Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Simon Callow’

This film is not a biography of Mozart; rather it is a tale of obsession and revenge.  Antonio Salieri, himself a famous and respected composer, is a great admirer of Mozart’s work, but when he meets Mozart, he is upset that such a tremendous talent is in the hands of a vulgar and crass person.  (Note: I do not know how realistic the portrayal of Mozart as shown in this film is, but certainly according to Mozart’s letters, he had a crude sense of humour.)  Salieri cannot believe that God has chosen to channel such beauty through Mozart, and is upset that Mozart will probably be remembered for all time, while he himself will probably sink into obscurity.  The film starts with the attempted suicide of Salieri, after which the story is told mainly in flashback, with Salieri recounting to a Priest how he came to know Mozart, and eventually seek revenge upon the young composer for his talent, of which he was so jealous.

F. Murray Abraham won the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Salieri (one of eight Oscars eleven nominations for this film), and I can see why (although he was up against Jeff Bridges for Starman, and when Jeff is up for an Oscar, I always always always root for him to win!)  Additionally, Tom Hulce, who played Mozart, was nominated for the same award.  He too put in an excellent performance, but I do think that Abraham had the edge here.  He does a fine job of making us understand his motivations, and the reason that he both detests and admires his rival.  Despite his underhand behaviour, he does elicit some sympathy for his pains.

Naturally, the music is sublime.  I am not a particular fan of classical music or opera, both of which feature prominently in this film, but I could certainly appreciate it in this context.  The costumes were also very lavish and beautiful, and the Oscar which was won for Best Costume Design was also very well deserved.

There was some comic relief, mainly provided by Hulce, but this was mainly a touching and somewhat disturbing film – and when I say disturbing, I mean it in a good way.  It demonstrates how a sane and rational person can let their jealousy turn to obsession, and cause them to act out of character; in the hands of a lesser actor, this might not have worked, but fortunately, F. Murray Abraham handles it incredibly well.  It’s not a short film; I saw the director’s cut which is just shy of three hours – but it is an enjoyable and absorbing watch.  I would certainly recommend it, whether or not you are a fan of Mozart’s music.

Year of music: 1984

Director: Milos Forman

Producers: Michael Hausman, Bertil Ohlsson, Saul Zaentz

Writer: Peter Shaffer

Main cast: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge, Jeffrey Jones

Read Full Post »

This film from 1998 won seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Best Supporting Actress (Judi Dench). It’s a completely fictionalised account of Shakespeare’s (Joseph Fiennes) problem with writer’s block, while he was writing Romeo and Juliet, and how he overcomes such difficulties (but creates more problems for himself) when he falls in love with Viola De Lessups (Paltrow), who is betrothed to the evil Lord Wessex (Colin Firth).

I expected to really love this film – after all, it’s historical fiction, based on William Shakespeare and has an undeniably excellent cast – but I think I went in with my expections set a little too high, as I enjoyed it, but not as much as I had hoped. I cannot criticise any of the cast – Fiennes is great as Shakespeare, Paltrow is great as Viola, and Judi Dench is simply terrific as Queen Elizabeth I. Firth is his usual excellent self, camping it up as the stupid and obsequieous Wessex. Martin Clues, Geoffrey Rush and Simon Callow also lend great support (Rush was nominated for an Oscar), and Ben Affleck also popped up unexpectedly. It might seem as though he was out of place in a British historical comedy, but he was clearly happy to send himself up, and fitted right in.

It does have plenty of laughs, and also a couple of genuinely touching moments, and it is certainly a film I am glad I watched. However, I’m not sure that it’s one I would bother watching again; I think I prefer to see adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, rather than a film based on him writing them. All in all though, it’s a pleasant way to pass a couple of hours, and there is certainly no weak link in the cast. I would rate it at 7.5/10, as I think it would have been more enjoyable if it had been perhaps 30 minutes shorter.

Year of release: 1998

Director: John Madden

Producers: Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Julie Goldstein, Linda Bruce, Mark Cooper, Donna Gigliotti, Marc Norman, David Parfitt, Edward Zwick

Writers: Tom Stoppard, Marc Norman

Main cast: Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Judi Dench, Martin Clunes, Ben Affleck, Tom Wilkinson

Read Full Post »

This review is for the 2004, Joel Schumacher directed film version of The Phantom of the Opera (adapted from the stage show with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, which in itself was adapted from Gaston Leoux’s novel).

Gerard Butler plays the Phantom, the mysterious man/creature who haunts the opera house in Paris in 1870.  The Phantom is in love with young singer Christine (Emmy Rossum), and manages to replace the usual opera singer Carlotta (Minnie Driver, in a fantastic comedic part) with Christine, in order to further the career of the woman he loves.

However, when Christine’s first love Raoul comes back to the opera house and Christine falls in love with him again, the Phantom becomes jealous and vengeful.

I enjoyed this movie very much – certainly a lot more than I thought I might.  I watched it on a whim, and I’m very glad I did.  The music is familiar to many, and it sounds fantastic here.  My three favourite songs – and probably the most famous of the show – are the title track, Music of the Night and That’s All I Ask Of You – and they all come across well.

The cast are all great – even, as mentioned earlier, Gerard Butler, who I would not normally associate with or expect to see in such a part.  Simon Callow is great and very funny in a supporting role, but the aforementioned Minnie Driver steals of her scenes and provides some terrific moments of light relief.

The story itself is quite sad, and I did actually want to cry at certain parts!  If I was determined to find something to criticise, I probably could – it’s perhaps slightly overlong, and the inclusion of Jennifer Ellison in a supporting role was something of a surprise.  But sometimes a whole film is worth more than the sum of its parts, and I think that that is the case here.  I really enjoyed this film – a modern musical with a dark theme – and I definitely recommend it.

Year of release: 2004

Director: Joel Schumacher

Writers: Gaston Leoux (book), Andrew Lloyd Webber, Joel Schumacher

Main cast: Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, Miranda Richardson, Patrick Wilson

********************************************************************************

Click here for my review of the 2013 stage production at Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre.

********************************************************************************

Read Full Post »