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Country Life

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With no filmed version of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya on tape, here’s the next best video: Writer-director Michael Blakemore (Privates on Parade) transplants the play from autumnal 1899 Russia to post-WWI Australia as Country Life, with lively results. Most important, Blakemore (who plays the whining, fussy oldest brother) manages to maintain the play’s spirit. All of the characters — from the visionary but dipsomaniac doctor (Neill) to the young and bored wife (Scacchi) of Blakemore’s old coot — try vainly to cope with the little life offers them. In Chekhov, laughter is never far from tears; here, joy and despair ride roughshod over the Down Under backdrop.