Posts Tagged ‘Julian Wadham’

The Banquet of Infinity

Victoria & Abdul

Director: Stephen Frears

Cast: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Olivia Williams, Tim Piggott-Smith, Michael Gambon, Eddie Izzard, Julian Wadham, Simon Callow, Paul Higgins

The unlikely friendship of Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim, a Muslim clerk from Agra who is sent to England from Colonial India to present a special coin to her majesty is the subject of a sumptuous and shrewdly observed film by veteran director Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, The Queen, Philomena).

Victoria and Abdul has to be viewed in conjunction with the 1997 John Madden film Mrs Brown also starring Oscar winner Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love) as the grand old queen which in that film follows her widow like infatuation with the Scottish highlander John Brown played by Billy Connolly.

The British director of Florence Foster Jenkins makes a clever narrative choice in telling the story from Abdul’s perspective, as he goes on a fascinating journey into the heart of the English court with its strange pomposity and royal etiquette.

Abdul is expertly played by Indian actor Ali Fazal (Fast and Furious 7), who is handsome, devoted and downright smitten with this cantankerous monarch who sees him as a beautiful embodiment of all that is exotic about the vast subcontinent that was 19th century colonial India, a country that ironically Queen Victoria was never allowed to visit for fear of being assassinated.

Victoria, much to the horror of her conservative retinue of court staff and advisors, takes a shine to the bold and outspoken Abdul and requests that he become her munchee, her teacher on all things Indian from delicacies like mangoes to religious and cultural practices. A pertinent request considering that at the time, 19th century India was ruled by England when its rapid colonial expansion globally allowed Queen Victoria to bizarrely assume the title of Empress of India even though she had never set foot on the distant sub-continent.

As the friendship between Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim blossoms at first comically and later as a form of emotional attachment, it becomes the source of anticipated ridicule from her own son Bertie, the Prince of Wales played with suitable arrogance by Eddie Izzard as well as the British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury wonderfully played by Michael Gambon (Brideshead Revisited).

In one of the best lines of the film Lord Salisbury mentions to Queen Victoria at a gorgeous state banquet that the British Empire has annexed Zululand to which the monarch replies whatever for?

In the twilight of her exceptionally long reign and as the 19th century draws to a close, Victoria realizes that her unconventional friendship with Abdul is her last jaunt at joviality even elevating him to a senior adviser and taking him on a trip to Florence, Italy where they are both fortunate enough to meet Puccini played with panache by character actor Simon Callow (A Room with a View, Maurice).

The cross cultural appeal of Victoria and Abdul should keep international audiences interested in this previously unknown friendship between an aging British monarch and a young, handsome Indian clerk, whose precarious protection at court was only valid while the Queen remained alive.

The shocking end sequence of Victoria and Abdul is a cruel reminder of how colonialism always excluded the other even when they were desperately trying to appease their colonizer.

As a brilliantly observed piece of largely ignored historical fact which only came to light through the discovery of Abdul’s journals in 2010, Victoria and Abdul is a beautiful period film, held together by two magnificently nuanced performances by both Judi Dench and Ali Fazal, both whom deserve Oscar nominations.

Victoria and Abdul gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and will be enjoyed by audiences that cherished director Gurinder Chadha’s equally impressive Anglo-Indian drama The Viceroy’s House set during the partition of India, half a century in later.

 

Raising Debauchery to an Art Form

The Riot Club

riot_club

Director: Lone Scherfig

Cast: Max Irons, Douglas Booth, Matthew Beard, Sam Claflin, Freddie Fox, Holliday Grainger, Natalie Dormer, Samuel West, Tom Hollander, Tony Way, Julian Wadham

Based on Laura Wade’s play Posh and with the skillful direction of Danish film maker Lone Scherfig (An Education), The Riot Club assembles a cast of the next generation of British thespians from Oscar winner Jeremy Iron’s son Max Irons as well as Edward Fox’s son Freddie Fox along with the dashing Douglas Booth (Romeo and Juliet), Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman) and Holliday Grainger (Great Expectations) in a truly brilliant diatribe about the hidden debauchery of the aristocracy.

What makes The Riot Club even more brilliant is Scherfig’s superb use of tension in the film as the second half really does raise debauchery and menace to an art form, with horrific consequences.

The Riot Club focuses on a privileged group of Oxford freshman who form a secret society, a sort of uninhabited Lord of the Flies style gathering in which the ten member group have to outdo each other in decadence, bravado and more significantly stamina, something most young men are extremely competitive about.

With the taglines of Filthy, Rich, Spoilt, Rotten, The Riot Club truly does show the terrible side of young and obnoxious men behaving extremely badly from trashing University dorm rooms to the disgusting initiation procedures a young man will go through to belong to this elite and secretive club.

This is hazing at its worst along with the cunning and knowing ability which shines through especially in the second half of this film, that no matter how disgusting or debauched their activities get, The Riot Club will manage to get away with it, relatively unscathed. In this privileged aristocratic circle, money truly does buy them everything except in this case decency and consideration for their fellow man.

The Riot Club is disturbing at the best of times, captivating and utterly debauched and aptly directed by Scherfig who as a female director superbly shows how the pack mentality in men can lead to the most heinous of acts. Audiences should watch out for cameo’s from rising Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer as a high class escort as well as an excellent performance by Holliday Grainger as Miles Richards’s (Max Irons) girlfriend Lauren who does not come from the aristocracy and whose merchant background is used as a weapon to humiliate her when she is mistakenly called to the raucous dinner at an old English pub outside Oxford, where literally all hell breaks out.

