Posts Tagged ‘Michael Gambon’

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.

 

The Doomsday Protocol

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Mark Strong, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Jeff Bridges, Edward Holcroft, Emily Watson, Bruce Greenwood, Michael Gambon

Director Matthew Vaughn follows up his 2015 comic book spy debut Kingsman: The Secret Service with a more robust and intensely invested sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle with a bigger cast and lavish sets reuniting Oscar winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) with his A Single Man co-star fellow Oscar winner Julianne Moore (Still Alice) who plays the delusional and garish villain Poppy.

Hot young star Taron Egerton reprises his role of Eggsy, street boy turned bespoke spy, joined by Mark Strong as Merlin who go on an international mission to discover who is destroying The Kingsman headed up by a briefly glimpsed Michael Gambon.

The Kingsman soon join forces with their American counterparts including Channing Tatum as Tequila and Pedro Pascal (The Great Wall) as Whiskey who make up the Statesmen an independent espionage agency housed in a whiskey distillery in Tennessee who come to their aid in tracking down Poppy and her evil plan of causing all drug users in the world to die through lacing their fix with a lethal concoction which causes purple veins, paralysis and death.

As Kingsman adopt the Doomsday Protocol, Eggsy and Merlin embark on a dangerous mission with the help of Whiskey as they travel to the Italian Alps to retrieve an antidote in an action packed ski cable car sequence which is clearly a skit on the 007 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Even Poppy’s drug liar deep in the Cambodian jungle, aptly named Poppyland is a skit on another Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun.

While the action in Kingsman: The Golden Circle is clearly hyper-visualized and the plot is completely outlandish, it’s the sort of Saturday afternoon popcorn film which is pure escapism even though its subliminal messages are morally questionable.

With Oscar winner Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball) as Statesman tech genius Ginger, The Kingsman: Golden Circle is a clear skit on the 007 franchise with a more lurid twist making our dapper hero Eggsy appealing to the millennial’s and definitely is more successful as a cleverly cast spy caper.

If audiences enjoyed the first Kingsman, then they will enjoy this extravagant and better orchestrated sequel. Kingsman: The Golden Circle gets a Film Rating 7 out of 10.

 

 

Dividing a Subcontinent

Viceroy’s House

Director: Gurinder Chadha

Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon, Simon Callow, Lily Travers, Manish Dayal, Om Puri, Huma Qureshi, Simon Williams

Bend it Like Beckham Kenyan born, British director Gurinder Chadha’s handsome post-colonial film Viceroy’s House about the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent in August 1947 effortlessly blends documentary footage of the historic event with gorgeous production design and exquisite costumes.

Fresh from his success as playing Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham in the hit BBC series Downton Abbey, Hugh Bonneville turns in a nuanced performance as Lord Louis Mountbatten the last Viceroy of India who has daunting task of giving India its independence after 300 years of British rule.

Lord Louis Mountbatten is accompanied by his affected yet compassionate wife Lady Edwina Mountbatten played by Gillian Anderson (Shadow Dancer, The Last King of Scotland). Lily Travers (Kingsman: Secret Service, Me Before You) plays their daughter Lady Pamela Hicks.

The actual task of dividing the subcontinent into India and Pakistan so brilliantly written about in Salman Rushdie’s seminal post-colonial text Midnight’s Children is taken up by Sir Cyril Radcliffe in Viceroy’s House superbly played by Simon Callow the stalwart supporting actor of all those Merchant Ivory film’s in the 1980’s and 90’s from A Room with a View to Howard’s End and Jefferson in Paris.

Sir Radcliffe after admitting that he has never stepped foot in the Punjab admits that this is “a monstrous responsibility for one man”.

Equally on edge at the thought of a massive subcontinent being divided and suddenly changing power, are the two love interests of Viceroy’s House, the Hindu manservant Jeet wonderfully played by Manish Dayal (The Hundred-Foot Journey) and his Muslim girlfriend Aalia played by Huma Qureshi. Aalia, a bright and intelligent woman has to look after her father Ali Rahim Noor played by the recently deceased veteran Indian actor Om Puri (The Hundred-Foot Journey, Gandhi).

Michael Gambon who was so brilliant in Brideshead Revisited makes a welcome addition to the British cast as General Lionel Hastings who proves to be more deviant and manipulative as the partition date approaches in the summer of 1947.

In terms of setting the right political tone for the Viceroy’s House director Gurinder Chadha relies heavily on actual news and documentary footage of the partition and the massive disruption and refugee crisis it created when the subcontinent broke into India and Pakistan and then again into Bangladesh.

