9 June 2014

The Devils


The Devils 1971
  • Director: Ken Russell
  • Based on a novel by Aldous Huxley
  • Cast: Oliver Reed, Vanessa Redgrave, Gemma Jones, Dudley Sutton, Murray Melvin,  Michael Gothard, John Woodvine
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Oliver Reed - Gladiator, Tommy, Women in Love, Oliver!
    • Vanessa Redgrave – Atonement, Girl Interrupted, The Cradle Will Rock, Lulu on the Bridge, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Howards End, The Ballad of the Sad Café, Playing for Time, Prick Up Your Ears, Oh What a Lovely War, Isadora, Camelot
    • Gemma Jones – Merlin, Harry Potter, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Longitude, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, Jane Eyre, Sense and Sensibility, The Merchant of Venice
    • Dudley Sutton – Wallander, Song for a Raggy Boy, Orlando, The Widows
    • Murray Melvin – Phantom of the Opera, The Onedin Line, Barry Lyndon, Alfie, A Taste of Honey
    • Michael Gothard – Ivanhoe
    • John Woodvine – Hamlet, Miss Potter, The Other Boleyn Girl, Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights, Pericles, Nicholas Nickleby, An American Werewolf in London, Macbeth, The Avengers
  • Why? Like it the first time.
  • Seen: In the 70’s when it came out.  Now June 7, 2014.
When we saw this in the 70’s, Hal and I, we were very impressed. It suited our iconoclastic, anti-authoritarian youthful selves.
We’re no longer youthful. We’ve waited a long time for this DVD. I’m curious. Will we be as impressed as before?
France. The 1600’s. War between the Catholics and the Huguenots.  The Catholic Church – Richelieu – and the French Monarchy – Louis XIII – win but want more. A powerful provincial priest (Oliver Reed) – a libertine desperately seeking the love of woman and of God – becomes the target of their lust for more power.  They use the madness of the Reverend Mother’s (Vanessa Redgrave) frantic sexual fantasies to accuse him of being possessed by the devil.
The film, in Derek Jarman’s vivid settings, wallows in grotesqueness, cruelty, orgies of violent misogynistic nakedness. There is a lot of shouting, and a lot of squealing of young girls (nuns) as though the handsome priest were a rock star.  It mocks the hypocrisy and depravity of both the church and the state.
No wonder we were impressed. It’s flawed but it’s still a powerful, gripping and iconoclastic film.

