.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Mrs Brown Attacks!

(Welcome Internet Ronin readers!)

Let's get this out of the way:

Dame Judi Dench could read toenail clippings, and she'd (A) be fantastic at it, (B) get nominated for an Oscar for it.

And deservedly so.

The acting is never in question, since Richard Eyre's Notes from a Scandal has two of the greatest English-speaking actresses (of their respective generations), Dench and the sinewy Cate Blanchett, there to beguile you with such performances that it's like being a fly on the wall at RADA.





One gets the feeling from the twisted, sociopathic wreck of a woman Dench plays, 5th form history teacher Barbara Covett, that the brand of the fountain pen she uses to pen her secret longings in her journal...

The Moleskine journals she obviously favours...

The sensible brogues Covett slings on her buniony feet...

Even the kinds of sheets she would have on her bed...

Were thought of with the greatest FORESIGHT in the world by Dame Judi, in preparation for her role.

It is a complete inhabiting of the character, which is truly a wonder to behold (and such a departure from the rather undoughty, dotty ladies Dench has been playing since Tea with Mussolini, with the exception of Iris).

My only gripe is that once she uttered the f-bomb in the forgettable Mrs. Henderson Presents, it's become a veritable fetish for each director to get a gasp out of the audience, by getting this doyenne of British theatre to repeat it endlessly, with almost schoolgirl glee.

If you don't hear me concentrating on the story itself, it's because the Zoe Heller novel it was based on was much better -- inevitably so with most films -- and the plot here seems like a female version of that other schoolmaster-paedophile treatment, The History Boys.

(2006 has been a good year for films with vaguely sympathetic treatment of paedophiles: from The History Boys, to Notes from a Scandal, to Little Children...)

Which is not to say the film doesn't have a crackle of nervous energy, which makes it soar in the first hour, leaving you gasping. But though there are some surprises in the offing, by the end, the tense brilliance the film promised cannot be sustained.

Then, the dry, surgical commentaries made by the frustrated spinster to end all frustrated spinsters, give way to the sordid mess of Blanchett's private life, although they do expose the main theme of this film -- of age being a barrier to (yet, almost a harbinger for) sexual attraction.





Blanchett's character was fully 20 years younger than her professor hubby, and erstwhile female lover, whilst she is almost 20 years older than her schoolboy crush.

If I had a wish for this film, it would've been for it to have concentrated even more on Judi Dench's character, since it was an utterly fearless, disturbing, and yet, hauntingly unlikeable portrayal of...no, not a vampire lesbian (as one critic called the role).

She's not a lesbian exactly.

It's almost as if this 60-something spinster is scared of men subconsciously, or more than that, finds them too ridiculous or deathly uninteresting whilst in full possession of her faculties, making her veer towards women for the almost sisterly tenderness she craves -- which she instinctively feels a man could not provide her with.

It's a psychological obsession-thriller which is much more arresting than any other since Fatal Attraction.

But no boiling bunnies here.

Just a void that is filled with venom, longing and the twinkle of gold stars.

Come Oscars 2006, we might yet have another triumverate of British actresses leading the chase for Best Actress:

Dench, Mirren, and Winslet.

It might have been a bad year for GREAT MOVIES, but it's been a delectable one for GREAT ACTING.

16 Comments:

  • Well, you've talked me into going to see it! Even given the talent involved the trailer did not move me, for some reason. But I am now intrigued, given your description of Dench's character. The theme of gender identification connects to the last post!

    Although I don't really like Dame Judi in the Bond movies...

    By Blogger Ron, at Sun Jan 07, 04:51:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Well, you've talked me into going to see it!

    The finest compliment a film critic could ask for!

    (Not that I'm a film critic, but if I were, that's the finest compliment I could get ;)

    Even given the talent involved the trailer did not move me, for some reason.

    I agree.

    The trailer for it was rather peripatetic in its message.

    And the treatment of a "lesbian stalker vampire" played by the redoubtable Dame Judi (so entrenched in people's minds forever as Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown -- something which for us in Britain is rather ludicrous, BTW) is hardly something which calls one to watch the film.

    But I am now intrigued, given your description of Dench's character.

    Next to the other Queen, this is the best acting I've seen this year -- probably because these two women inhabit their characters down to the last moue and grimace.

    La Blanchette really doesn't, but then her character is the "straight man" (ironically speaking) to Dench's failed-psychopath.

    The theme of gender identification connects to the last post!

    Heh. Trust you to notice that, Ron. :)

    Although I don't really like Dame Judi in the Bond movies...

    Me neither. Full marks for trying, and thus, giving oneself exposure to a younger, more male demographic, but still.

