Cinema: Robust Sickness

"Classicism is health," wrote Goethe. "Romanticism a disease." By those very rigid standards, First Love is a sick film—admirably sick with love. It is also the robust debut of a film maker to be admired and watched. Just about every actor insists that "what I really want to do is direct." Maximilian Schell has not been content merely to yearn; he has made it happen.

Based on Ivan Turgenev's novella, First Love is the deceptively elemental narrative of an adolescent smitten by his father's mistress. "It is a story unusually lit with affection...

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