3 ½ * of 5

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 2005
  • Director: Tim Burton
  • Based on the story by Roald Dahl
  • Cast: Johnny Depp,  Freddie Highmore, David Kelly, Helena Bonham-Carter, Noah Taylor, Deep Roy, James Fox, Christopher Lee, Adam Godley, Eileen Essell
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Johnny Depp  Nightmare on Elm Street, Platoon, Slow Burn, Cry-Baby, Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Arizona Dream, Benny and Joon, Ed Wood, Don Juan DeMarco, Dead Man, Nick of Time, Donnie Brasco, The Brave, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Astronaut’s Wife, Sleepy Hollow, The Man Who Cried, Chocolat, Blow, From Hell, Lost in La Mancha, Pirates of the Caribbean (all four of them), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Secret Window, Finding Neverland, Libertine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist
    • Freddie Highmore – Finding Neverland, Toast, A Good Year
    • David Kelly – Stardust, Waking Ned Devine, The Comedy of Errors, Fawlty Towers, The Girl with the Green Eyes
    • Helena Bonham-Carter   Les Misérables, Great Expectations, Life’s Too Short, Harry Potter, Toast, The King’s Speech, Alice in Wonderland, Absolutely Fabulous, Enid, Terminator Salvation, Sweeney Todd, Corpse Bride, Conversations with Other Women, Big Fish, Planet of the Apes, Fight Club, Keep the Aspidistras Flying, Twelfth Night, Frankenstein, Howards End, Hamlet, A Room with a View
    • Noah Taylor – Almost Famous, Shine
    • Deep Roy – Big Fish, Planet of the Apes, Return of the Jedi
    • James Fox – Merlin, Sherlock Holmes, The Remains of the Day, Absolute Beginners, Isadora
    • Christopher Lee -  Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Hugo, Sleepy Hollow
    • Adam Godley – Merlin, Elizabeth the Golden Age, Nanny McPhee, Love Actually
    • Eileen Essell – Hustle, Finding Neverland
  • Why? JD. 30th in JD marathon
  • Seen:  Once before. Now: June 5, 2014
Another chocolate film. I still don’t much like chocolate and this isn’t nearly as sweet as Chocolat. Like other Depp-Burton collaborations it has a fairy tale feel to it with an elderly grandparent telling a story. And with snow à la Edward Scissorhands with which it also shares a plastic pastel everything-just-a-bit-off feel.
The fun fair circus Wonderland elements shift early and often into a nightmare LSD trip. JD is a Michael Jackson and Dolores Umbridge type of pathetic and ridiculous sadist (not that Jackson was a sadist that I know of).  Willy Wonka even reminds me oddly enough a bit of Olivia in Fringe (don’t ask me to explain). Once in a while JD himself shows through and he’s the only one who holds the film together really.  Without him it wouldn´t be much.
Poor Willy Wonka. What a sad life he’s had.   The children are despicable as are the adults. Except for Charlie and his family who are Very Nice.
Tim Burton lets his inner child run wild. As we know children, like the ones in this film, can be dreadful (but it’s not their fault, it’s the parents’...)
The funniest scene – a big bar of chocolate rising like the 2001 Space Odyssey monolith to the Strauss “Also Sprach Zarathustra” music.
Otherwise, sadly, it’s very silly and a bit boring. The song and dance routines are quite lame and the happy-family-means-everything is feeble. But it is fun in its way and JD rises to the occasion and plays the mad chocolate manufacturer with nuanced sensitivity. And big teeth.  They all seem to be enjoying their roles and Burton undoubtedly had fun with it.  Both JD and Burton have done much better but it’s definitely seeable.

2 ½ * of 5

2 June 2014

Twenty Thousand Streets under the Sky


Twenty Thousand Streets under the Sky 2005
  • Director: Simon Curtis
  • Based on the novel by Patrick Hamilton
  • Cast: Bryan Dick, Sally Hawkins, Zoë Tapper, Jacqueline Tong, Tony Haygarth, Philip Davis, Neil Stuke, Susan Wooldridge, Ruth Sheen, Kathy Burke
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Bryan Dick -  Morvern Callar, Colour Me Kubrick
    • Sally Hawkins – Never Let Me Go, An Education, Great Expectations, Jane Eyre, Happy-Go-Lightly, Little Britain, Vera Drake
    • Zoë Tapper – Othello (Globe), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Retold),
    • Jacqueline Tong – David Copperfield, Middlemarch, Upstairs Downstairs
    • Tony Haygarth – Gracie, Under the Greenwood Tree, Clockwise, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Holocaust, I Claudius
    • Philip Davis – Merlin, Brighton Rock, Another Year, Notes on a Scandal, Rose and Maloney, Vera Drake, White Teeth, Secrets and Lies, Alien 3, Quadrophenia
    • Neil Stuke – Sliding Doors, Cold Lazarus, Karaoke
    • Ruth Sheen – Another Year, Vera Drake, Secrets and Lies
    • Kathy Burke – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Elizabeth, Nil by Mouth, Absolutely Fabulous, Sid and Nancy
  • Why? A favourite novel.
  • Seen: May 31, 2014.
The time: the 1920’s. The place: London. The characters: Bob is a young waiter with literary pretensions. He works in a pub and falls for Jenny who happens to be a prostitute. And ill. Ella is a mousy barmaid who is sweet on Bob but it courted aggressively by the boring and creepy middle-aged geezer Mr. Eccles.
The story revolves around these four, a quartet of unhappy loners caught in a life not of their choosing. What dreams they have seem to just crumble.
The pace is slow and low-key, the atmosphere is often dark.  The 20’s as an era is vividly present. The many close-ups of the actors’ faces bring us into their thoughts and feelings.  Hawkins and Tapper are especially strong and Davis, who I remember as the kindly Maloney in Rose and Maloney, is well cast as the lonely and scary Mr. Eccles.
The film was, I believe, originally shown as a BBC mini-series but we’re watching it as a two and a half hour film, which also works.
It’s well done - the Beeb always delivers – and I like it very much.  I don’t quite love it though, not like I love the novel.