    She seems awkward as M and actually, doesn't do a good job of it at all (I wonder if its because the job of M is a bureaucratic one, where secrecy rather than revelation, is most important?).

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Jan 07, 06:45:00 pm GMT-5  

  • This is actually a spoiler of one of the film's scenes, but I can't help it -- I thought as I was watching it that it was brilliant.

    DO NOT READ BELOW IF YOU DON'T WANT IT SPOILED

    Blanchette is being hounded by the tabloid press, having sought refuge in Dench's home (oh irony of ironies -- since she is half-heartedly aware of Dench's mania, and yet, at that point of the film, she has no choice but to be protected by her obsessor).

    After something catastrophic happens, Blanchette's character comes bounding out to the street, to the pack of braying hounds and wolves as represented by today's Mediasaurus press.

    She lets out a primordial yell of anguish, frustration, tinged with self-indulgence, that I thought was brilliant (others may not get it, though, because it could be construed as over-the-top).

    At that one moment, she stood for all the 'victims' of the paparazzi in modern-day society -- not the famous, so much as the normal, ordinary people that become embroiled in a 'scandal', and become targets for the unrelenting tabloids.

    "Here I am! Here I am!"

    Covered in grime, sweat, mascara, and dishevelled.

    She had become the crazed, foul object being pushed unto the public as being.

    That at some level she WAS what was represented, (as many of the tabloid subjects are -- vide Princess Diana, the Ipswich Ripper, Michael Jackson etc) made it that much more haunting a scene.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Jan 07, 06:54:00 pm GMT-5  

  • First, excellent description of that one scene! Mediasaurus indeed!

    Although I don't really like Dame Judi in the Bond movies...

    Me neither. Full marks for trying, and thus, giving oneself exposure to a younger, more male demographic, but still.

    She seems awkward as M and actually, doesn't do a good job of it at all (I wonder if its because the job of M is a bureaucratic one, where secrecy rather than revelation, is most important?).


    No, I think Bond is the archetype of a man's sexual fantasy about himself, and Judi's M is too much a maternal scold. Notice the only people who could really criticize Bond in the old films are older men, M and Q. M is the Grumpy Boss and Q is the Exasperated Techie. No woman can critique Bond, and no man his own age or younger either! Felix Leiter is The Pal at Work. The villians can criticize Bond... and for that they must die!

    Perhaps more than any other role in film, James Bond is the most dependent on the charisma of the actor involved. On His Majesty's Secret Service may have the best plot, Diana Rigg, and a good balance of action and non-action, but Lazenby put in the grave quicker than Peter Cushing could do to Christopher Lee!

    The writing of Fleming is about 10th in importance to the films. I could care less if a film was exactly like/ or had nothing to do with a Fleming novel. The Bond of the films is primarily the work of Cubby Broccoli.

    Without Sean Connery I doubt there would have been 3 films, much less 20.

    The only woman Bond could ever love is England.

    By Blogger Ron, at Sun Jan 07, 07:14:00 pm GMT-5  

  • First, excellent description of that one scene! Mediasaurus indeed!

    Just you wait, I'll find out that this has already been coined by Mark Steyn, or Andrew Sullivan.

    Just like my best bon mots I found out, had long ago been uttered by Dorothy Parker. Sigh.

    No, I think Bond is the archetype of a man's sexual fantasy about himself,

    Though we are perilously close to forming our own Mutual Admiration Society, Ron, I have to say your comments about this are so apposite, as to make me suffer from whiplash, in agreement and recognition.

    (I hope the others reading this, aren't rolling their eyes too much. And if they are, screw 'em)

    and Judi's M is too much a maternal scold. Notice the only people who could really criticize Bond in the old films are older men, M and Q.

    This is especially prevalent in Britain, with its androphilic culture.

    A boy need never come into contact with girls, if he so wants in the UK (of whatever social class).

    From school, to sport, to the military, to the club or pub, it's one male-dominated existence after the other.

    I appreciate the difference, here in the US, more than I can say.

    M is the Grumpy Boss and Q is the Exasperated Techie. No woman can critique Bond,

    The only one who came closest was Lotte Lenya as another lesbian vampire/Soviet spymistress, and of course, she could because she had monster shoes.

    and no man his own age or younger either! Felix Leiter is The Pal at Work. The villians can criticize Bond... and for that they must die!

    Yes!

    Perhaps more than any other role in film, James Bond is the most dependent on the charisma of the actor involved.

    Absolutely.

    In television, one has that phenomenon in the Dr. Who series, but with not nearly the same amount of universality.

