Posts Tagged ‘Eileen Atkins’

La Cote d’Azur

Magic in the Moonlight

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Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Eileen Atkins, Marcia Gay Harden, Hamish Linklater, Jacki Weaver, Simon McBurney

In the tradition of Bullets over Broadway and The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, director Woody Allen returns to the period piece in the gorgeous and witty Noel Coward inspired drawing room comedy Magic in the Moonlight set on the French Riviera.

After the success of Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen returns to Europe and in a sublime casting match has Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) simply incisive and caustic as Stanley Crawford a cynical British magician who at the request of his friend Howard Burkan travels to the French Riviera to uncover the true intentions of a young and beguiling spiritualist Sophie Baker superbly played by Emma Stone. Naturally Sophie is preying on the good intentions of an extremely wealthy American family who are spending the summer at their villa on the La Cote d’Azur.

With a vibrant dose of jazz, sparkling costumes and vintage cars, Magic in the Moonlight sets the lavish scene for a truly witty melodrama inspired by playwright Noel Coward and definitely influenced by the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald. The year is 1928, a year before the Great Depression and smart society is still abundantly hopeful and rich. This is Tender is the Night without the drama.

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Sophie has befriended the naïve and wealthy Brice played by Hamish Linklater who at the request of his bejewelled mother, a brief cameo by Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook) invokes the art of séances and acts as a sort of naïve, yet beautiful medium to the dead, more specifically her late husband, a billionaire Pittsburgh industrialist.

Emma Stone is wonderful and crafty as Sophie who soon falls in love with Stanley after a failed trip to Provence whereby the couple are trapped in a celestial observatory to avoid a torrential downfall. There in this observatory they gaze at the moonlight over a luminous Mediterranean sea, a scene which surely inspires the film’s whimsical title.

This is an elegant, witty and utterly charming period piece with Woody Allen writing intelligent and naturally comic dialogue without the angst characteristic of his contemporary American films featuring neurotic Manhattan ramblings.

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That’s because in a wise casting decision the famous actor/director does not feature in Magic in the Moonlight and leaves all the brilliant acting to his shining ensemble cast, especially Firth who reverts back to his egotistical slightly arrogant roles that he is so good at playing like Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Firth delivers the lines with a crisp diction and the best scenes are with him and fellow British thespian Eileen Atkins who gives an astonishing performance as his affectionate but wise Aunt Vanessa.

Magic in the Moonlight is whimsical, beautifully constructed and wonderfully acted in a lovely Sunday afternoon sort of way, showing that Allen can still make films which delight audiences as he sheds the angst and focuses on the inexplicable energy of human society and their coy yet quirky interactions.

Whilst the rest of the cast make up a glittering ensemble, including Marcia Gay Harden, Hamish Linklater and Catherine McCormack, it is really the sparkling onscreen connectivity of Firth and Stone as the two foils of their own deceptions, two semi-sophisticated adults thrown together in paradise whose romance blossoms despite their age difference and respective ambitions.

Magic in the Moonlight evokes a romantic era long since vanished and is highly recommended viewing for those that relish nostalgic cinema.

 

Muscular Remake of Robin Longstride….

Robin Hood

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Ridley Scott’s Epic and muscular retelling of Robin Hood is better than expected. With Scott’s usual visual panache, 12th century England gets a grand and lush veneer along with a muscular and slightly jocular Robin Hood, played by Russell Crowe who teams up with an equally feisty Lady Marion, played with all the haughtiness of a woman trapped by her grand situation by Oscar winner Cate Blanchett.

The action is swift, gritty and visually compelling without dwelling on the gore but hinting at the brutality of the times. Robin Hood, which surprisingly opened the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and is devoutly English in its version of the pending invasion by King Philip of the brittle and precarious English realm of King John in 1199.

Supported by a wonderful cast including Mark Strong as yet another evil villian in the role of the allegiance shifting Godfrey, Eileen Atkins as the delicate but influential Eleanor of Aquitaine played by Eileen Atkins and Max von Sydow as Sir Walter Loxley, Robin Hood is Ridley Scott back in the style of Gladiator with similar themes of an empire on the precipice of change, a slightly demented ruler and an anti-hero who leads the battle and starts a myth. Robin Hood also known as Robin Longstride is a brawny and hairy Russell Crowe who is forced to delve into the idealism of his youth where his father prophesied the Magna Carta and the saying Lambs become Lions….

Scott’s trademark elements of water and shadow are skilfully used to enhance a much larger and bolder canvas of a Kingdom ravaged by a ten year crusade to the Holy Land, rebellious noblemen and coffers which are far from full. The ever-menacing relationship with France is tested by the betrayals and ambitions of Godfrey and King Philip along with his niece Queen Isabella who is married to King John, younger brother to King Richard the Lionheart, a brief but great turn by Danny Huston brother of Angelica Huston.

Crowe and Blanchett make a fine team, both experienced actors with the right amount of gravity to pull off these mythic roles with depth and sensitivity without resorting to cliche. Had these roles been cast to lesser known stars the force of the film would have been lost. Robin Hood is an epic Historical tale which hints at the popular story of Robin Hood and his merry men, Friar Tuck and his beekeeping and the Sheriff of Nottingham, gorgeously underplayed by Matthew Macfadyen of Pride and Prejudice fame. William Hurt also makes an appearance as William Marshall to add weight to the already Oscar-laden cast. This film version is certainly not flimsy, but muscular, brawny, dark and partly comical without dwelling too much on the political intrigue, the costumes or the bloodletting of medieval England.

Robin Hood‘s arrow has the perfect shot and Ridley Scott’s film is superb, engaging and visually rewarding more as an historical epic than a special-effects laden blockbuster and will surely be noticed when awards season comes round next year. What would one expect from such an experienced film maker who has brought audiences such classics as Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise and the Oscar Winning Gladiator, which made Russell Crowe an international star.

With a sword he conquored Rome…

As for the French, Robin Hood did open at Festival du Cannes, so perhaps all that cross-channel animosity has slightly cooled! Watch Robin Longstride and his rise to iconic anti-hero and savior of the outcasts and the free…

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