance to alert French officials to her plight. For Alexei, the stakes are quite different. He has been chosen to give the welcoming speech for the company, to bear personal witness of his success as a man who left the West for the East. Marie manages to get through to Gabrielle and hand her a letter. When they get home, Marie shuts her door on Alexei whose submissiveness and betrayal she is no longer able to bear.
Marie finds a companion in her solitude in the shape of her seventeen-year-old neighbor, Sacha, an exceptional swimmer, whose attitude has kept him out of the national conscription. Rediscovering his taste for training, thanks to Marie's efforts they share one wild hope: that he will get back and win selection for the European championships in Vienna. Once there, Sacha will be free but without Marie but she is resolute-he must seize this opportunity. Sacha wins the national race but is still not selected for Vienna. Neither he, nor Marie will give up and finally, as a result of a daring, heroic act, risking his life, Sacha finally manages to get away from the Soviet Union. But Marie pays dearly for Sacha's exploit. Despite Alexei's attempts to save her, she is sent to a gulag.
Some years later, after Stalin's death, Alexei manages to get Marie rehabilitated. She is freed shortly after. Marie's ordeal has marked her deeply. It seems that she no longer hopes for anything, that merely being alive is enough for her. Alexei intends to repay his debt to Marie by helping her to regain her freedom at long last.
One day the opportunity presents itself and Alexei grabs it with both hands. Gabrielle Develay, the French actress, has not forgotten Marie... However once again, if somebody is to achieve what they desire, somebody else has to pay. But Alexei is fully aware of that. He is ready.