Chadha chooses to use the actual historical Viceroy’s house a sumptuous Empire palace to metaphorically show a subcontinent being torn into two as all the house servants had to literally choose which country to belong to in the space of three weeks: India or Pakistan, as well as callously divide up all the possessions of this magnificent estate.

From a historical perspective, Viceroy’s House is a fascinating film about the after effects of colonialism and the subsequent first heady days of independence in this case not of one country but two divided controversially along religious lines, Hindu and Muslim.

Audiences that enjoyed Midnight’s Children, Heat and Dust, A Passage to India, will certainly enjoy Viceroy’s House although these films are a far cry from the contemporary portrayal of India and Pakistan in such films as Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire and Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Fascinating, tragic and historically relevant, Viceroy’s House with its sumptuous production design and beautiful costumes gets a film rating of 8 out of 10.

 

2004 Toronto Film Festival

2004 Toronto International Film Festival Winners

TIFF 2004

Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) takes place every year in September in Canada.
Films which premiere at Toronto are often nominated for Academy Awards the following year.

TIFF does not hand out individual prizes for Best Actor or Actress but focuses on amongst others the following awards:
People’s Choice Award & Best Canadian Feature Film

Being Julia

Opening Night Film: Being Julia directed by Istvan Szabo, starring Annette Bening, Jeremy Irons, Michael Gambon, Lucy Punch & Max Irons

Hotel Rwanda

People’s Choice Award: Hotel Rwanda directed by Terry George, starring Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Nick Nolte, Joaquin Phoenix, Xolani Mali

Its all Gone Pete Tong

Best Canadian Feature Film: It’s All Gone Pete Tong directed by Michael Dowse starring Paul Kaye, & , Pete Tong

Source:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Toronto_International_Film_Festival

Transforming a Future King

The King’s Speech

In the age of radio and the approaching storm clouds of World War II, King George VI takes over the British throne after his elder brother King Edward VIII abdicates in favour of marrying American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Tom Hooper’s superb drama The King’s Speech is remarkable in the three central performances by the fantastic Colin Firth as King George VI, Helena Bonham Carter as his wife Queen Elizabeth and Geoffrey Rush as an exuberant and unorthodox speech therapist, Lionel Logue. Coupled with a brilliant score by Alexandre Desplat who did the music for Stephen Frears’s drama The Queen and using an evocative and almost gloomy backdrop of post-depression London, The King’s Speech is a film that deftly combines the historical enormity of the abdication crisis and the approaching war, with a far more personal affliction of a reluctant King who has suffered since childhood with a terrible speech impediment.

In the intelligently scripted scenes, written with panache by David Siedler between Lionel and Bertie as King George VI was known, Siedler portrays an unconventional Antipodean speech therapist who recognizes the potential of a prickly nobleman destined to become a great King and gives him back the confidence to rule a nation at a time of immense uncertainty. Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth are in top form as commoner unleashing the potential of a King and slowly uncovering the psychological stumbling blocks associated with such a speech disability as a Prince suffering the effects of a strict Victorian upbringing and weighted with the destiny of being 2nd in line to the British Throne.


Director Tom Hooper not only shows the historical developments of late 1930s Britain but also the rapid and transforming power of radio and the potential of this new medium to address all corners of the then expansive colonial Empire. Much was at stake for Bertie to conquer his affliction and give Britain and its colonies hope and inspire confidence through the power of radio as the storm clouds gathered with the rapid brutal expansion of the Third Reich, culminating in the outbreak of World War II in September 1939.

The Kings Speech is funny, immensely moving and by far the best film about the British Monarchy to be made in recent years and can stand proudly as a companion to such classics as The Madness of King George and The Queen.

The Kings’ Speech is just the right vehicle to recapture the imagination of audiences worldwide to the powerful allure and the enduring reign of the British monarchy. Colin Firth deserves all the accolades already heaped on him for his subtle and multi-layered performance as Bertie and is supported brilliantly by Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter along with stolid cameos by Michael Gambon as the patriarchal King George V and Claire Bloom as the stoical Queen Mary.

Decline of the English Aristocracy.

Brideshead Revisited

The period between the World Wars in the Twentieth century has always been a fascinating time in Western History. The 1920’s and 1930’s saw a huge resurgence in creative energy in Europe, notably the Bohemian decadence of Parisian artistic circles and the radical Modernist aspirations of the Bloomsbury Group. Those two decades with all its turbulent European events marked the eventual decline of the Victorian formalities that restricted the 19th century, something that Oscar Wilde predicted would eventually falter.

