Saturday, July 10, 2010

Saturday at the Movies #8

When a local housing development was briefly dubbed "Howard's End," my first reaction was to turn to the friend I was with and mention that I thought that was a horrible name for somebody's home. Friend, who also appreciates Merchant-Ivory could only agree. Apparently somebody else did, as the development's name was changed to something generic. I should have taken a picture of the Howard's End sign when it was there. I will always regret that lack. :sniffles into handkerchief: Emma Thompson, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Helena Bonham Carter all in the same Merchant-Ivory movie cannot possibly go wrong (Academy also thought so and gave Ms. Thompson...oh when will I be able to type Dame Emma?... an Oscar for her unforgettable performance. It's 1910, and a pair of unmarried sisters think to help a young man in need, hold onto a family home also coveted by a wealthy older gentleman. Things go horribly, horribly wrong, but in a very proper manner.

Enchanted April - 1920s England was a time of change for women, and for four women, strangers to each other, who all arrange to spend the month of April at a European villa, that change is deeply personal. Each woman comes from a different place in life and society, and each hopes to find something from this impulsive idyll. Through getting to know each other and themselves, they, and the men in their lives, go through lasting change in more ways than one. I went into this movie expecting a certain outcome, and was pleasantly surprised when the story went in a different direction.

Stage Beauty - The term "Dude looks like a lady" could apply to all of English theatre prior to the Restoration. With women forbidden from appearing on stage, all female roles were played by men, and the best actors who played female parts were superstars indeed. So what happens when Charles II decides that he would like to see women onstage? What does this do to a man whose sole means of livelihood has been banished with the stroke of a pen? Especially if his former dresser, a woman with her own talent and drive equal to his takes his place on the stage...and dares him to take his own, as a man? If Billy Crudup and Claire Danes, with Rupert Everett as Charles II are involved, this:

Somewhere In Time - some movies should never be remade becasue the original was so flat out perfect nothing else can come close. This may well be one of them. Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, two of the most stunningly beautiful people to ever draw breath turn in compelling performances as lovers separated by time but determined to do whatever it takes to find each other. In the modern day, Richard is knocked out of his everyday life when an elderly woman presses something in to his hand and begs him to come back to her. He later discovers a photograph of Elise, a young actress in 1912, and embarks on a journey into the unknown to return to the only woman he will ever love. This began my love for time travel romance.

To round out this week's film festival, we get one of them forge...forieg...French movies. The Widow of St. Pierre takes us back to the mid 19th century and the French island of St. Pierre in the north Atlantic. Juliette Binoche plays the noble Madame La, married to the common but sternly principled governor of the island, played by the spectacular Daniel Autuiel. Two vagrants engage another in a drunken brawl, and the man dies. The men go to trial, the one responsible for the death recieving the only proper penalty, execution. The only problem is that St. Pierre has no guillotine (the "widow" of the title) and no executioner. The governor must jail the prisoner until both of the above may be obtained. Madame La decides there is no sense in a man merely sitting there when he is big and strong and can't they put him to work? Well, yes, they could. The prisoner becomes a contributing member of the island, even falling in love and fathering a child. He wants to be able to leave his new wife and child something when he dies, as he knows he must. France finally sends a guillotine. A story of choices, consequences, redemption and justice that stayed with me for weeks afterward. Best watched in the original French with subtitles:

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