'My Sister Maria': Schell's Sibling Celebration
By Desson Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 24, 2004; Page WE34
Maximilian Schell, the Austrian actor-turned-director has made a heartfelt but eccentric, pseudo-documentary tribute to his sister Maria. (The movie, very often, seems to be a tribute to himself for making the effort.)
Maria Schell, an internationally acclaimed actress, won festival awards for her roles in the 1956 "Gervaise" and the 1957 "The Last Bridge," was a very likable and accomplished actress who worked with Marcello Mastroianni (in "The White Nights"), Gary Cooper (in "The Hanging Tree"), Yul Brynner (in "The Brothers Karamazov") and Glenn Ford (in "Cimarron"). But in recent years, she has lost certain elements of her mental faculty. One result of this is that she has squandered her wealth on impulsive purchases. Her brother documents his attempts to bail her out, by selling many possessions in auction, as well as their conversations about her memories. The movie's nicely put together when it crosscuts between Maria's movie past and direct dialogues between her and Maximilian. But the director has enlisted friends, associates and family (including his sister) to participate in strange reenactments of events in Maria's recent years. Are we supposed to believe these scenes are unfolding in reality? It's not clear.
Maria cuts a tragic figure, seated under blankets and remembering highlights of her life. The best parts of the movie are when we have access to her and those poignant memories, without too much artistic intervention from her brother.
MY SISTER MARIA (Unrated, 90 minutes) --Contains some emotionally intense moments. In German and English with subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company