Friday, August 17, 2007

Summer of British Film: Costume drama

This week's leg of the marathon takes us into costume drama. So a few random notes follow.

I liked Billy Connolly in Mrs Brown, but I have never understood why Judi Dench is rated so highly. I have seen a television programme about Prunella Scales's one-woman show on Queen Victoria and found her take on the old girl far more convincing. And remember: my family knows a thing or two about Queen Victoria and Balmoral.

I have not seen a Ken Russell film from the last 25 years that is not a howling mess. Even so The Rainbow is the film from this week I shall tape. Not so much because I did it for A level as for old times' sake: it is the prequel to Women in Love - a film from Russell's glory days.

And it does have both Dudley Sutton and David Hemmings. The latter said of this period in his career: "People thought I was dead, but I was just directing The A Team."

A Cock and Bull Story is a riotous take on the unfilmable novel Tristram Shandy. As Rob Brydon outshines Steve Coogan you can sense the baton of comedic superstardom being passed on.

The first 20 minutes of Carry On Henry are among the very funniest in the whole series. Sid James was born to play Henry VIII. And don't miss Barbara Windsor's exclamation of "Ooh, your Eminence" as she brushes past Terry Scott as Cardinal Wolsey.

But the film of the week has to be A Night to Remember. Moving, economical, understated, British... it is everything that Titanic was not. Kenneth More become, er, more insufferable every time I see one of his films, but I can tolerate him in this.

Two moments stay in the memory.

As the passengers are being sent off in the lifeboats, a group of telegraph boys go up to a senior office and say something like "What about us, sir? What shall we do?" He finds a pretext to tell one of them off, and you never see them again.

And later on, when the ship is about to go down, and old man finds a young child wandering lost along one of the corridors. "You come with me," he says, and takes the child's hand.

A Night to Remember is on BBC2 at 12.40 p.m. on Tuesday 21 August.


Anonymous said...

A Cock and Bull Story fact I learnt while researching Tony Wilson for my blog post earlier: he appears as himself in the film, interviewing Steve Coogan, who played him in 24 Hour Party People.

I was interested to see ACaBS, but have been deterred by Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan being the leads...

Anonymous said...

As befits the subject matter, A Cock and Bull Story is much better when you watch it with the DVD commentary.

Blognor Regis said...

Quote of the year for me was Matthew Sweet on the Radio 2 kitchen sink documentary series suggesting that "you almost get the feeling watching A Night To Remember that the ship goes down simply to wipe the smug grin off of Kenneth More's face."

I don't dislike the guy but I know exactly what he ad you mean.

PS As a fellow fan of the classic Brti flick, do you find the Saturday night clips and talking heads docs infuriatingly awful too?

Jonathan Calder said...

Those documentaries are a strange mix. A few minutes of good stuff, then someone like Phil Jupitus comes on.

Matthew Sweet gave a good summing up of Kenneth More in his Shepperton Babylon:

"He was heroic in a cocky, big-brotherly way - like a public-school prefect who might have saved a new boy from a beating, but expected three terms of shoe-polishing and crumpet-toasting in return."

Nich Starling said...

I watched " Cock and bull Story really looking forward to it and found it to be so far up its own arse that it was barely funny.