Posts Tagged ‘Steven Waddington’

The Gardens of Versailles

A Little Chaos

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Director: Alan Rickman

Cast: Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci, Jennifer Ehle, Helen McCrory, Steven Waddington, Rupert Penry-Jones

There is a growing trend for actors to get behind the camera and direct. Alan Rickman, the English actor who first appeared in Die Hard and then in The Harry Potter films, stars in and directs A Little Chaos, a charming and delightful tale about the ambitious construction of the Gardens of Versailles in the late 17th Century by King Louis XIV, wonderfully played by Rickman.

Oscar winner Kate Winslet (The Reader) stars a reluctant landscape gardener Sabine de Barra hired by the chief landscape architect Andre played by rising Belgian star Mathias Schoenaerts (Far From the Madding Crowd) who needs a suitable distraction away from his scheming wife  Madame Le Notre wonderfully played by Helen McCrory (Skyfall). Stanley Tucci as the Duc of Orleans (The Devil Wears Prada) and Jennifer Ehle (Possession, Contagion) as Madame de Montespan make brief appearances as the French king’s brother and mistress respectively.

A Little Chaos is a wonderful, if at times slow moving tale of how one woman recovers from a horrible tragedy to reinvent herself as one of the chief designers of the intricate water features which comprise the huge and illustrious Gardens of Versailles, which ultimately elevated landscape gardens to unimaginable heights.

There is a superb scene between Winslet and Rickman in a Pear Orchard where she comes across the French king mistaking him for a fruit expert and they soon bare their souls to each other and give very resonant reasons for wanting to embark on building such an elaborate project.

King Louis XIV’s pivotal decision to move the French court outside of Paris to Versailles was more a way of deepening  the chasm which separated the nobility from the peasantry. As the Duc of Orleans so comically puts it, Court is like a whole bunch of mice trapped in a castle, for none of the eligible nobility could leave the Palace without the King’s gracious permission.

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Naturally this divide was to become France’s ultimate toppling of the royalty a hundred years later as beautifully told in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette.

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A Little Chaos is more about the machinations at court, the humble rise of a prominent and creative woman, who chose to take on a task in a man’s world, riddled with jealousy, doubt and deception. Kate Winslet adds a serenity to the role of de Barra  while Schoenaerts ‘s role as Andre le Notre is unfortunately underwritten to the film’s detriment, making their onscreen coupling less believable than it should be.

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As a film, A Little Chaos, could have had a firmer more visionary director, yet its very genteel subject matter that of gardening and love make up for the slightly inert narrative. As cinema goes, this film is no match for the brilliant Stephen Frears’s Oscar winning masterpiece Dangerous Liaisons but while it is less sophisticated and complex, A Little Chaos is pleasant and beautiful to watch.

Recommended viewing for those that love historical dramas without too much angst, yet appreciate the fascinating story behind the origins of the sumptuous Gardens of Versailles.

 

 

 

29 Million Variations

The Imitation Game

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Director: Morten Tyldum

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, Rory Kinnear, Alan Leech, Tom Goodman-Hill, Matthew Beard, James Northcote, Steven Waddington

Based upon the 1983 book by Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma and brilliantly adapted into an insightful screenplay by Graham Moore, The Imitation Game is a superb and evocative historical drama about the breaking of the enigma code at Bletchley Park during World War II.

Norwegian director Morten Tyldum elegantly weaves a very touching and tragic story of espionage, cryptography and sexuality extracting nuanced performances out of Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing and Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke, an odd couple who make up the mysterious collective which work on and break the seemingly impossible Nazi enigma code at the height of World War II. Using real war footage and blending in a fascinating portrayal of the mathematician Alan Turing whose genius has only recently been acknowledged.

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Set between the years of 1928 and 1951, The Imitation Game paints a moving portrait of a very complicated man, whose brilliance was only threatened by the inherent violence of war which engulfed England during the 1940’s as well as the prejudice which followed regarding his latent homosexuality in the early 1950’s.

Cambridge mathematician graduate whose thesis was entitled the Imitation Game, Alan Turing was socially awkward, shy, bullied at an English prep school but the perfect sort of individual who had the foresight and intelligence to develop a machine which cracked the seemingly unbreakable enigma code, a daily Nazi signal which gave countless GPS co-ordinates of where they would be bombing next during World War II with a minimum of 29 million variations.

Naturally groomed by the newly formed MI6 by Stewart Menzies wonderfully played by Mark Strong, Turing is recognized for his potential and yet later vilified for his own sexuality in a moving portrait of one the 20th century’s biggest injustices, his charge and subsequent punishment of chemical castration for being homosexual in 1952, when it was still criminalized in Great Britain.

This was despite the fact that Turing’s mathematical brilliance was the reason that the complicated machine which he called Christopher named after a schoolboy crush, manages to decipher this seemingly unbreakable code able to break the Nazi code and prevent World War II from continuing beyond 1945.

Historically there were lots of other reasons the War ended when it did, but The Imitation Game focuses on the people behind the scenes, the cryptanalysts and code-breaking who elusively assisted those fighting on the front line.

Widely regarded as the founding father of theoretical computer science Alan Turing’s life story http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing has only recently gained prominence following a Royal pardon and a highly publicized internet campaign to clear Turing’s name and bestow upon him the recognition he never received in his own lifetime.

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With a suitably moving musical score by Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game is a poignant and superb historical drama of Turing and his band of men and one woman, Joan Clarke, featuring one of the best performances by Knightley (Atonement, Anna Karenina) in a race against time to save the world from tyranny. Turing’s genius as a mathematician came at a price, his apparent lack of emotional empathy yet despite the enormity of his task, he remained ironically detached from the brutal war which engulfed Europe and the world around him.

The Imitation Game is an intelligent historical drama, with universal themes of injustice and perseverance despite the prejudice and the odds against infuriating bureaucracy and time itself. Highly recommended for those viewers that enjoyed Atonement and Another Country.

 

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