This haunting French-language drama, based on a true story, puts a very human face on the horrors inflicted on Russia in the name of communism. Never flinching from the messy details of infidelity and suspicion, it presents its central characters as ordinary, fallible people caught up in a system where emotion is mistrusted and individuality punished. As such, it's a long way from the spies-and-defectors school of cold war drama; and admittedly, there are no great revelations here about life under a dictatorship. There are one or two false notes; a French actress who takes up their case is an oddly unconvincing character, and a KGB caricature crops up occasionally. But the strong performances and convincing period detail draw the viewer in to the characters' world of quiet desperation all the same.
Low-key, but strangely absorbing, East-West (aka: Est-Ouest) is a powerful personal story that's well worth seeking out.
DVD extras: star and director filmographies, World Cinema trailer reel.