Posts Tagged ‘Frances Barber’

Displaying Lolita

The Bookshop

Director: Isabel Coixet

Cast: Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Patricia Clarkson, Honor Kneafsey, James Lance, Jorge Suquet, Hunter Tremayne, Frances Barber

Elegy and Endless Night Spanish director Isabel Coixet brings to the screen Penelope Fitzgerald’s poignant novel The Bookshop set in a small East Anglian town in 1959. The story centres around a relatively young widow Florence Greene wonderfully played by British actress Emily Mortimer (Mary Poppins Returns, The Sense of an Ending, Hugo, Shutter Island) who decides to open a book shop in this remote gossip ridden environment.

While naturally stocking the classics like Thackeray, Dickens and George Eliot, Mrs Greene decides to sell more controversial literature including Ray Bradbury’s dystopian classic Fahrenheit 451 and Vladimir Nabokov’s scandalous novel Lolita.

In a genteel correspondence with a mysterious reclusive bibliophile Edmund Brundish superbly played by British screen legend Bill Nighy (Their Finest, Pride, Wrath of the Titans), Florence gradually draws Brundish out of his reclusive liar as she continually sends him fascinating literary works.

However. like in many conservative small towns, the idea of a progressive bookshop which could disseminate radical ideas soon finds opposition amongst the townsfolk headed by the snobbish and influential Violet Gamart, played with menace and sophistication by Oscar nominee Patricia Clarkson (Pieces of April).

Violet’s wicked emissary is the slippery playboy Milo North played by James Lance (Bel Ami, Marie Antoinette) who ultimately betrays Florence Greene as slowly but surely each of the town’s inhabitant’s turns against her best literary endeavors.

The Bookshop is a slow moving poignant drama about a women’s wish to fill a lifelong dream and a community who finds repulsion their best way to combat any radical innovative changes such as a well-stocked and resourceful bookshop. Director Isabel Coixet displays her art house aesthetic in The Bookshop to comment incisively on the cruelty of a small English town which is just emerging out of the post-World War II shock and horror, only to find themselves not quite ready to embrace an innovative literary aesthetic, which eventually become fashionable in the 1960’s.

This film’s theatrical release was later in other parts of the world

Spanish director Isabel Coixet’s The Bookshop receives a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 and is a subtle portrait of narrow mindedness which will not give audiences that expected cathartic release that accompanies happy endings.

The Bookshop is recommended viewing for those that enjoy European Art House cinema even though this literary themed film is set in Britain.

Several Tricks of the Mind

Mr Holmes

mr_holmes_ver2

Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Ian McKellan, Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Frances de la Tour, Hiroyuki Sanada, Patrick Kennedy, Roger Allam, Patrick Kennedy, Hattie Morahan, Hermione Corfield, Frances Barber

Director Bill Condon’s work has included such Oscar winners as Dreamgirls, Kinsey and Gods & Monsters. His nuanced and subtle cinematic adaptation of Mitch Cullin’s novel A Slight Trick of the Mind featuring Oscar nominee Sir Ian McKellan as the elderly and doddery Mr Holmes is a pleasure to watch if audiences can get through the first half an hour.

McKellan (Gods and Monsters, The Da Vinci Code, Richard III) is brilliant as the aging Mr Holmes who has to grapple not only with old age but all the ghosts of his pasts, primarily two unsolved cases, one involving a Japanese man whose father mysteriously never returned from England during World War II and another involving a husband trying to discover what his wife is involved in.

It is refreshing to see Sir Ian McKellan return to some a more resonant subject in this role, which is ever so complex, fascinating and beautifully told after a decade acting in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and also The X-Men franchise.

Director Bill Condon, with a stroke of genius, casts Oscar nominee Laura Linney (Kinsey, The Fifth Estate) as the long suffering house keeper Mrs Munro, whose husband was abruptly killed in the Second World War and has only her young son Roger, wonderfully played by Milo Parker to keep her company. As the mother and son look after the aging and infamous Baker Street detective, Mr Holmes must search his ever failing memory to reignite the images of what made these two cases so extraordinary.

In a series of multiple flashbacks, including an entire sequence set in Japan, Hiroshima to be specific just after the atomic bomb has obliterated the city, Mr Holmes visits Tamiki Umezaki gracefully played by Hiroyuki Sanada last seen in the excellent war film, The Railway Man, who continually questions Mr Holmes about the mysterious disappearance of his father in England during the War and the possible reasons for abandoning his young son and wife back in Japan.

In the second more intricate case, the great detective whose cases have been studiously reproduced in literature and on film, a husband approaches him to find out what his wife is really up to. British actor Patrick Kennedy (Atonement) and Hattie Morahan (The Golden Compass) play the estranged Thomas and Anne Kelmot.

It is really the scenes between Laura Linney and Ian McKellan which are priceless as Mrs Munro soon realizes that her son has become attached to the eccentric Mr Holmes and insists on helping him keep an apiary at their home in the Southern coast of England.

Cinematically, Mr Holmes is not everyone’s cup of tea, but is a delicate character study of a famous man who is in the twilight of his years, whilst none of his eccentricities have been lost, despite his self-imposed exile. Recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Hyde Park on Hudson and lesser known films by Merchant Ivory such as Jefferson in Paris or The Golden Bowl.

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