Saturday, July 03, 2010

Saturday at the Movies #7

I never know exactly where I'm going with these entries until I open the window to start the post, and then things start to suggest themselves. Today is no exception. I'd thought to theme things around the Fourth of July, but nope, British Isles historical dramas:

The Lion in Winter (2003 version) - Normally, I'm not one to advocate remakes of the classics. If the female lead was Katherine Hepburn, it's a good bet that the movie people got it right the first time around, but this historical tale of a real life dysfunctional royal family (that just so happens to be in charge of a good portion of the free world) is spellbinding from beginning to end. Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close in the same movie? Must be Christmas. No embedding on this trailer, so click here.

Atonement - in 1930s England, imaginative thirteen year old Briony sees something she doesn't understand and fills in the blanks. The wrong letter gets placed in an envelope and a child is sent to do an adult's job. This small series of events has long reaching and disastrous results for not only Briony's older sister, Cecelia, played by Kiera Knightley, and Cecelia's lover, Robbie, played by James MacAvoy, but for Briony herself as she grows older, wiser and tries desperately to make things right. This film is utterly gorgeous, lavish in detail of both stately houses and the horrors of war, and most of all the human heart. Child actor Saoirse Ronan's portrayal of 13 year old Briony is a classic.

The Duchess - Diana, Princess of Wales undoubtedly left her mark by combining beauty, intrigue and living a troubled life in the public eye, but her ancestress, Georgianna, Duchess of Devonshire, did it first. Putting Keira Kinghtley in period dress is box office gold, and if she's playing opposite Ralph Fiennes, whee doggies. Love, torment, drama,scandal, :ahem: unconventional relationships, two people who really really really did not suit, all amidst drop-dead gorgeous stately homes and the English countryside of the 18th century. This is a feast. I can't watch this without feeling how smothered the real life Georgiana must have been, even as I'm drooling over sets and costumes.

Moll Flanders (1996) - Full disclosure: this is not a faithful adaptation of Daniel Defoe's novel, but the flavor remains, and Robin Wright, Stockard Channing and Morgan Freeman own this. We get the high and low moments of this Moll's life, from her birth in prison, to the hard-earned freedom at long last, all amidst the squalor and spectacle that is Georgian England. There's no glamorization of the seedy underworld, and Moll's idyll with her true love, an artist with secrets of his own, is all the more beautiful for it. When that comes crashing down, she does what she does best - what she must. The final shot of the film is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen on the screen. Embedding was wonky with this one, so click here.

Tristan + Isolde - Sophia Myles and James Franco portray the classic pair of doomed lovers, bound together not only by their love for each other but their mutual regard for Lord Marke, played beautifully by Rufus Sewell, the man who mentors Tristan and becomes Isolde's husband. Obviously, something has to give here, and it's not going to go down easily for anybody. Bonus points for Thomas Sangster (Love Actually) as child Tristan. The scenery, from coast to forest, is breathtaking, and Sophia Myles is utterly gorgeous (as usual) especially in the wedding procession on the river, surrounded by glowing candles. This one hurts, but it's worth it. If you can find a copy with the Gavin DeGraw music video, watch that to get an extra level of the story. The library almost didn't get this one back. Must. Buy. Own. Copy.

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