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Dark Eyes

The plot of Dark Eyes is drawn from four Chekhov stories, but in style and tone it owes as much to Fellini as it does to Russian literature-appropriately, since the script was written specifically for Mastroianni, Fellini's frequent star and alter-ego. Richard Corliss called this role "a virtual anthology of Marcello males": the story of an aging man summing up his life and loves is a tailor-made vehicle for the actor's manifold talents, from boyish exuberance and philandering buffoonery to mature pathos. Mastroianni plays a married gentleman who half-jokingly seduces a melancholy foreigner at an Italian spa; with her, this aimless, clownish man unexpectedly discovers a depth of longing that might almost redeem him. The film's tragedy hinges on a crucial moment of cowardice; as Mastroianni tells a life-changing lie, all the weight of his decision shows on his face. This elegant and passionate performance won Mastroianni the Best Actor award at Cannes.-Juliet Clark

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