This 2000 movie by Sally Potter is visually and aurally stunning. The story is conveyed in gorgeous vignettes scored by glorious music and minimal dialogue, and the cast is stellar - Cate Blanchett, Johnny Depp, John Turturro and Christina Ricci.
The movie opens in Russia in 1927, where the young Jewish girl Fegele lives happily with her father until he has to go to America to seek his fortune. Soon she too has to flee as war threatens; she thinks she is going to be reunited with her father, but ends up in England where immigration officials randomly assign the orphans English names and she is Susan. With time she becomes Suzie (Ricci), forbidden from speaking Yiddish, forgetting where she came from, developing her singing voice.
As a young woman Suzie moves to Paris to join a theatre company; she is befriended by the older and more sophisticated dancer Lola (Blanchett, almost unrecognizable as always and with a great Russian accent). Together, they join an opera, and Lola falls for the star, Dante Dominio (Turturro in a terrific turn, lipsyncing to operatic trills). Dante is temperamental and egotistical; Lola sets her sights on social climbing on Dante's coattails. Suzie, meanwhile, exchanges smouldering looks with the gypsy who supplies the on-stage horse, Cesar (Depp in a replay of his role in Chocolat). The movie ends on the brink of World War II; as the Nazis threaten France, the main characters are forced to make difficult decisions on how to escape the coming menace.
Many critics dismissed this movie as dull and dry, and it certainly lacks the verve and sparkle of a blockbuster. Its virtues mirror those of its writer and director Potter: a wonderful soundtrack fusing opera, modern composition, and world music; and a stunning aesthetic of sepia toned snapshots laden with emotion expressed in a glance or a shrug of the shoulder. Recommended, though the slow pace may not appeal to all viewers.