3 ½ * of 5

The Libertine


The Libertine 2004
  • Director: Laurence Dunmore
  • Based on play by Stephen Jeffreys
  • Cast: Johnny Depp,  Samantha Morton, John Malkovich, Rosamund Pike, Stanley Townsend, Francesca Annis, Tom Hollander, Richard Coyle, Rupert Friend, Kelly Reilly, Jack Davenport
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Johnny Depp  Nightmare on Elm Street, Platoon, Slow Burn, Cry-Baby, Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Arizona Dream, Benny and Joon, Ed Wood, Don Juan DeMarco, Dead Man, Nick of Time, Donnie Brasco, The Brave, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Astronaut’s Wife, Sleepy Hollow, The Man Who Cried, Chocolat, Blow, From Hell, Lost in La Mancha, Pirates of the Caribbean (all four of them), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Secret Window, Finding Neverland, Libertine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist
    • Samantha Morton – Elizabeth the Gold Age, In America, Jane Eyre, Morvern Callar
    • John Malkovich – Burn After Reading, Beowulf, Colour Me Kubrick, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Being John Malkovich, Portrait of a Lady, Mary Reilly, Heart of Darkness, Of Mice and Men, Dangerous Liaisons, The Killing Fields
    • Rosamund Pike   An Education
    • Stanley Townsend – Inside I’m Dancing, Moll Flanders,
    • Francesca Annis– Cranford, Macbeth,  Cleopatra
    • Tom Hollander – Hanna, The Soloist, In the Loop, Valkyrie, Pirates of the Caribbean, Elizabeth the Golden Age, A Good Year, The Darwin Awards, A Mother’s Son
    • Richard Coyle -  A Good Year
    • Rupert Friend – Young Victoria, Boy in the Striped Pajamas
    • Kelly Reilly –Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Sherlock Holmes, Mrs. Henderson Presents
    • Jack Davenport – Pirates of the Caribbean, The Boat That Rocked
  • Why? JD. 29th in JD marathon
  • Seen:  Once before. Now: May 30, 2014
Once I showed this film to a class of adult history students thinking it gave a good insight into 17th century England.  That it does but it was a bit embarrassing.  The sex scenes are frequent and explicit which I had forgotten.
John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester, tells us in the prologue that we will not like him. He is indeed a despicable cynic. He is weary of his libertine sex- and drink-saturated life and finds some spark in the theatre, now flourishing again in the reign of Charles II after its near demise under the Puritans.  He discovers Lizzie Barry and determines to make her the best actress the theatre has ever known.  She knows she can do it herself but they start working together. She has enormous depth and talent and does an Ophelia that breaks hearts. 
He falls in love. He’s dying of syphilis and alcoholism. He is thirty- three years old.
It’s sad. It’s gritty, muddy, filthy, degenerate. As is he. One can see the point the Puritans were trying to make.
Political intrigue, international scandal, utter degradation.  Rochester is the man who has to go too far to feel that he is alive.  Too far is truly too far.
JD has never been better. Malkovich, Morton and Pike as well. The whole cast actually.
Don’t show this to your history students. But tell them to see it. And see it yourself.

4 * of 5