    On His Majesty's Secret Service may have the best plot, Diana Rigg,

    I'm a sucker for early early Bond, but I agree. :)

    and a good balance of action and non-action, but Lazenby put in the grave quicker than Peter Cushing could do to Christopher Lee!

    With much bearing of fangs, agreed.

    The writing of Fleming is about 10th in importance to the films. I could care less if a film was exactly like/ or had nothing to do with a Fleming novel. The Bond of the films is primarily the work of Cubby Broccoli.

    Without Sean Connery I doubt there would have been 3 films, much less 20.


    *nods wildly enough to make her dandruff fall off*

    The only woman Bond could ever love is England.

    Which is why I like the implicit orphan-boy persona of the newest Bond.

    He can never love a woman (which represents abandonment, loss, helplessness, and lack of respect), as much as his country, which gives him a purpose beyond his mortal coil.

    It makes 007, immortal.

    P.S.: I'm reading a bio on Steve Jobs, who of course, was also adopted (in effect, orphaned). England = Apple?

    BTW, Steve Jobs seems to be one of those bastardy types of adopted kids, which take out his feelings of worthlessness on underlings and waiters. The two adopted kids I've met in my life, had exactly the same foibles. Sadly.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Jan 07, 09:01:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Though we are perilously close to forming our own Mutual Admiration Society, Ron,

    We haven't fallen off the pier just yet! But I unhesitatingly say that you are quite delightful! How many other Net folks can I say that about?

    The end of this month is my birthday, and even though I get no love on Christmas, my friends take me out to a very charming Eastern European restaurant here in A2. It's an excellent evening, where people who don't normally get together have an excuse to meet, and that excuse is me. You are hereby virtually invited! The Sundry corpus may be on South Beach, but you may have a bit of logical Chicken Paprakash here with us...

    If you want!

    By Blogger Ron, at Sun Jan 07, 11:57:00 pm GMT-5  

  • I'll have to add this to my list. It has become a rather long list, because I never seem to get around to actually going to the theater. I'm not really sure why this is so. I don't have a phobia about theaters or anything. Inertia, I guess.

    We'll always have Paris, I guess.

    By Blogger Internet Ronin, at Mon Jan 08, 02:26:00 am GMT-5  

  • Having posted that, I wonder how many people are going to think I'm completely nuts. It may seem a bit too obscure, but there is a connection at the end.

    By Blogger Internet Ronin, at Mon Jan 08, 02:28:00 am GMT-5  

  • Having posted that, I wonder how many people are going to think I'm completely nuts. It may seem a bit too obscure, but there is a connection at the end.

    You'll regret having said that, Internet Ronin. Oh maybe not now, not in a couple of years, but one day. And then what?

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Jan 08, 03:35:00 pm GMT-5  


  • If you want!


    Wanting is never at issue. :)

    And I remembered you were a January baby!

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Jan 08, 03:36:00 pm GMT-5  

  • But you must remember this, Victoria: any note from me is unlikely to end up an Imperial War Museum display object.

    By Blogger Internet Ronin, at Mon Jan 08, 08:10:00 pm GMT-5  

  • But you must remember this, Victoria: any note from me is unlikely to end up an Imperial War Museum display object.

    I like to think it ended up next to a Korean donkey, Internet Ronin.

    Oh, we could do this for hours. Maybe days!

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Jan 09, 01:27:00 am GMT-5  

  • I do not know if you have the body of a weak and feeble woman; but am certain that you have the heart of a king, and of a king of England, too. ;-)

    You are right about hours and days. As time goes by so quickly, though, perhaps we should reconsider behaving badly and telling tales of such a fine romance.

    (Thanks for picking up on it, btw, as I'm not overly fond of talking to a stranger. It's been fun, but I've got to go and check out a room with a view. I think they said that butterflies are free, too. I wonder what they meant by that...)

    By Blogger Internet Ronin, at Tue Jan 09, 07:40:00 pm GMT-5  

  • I'm still trying to figure out why my link never showed up here. Hmmm. Oh, and thanks for thoughts, and for dropping by my place!

    Take care

    By Blogger Internet Ronin, at Wed Jan 10, 11:35:00 pm GMT-5  

  • And what brand of fountain pen did she use?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Jan 12, 10:27:00 am GMT-5  

  • The Blue Diamond Parker fountain pen

    I'd stake my life on it, or at least, my own sizeable collection of fountain pens.

    Parkers are no fuss, no muss, as sensible as her dowdy tweeds and clunky brogues.

    Like her, they're stuck in 1961.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Jan 14, 02:58:00 am GMT-5  

Post a Comment

Who linked Here:

Create a Link

<< Home


 




Advertise on blogs
British Expat Blog Directory.