At the close of World War II, Stalin invited Russian emigrants to return from abroad, and summarily executed many of them. Though most of the passengers on his ship to Odessa are killed upon landing, young doctor Alexei Golovine (Menchikov) is spared and pressed into service as a medic in Kiev. His French wife Marie (Bonnair) is shocked at their living conditions and chafes under the repressive rules. And, as a foreigner, state informers have her under constant surveillance. When, by chance, Marie connects with the glamorous Gabrielle Develay (Deneuve), a traveling French actress, she sees the possibility for escape. But can she bring herself to leave her husband and son behind?
This Academy Award-nominee for Best Foreign Language Film manages to generate an epic sweep, while evoking the grim claustrophobia of communal living in the Stalin era via spot-on production design and evocative camera work. Then, in the film's second half, it transforms itself into a first-rate thriller. The luminous Bonnaire is superb as the proud, rebellious Marie, who finds herself required to morph from French bourgeoisie to Russian proletarian, and Deneuve, mellowing nicely, brings just the right measure of gravitas to the role of Marie's potential savior. Set your cinematic course for "East/West"!