It’s at this dinner, making up the exceptional second half of the film, that the Riot Club really live up to their horrendous reputation with copious amounts of heavy drinking and drug taking which fuels these aristocrats libido and aggression.

The Riot Club shows off the menacing side of the posh British upper classes and also the exclusivity of the landed gentry who think that despite their actions they are continually above the law because of the vast wealth. Highly recommended viewing but not for those easily offended.

 

 

Never One to Compromise

The Iron Lady

Director: Phyllida Law

Cast: Meryl Streep, Alexandra Roach, Jim Broadbent, John Sessions, Julian Wadham, Nicholas Farell, Olivia Colman, Richard E. Grant

The first moment Oscar winner Meryl Streep (Kramer vs Kramer, Sophie’s Choice) appears on screen as Baroness Thatcher in Phyllida Law’s The Iron Lady, the viewer knows that they will be treated to a towering portrayal of one of the most influential and controversial leaders of the Western World in the 20th century former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The Iron Lady, which chronicles Baroness Thatcher grappling with her old age and the loss of her beloved husband Dennis, played by Oscar winner Jim Broadbent (Iris) depicts an elderly  and at times not so iron lady looking back on a landmark and eventful political career.

Streep’s performance of the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher both as an old woman and as a ruthless and powerful Conservative politician is outstanding and is worthy of Streep being one of the few actresses to win three Oscars in an impressively brilliant and diverse career spanning from such earlier films as Kramer vs Kramer and The Deer Hunter, through to Sophie’s Choice, Ironweeds and Out of Africa to the more recent performances in Mamma Mia and The Devil Wears Prada.

The Iron Lady is as much about the making of a politician, the sculpting of a prolific and charismatic female leader as Prime Minister of Britain that Margaret Thatcher was during the tumultuous 1980s, as a testament to an aging woman who cannot deal with approaching senility and the fact that her once great career is drawing to a gradual close. Meryl Streep, helped with superb make-up by the Oscar winning team of J. Roy Helland and Mark Coulier portrays all the nuances  and strength of a unrelentingly headstrong politician, along with all the subtle  insecurities of breaking all the initial conventions of being the first female leader of Parliament in the cut-throat male dominated world of British politics while sacrificing her family life and domestic duties to achieve her political ambitions.

Whilst The Iron Lady does not sequentially follow Thatcher’s political career in the 1980s, it is portrayed through a series of perfectly crafted flashbacks showing the flashpoints in Margaret Thatcher’s political career from the IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton at the 1984 Conservative Party conference to the Falklands War and also the eventual ousting of Thatcher as leader by her own party at the height of Britain’s participation in ending the Cold War.

Phyllida Law, director of Mamma Mia, shows a slightly parodic view of Margaret Thatcher beautifully portrayed by Streep as well as thematically points to the personal dilemma of all great leaders, that of having made your mark on history and now having to deal with the greatest challenge of all, old age and dealing with one’s own mortality.

Unlike Stephen Frears superbly directed film The Queen which also dealt with a living icon, the British Monarch an Oscar winning performance by Helen Mirren, focusing on a specific period of British history, the death of Lady Diana; The Iron Lady is more fluid in its narrative, depicting Baroness Thatcher in the 21st century reminiscing about her prominent political career three decades earlier, in which as Prime Minister she was never one to compromise. Whilst The Iron Lady as a film is not superb and flawed in narrative and direction, it is Meryl Streep’s unbelievably brilliant portrayal which makes up for any cinematic defects.

Film Directors & Festivals
Reviews and Awards
Review Calender
October 2017
M T W T F S S
« Sep    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  
  • VidAngel Declares Bankruptcy To Put Copyright Fight on Hold
    VidAngel, the Utah-based streaming service that filters out offensive content, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday. The filing is designed to put its copyright battle with three major studios on hold, as it seeks to expand its new filtering service. “We have millions in the bank, and we’re already making millions on the new system,” […]
    gmaddaus
  • Chelsea Handler’s Netflix Talk Show Cancelled After Two Seasons
    Chelsea Handler’s Netflix talk show “Chelsea” has been cancelled after two seasons. Handler tweeted the news on Wednesday. In a statement posted online, she wrote, “Like so many across the country, the past presidential election and the countless events that have unfolded since have galvanized me. From the national level down to the grassroots, it’s […]
    Joseph Otterson
  • Mindy Kaling to Produce Two Comedies in Development at NBC From ‘Mindy Project’ Team (EXCLUSIVE)
    Mindy Kaling has signed on to executive produce two comedy projects in development at NBC that hail from the creative team behind “The Mindy Project,” Variety has learned exclusively. The first is a currently untitled series from Lang Fisher, who is a co-executive producer, writer, and director on “The Mindy Project.” The series would follow the dedicated diplomats […]
    Joseph Otterson
  • Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Chris Stapleton, More: Get to Know CMT’s Artists of the Year
    For the network’s annual Artists of the Year telecast, taking place tonight (Oct. 18) in Nashville, CMT has elected not to hand out any actual trophies on stage, in deference to the hurricanes, fires, and mass shootings that have taken a toll on the national mood and cast the distribution of celebrity honors in a […]
    Shirley Halperin
  • Frank Ocean Defeats His Father’s ‘Super Sad’ Libel Case
    Frank Ocean has defeated the $14.5 million libel suit that his father, Calvin Cooksey, filed against him earlier this year, according to Law360. A California federal judge ruled that Cooksey had not proved that Ocean defamed him with a 2016 Tumblr post, in which he recalled a childhood incident in which his father called a transgender waitress an […]
    Jem Aswad