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    Houses of le Carré

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    Next month, fans of 84-year-old espionage master John le Carré will be in clover with two screen adaptations about civilians trapped in the crossfire between British and Russian spymasters and criminals. On July 1 in moviehouses, the new big-screen adaptation of his 2010 thriller Our Kind of Traitor plunges vacationing couple Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris into an globetrotting intrigue triggered when Russian Mafioso Skellan Skarsgård dupes them into playing middlemen for an information exchange with British intelligence, personified by MI6 agent Damien Lewis. Directed by Susanna White (Generation Kill, Parade’s End) and written by Hossein Amini (The Wings of the Dove, Drive), it “allows for rich characterization” and “most pointedly, it leaves a lingering, inescapable stench of corruption” in the view of Time Out critic Dave Calhoun. Eleven days later, and also allowing for rich characterization, the soulful and spellbinding screen version of le Carré’s 1989 best-seller The Russia House (1990), directed by Fred Schepisi (Roxanne, Six Degrees of Separation) and adapted by Tom Stoppard (Empire of the Sun, Shakespeare in Love), debuts on North American Blu-ray. Iconic leading man Sean Connery plays an apolitical English expatriate publisher in Russia unexpectedly drawn into a war of wits and wills when a Soviet book editor, portrayed by the luminous Michelle Pfeiffer, drafts him into smuggling the notebooks of an activist scientist (Klaus Maria Brandauer) out of the country. The operation is complicated by the machinations of British and American intelligence, embodied by a terrific ensemble that includes Roy Scheider, James Fox, John Mahoney, J.T. Walsh, Michael Kitchen, Ian McNeice, David Threlfall, Martin Clunes and, in a rare and spiffy acting turn, director Ken Russell. The first time a Western film company was provided access to shoot inside the Soviet Union, it transformed – via cinematographer Ian Baker’s Technovision camera – the chillingly modern and romantically Old World Moscow and St. Petersburg into gorgeously moving and melancholy locations for the tender and touching assignation between Connery and Pfeiffer. As Cole Porter’s What Is This Thing Called Love? wafts across the soundtrack, it becomes a love affair for the ages and a political thriller whose heart matches its intelligence. With composer Jerry Goldsmith’s boozy, jazzy score showcased on an Isolated Track, you may initiate in-house surveillance of The Russia House July 12 on TT Blu-ray. Preorders open June 29.