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Lofty ambitions of 'Chagall-Malevich' mired in shallow, broad strokes

Alexander Mitta's 'Chagall-Malevich' paints a colorful, if shallow, portrait of the Russian artists

Alexander Mitta's big and bold "Chagall-Malevich" is a fictionalized portrait of the creative and political lives of a pair of dramatically different artists, a colorful study in contrast with a prominent weakness for broad strokes.

Set primarily against the backdrop of the 1917 October Revolution, this unconventional Russian epic whips up billowy swatches of whimsy and magic realism to bring to life many of the works of Marc Zakharovich Chagall (Leonid Bichevin) and Kazimir Malevich (Anatoliy Beliy) but not necessarily to rewarding effect.

From its "Fiddler on the Roof"-esque beginnings, as it tracks the Belarus-born Chagall's early adventures in Modernism to the later tensions between the boyish idealist and the more radical leanings of Suprematism movement leader Malevich, the film's ambitions to meld art with history are certainly lofty.

Although the results could never be accused of being uneventful, the characters cry out for deeper, more complex dimensions than simply the wide-eyed dreamer and the rhetoric-spewing agitator on display here.

Once the novelty of creating all those "living" paintings begins to wear off, it soon becomes apparent that any desire to invest the audience emotionally in Chagall's life-affirming journey has been subverted in the interest of the filmmakers' own artistic prowess.

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"Chagall-Malevich"

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 57 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills; Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino.

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