Love | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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This 1927 silent vehicle for Greta Garbo, which costars John Gilbert, doesn't make too much sense as an adaptation of Anna Karenina, Tolstoy's great novel about adultery. At least half of the plot--everything involving the character Levin--is pared away in Frances Marion and Lorna Moon's script, and the direction, by Edmund Goulding, is more serviceable than inspired. The real reason you should see this, apart from Garbo's imperishable radiance, is that Chicago Symphony Orchestra violinist Arnold Brostoff has composed a lovely original score for the film that members of the CSO will play while he conducts. If you've never seen a silent film with live orchestral accompaniment, it's a galvanizing experience, perhaps the only one that can approximate the excitement of seeing such a film when it premiered. I haven't seen the new print that will be shown on this occasion (the version with a happy ending--an alternative prepared at MGM after Tolstoy's original ending proved too distressing to some audiences), and while I've heard Brostoff's score, I haven't been able to hear it in sync with the images. But I've little doubt that this presentation--which has already been given in Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, and Moscow--will do things to your appreciation of both Garbo and silent film that will be indelible. Incidentally, this adaptation of Anna Karenina shouldn't be confused with Garbo's sound remake of 1935, which bears the title of Tolstoy's novel. (Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan, Friday, March 8, 8:00, 435-6666)

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