Brideshead Revisited is a sumptuous big screen adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s complex examination of the erosion of the ideals that held the English aristocracy in so much high regard, from their religious and moral superiority to the many temptations that members of that class succumbed to, from adultery, to forbidden sexuality and substance abuse, to the many foreign attractions of marrying outside that closed world in order to insure their own survival. Remnants of that particular aristocracy have obviously evolved fifty years on and still dwell in secluded regions of England and Europe.

However it was really during the 1930’s with the devastating effects of the 1929 Wall Street Crash and the ensuing economic depression that engulfed much of the Western World and the inevitable outbreak of World War II that marked the demise of the seemingly immovable landed gentry in Europe. Sound Familiar? Fortunately we don’t have any World Wars looming in this century, but the future can never entirely be predictable.

The wealth is in the title...

The wealth is in the title…

Historical observations aside, Brideshead Revisited is a complex and brilliant film, directed with a fluid and delicate eye for detail by Julian Jarrolds who rose to fame with Becoming Jane about the life of Jane Austen and Waugh’s novel, a magnum opus which is superbly crafted into an epic narrative by Jeremy Brook, screenwriter for such classic films as Mrs Brown and The Last King of Scotland, no easy accomplishment considering that in the 1980’s Brideshead Revisited was an extremely successful BBC mini-series mainly because of the scope of Waugh’s detailed analysis of the decline of British Aristocracy between the Wars.

With BBC backing and between director Jarrolds, and the success of Jeremy Brook as a screenwriter, I was assured that this epic masterpiece would be given all the respect it deserves. Brideshead Revisited is like a tour-de-force of some of the best films on similar themes from the beautiful Merchant Ivory film, The Remains of the Day to the more recent critically acclaimed Atonement and of course the spectacular Wings of the Dove, all these films based on acclaimed novels by Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan and Henry James respectively.

What sets Brideshead Revisited apart from these comparable screen masterpieces, is its particular emphasis on the religious aspect of this aristocratic families decline, their staunch attachment to Catholic principles despite a life rather decadently lived. For as long as the characters receive absolution for their sins before death, then their place in the afterlife was secured, as we are so rightly told by Brideshead Matriarch, Lady Marchmain a brilliant performance by Emma Thompson.

From the gay and carefree days of Oxford in the late 1920’s to sumptuous Venetian palazzo’s complete with a cameo by White Mischief star Greta Scacchi, the camp and flamboyantly destructive Lord Sebastian Flyte, played by Ben Whishaw lives a self-indulgent and decadent existence, luring an unsuspecting artist Charles Ryder into this unscrupulous and almost fiercely protected yet infinitely opulent world.

Ryder played with subtle dexterity by Match point star Matthew Goode is soon embroiled in the intrigues of an aristocratic family whose powerful religious convictions are as strong as their indulgences and desires are deceptive. As the characters develop and destroy each other aspirations, it really is the property of Brideshead itself, which takes centre stage, an imposing stately mansion filled with Roman Catholic art, fountains and sculptured gardens.

Like the palatial homes seen in The Remains of the Day, A Handful of Dust and now in Brideshead Revisited, it was ultimately the ownership of such lavish estates that fell into jeopardy and were often auctioned off or decommissioned for military purposes once the full effects of World War II had embraced Europe, changing and scattering that aristocracy forever, since without property ownership, all claims of wealth are an illusion.

Brideshead Revisited is a sumptuous cinematic feast, the kind of epic film that has seemingly long gone out of fashion to be replaced with the slick computerized world of American paranoia that Hollywood so duly produces. Of course it is essentially British, and any viewer who has a deep appreciation of literary films and especially of historical epochs will surely be grateful to see such attention given from the gorgeous costumes to the magnificent scenery from Venice to Marrakech lavished on a well-deserved and extremely pertinent period film about the fluid and almost traceable decline of a world long gone. With intelligent insights into such complex themes as religious superiority, addiction and forbidden desires, it is obvious that the strengths of Brideshead Revisited will be recognizable in the 21st century while such issues still remain as relevant in today’s society, as they were seventy years ago.

Don’t miss such a superb classic as Brideshead Revisited, as the story demonstrates that no matter how powerful a society is, that power can quickly be eroded by historical events and economic insecurities, not to mention all the accompanying desires that so often plague the human race.

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