After winning the best foreign film Oscar for his '94 epic Burnt By The Sun, Nikita Mikhalkov spent the next five years working on this lavish period romance. Unfortunately, while it contains some undeniably spectacular scenes (a carnival on a frozen lake, a full staging of Rossini's The Barber Of Seville), not enough happens to justify the epic running time.
Set in Tsarist Russia, the story tells of an American (Ormond) who comes to Moscow to help a crackpot inventor (Harris) finance a radical tree-cutting machine. En route she meets a young cadet (Menshikov) who falls head over heels in love with her.
The director betrays the scale of his ambition by christening the soldier Tolstoy, but his uneasy mix of melodrama and slapstick is no classic. And while shooting the pic in English enables Ormond to sport a convincing Yankee accent, the lumbering screenplay gives her few lines worth speaking.