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November 23, 2010

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Tom Russell

I'm looking forward to this one, having a taste myself for genteel middlebrow entertainments (British-made, at least); and, having suffered (and sometimes still suffering) from a particularly awful stammer, it seems like material that would resonate with me rather strongly.

Tom Russell

Oh, and Helena Bonham Carter in evil-sorceress bondage gear? Now I kinda want to see this new Harry Potter movie.

Oliver_C

Funny how Helena Bonham-Carter is transcribing such a full circle -- from the Merchant-Ivory maid of 'Howards End' (1992) to her unforgettable declaration that "I haven't been fucked like that since grade school!" in 'Fight Club' (1992), she now orbits back to play an icon of genteel Englishness.

Oliver_C

Whoops... 'Fight Club' was in 1999, obviously.

Phil Freeman

"Wonder if she gets to keep any of her various costumes."

Based on red carpet photos I've seen, I think she SUPPLIES her costumes when she shows up for a role.

Mr. Peel

So, am I the only person who, when they see a reference to "Tom Hooper's THE KING'S SPEECH" thinks they're reading "TOBE Hooper's THE KING'S SPEECH" and gets disappointed when they realize their mistake?

Stephanie

Bonham Carter is never far from frumpdom in any case. Every year she looks more like Stanley Kauffmann’s description of her as Mickey Rooney in drag.

There’s nothing wrong with middlebrow entertainment as such but there could be something wrong with making movies that suck up to the Dynasty Formerly Known as Saxe-Coburg-Gotha without noting, in this instance for example, the very obvious favoritism shown to Neville Chamberlain by the royal family, which was both retrograde and dangerous. (It’s okay for PBS specials to tar the Duke of Windsor as pro-Nazi, which he was of course, but not to note the chumminess of his successor with Chamberlain after Munich.)

If I'm wrong and the movie does dip into such matters, I stand corrected. But I doubt it will.

Tom Russell

"[There] could be something wrong with making movies that suck up to the Dynasty Formerly Known as Saxe-Coburg-Gotha without noting, in this instance for example, the very obvious favoritism shown to Neville Chamberlain by the royal family, which was both retrograde and dangerous."

I haven't seen the film myself, but I think a film that's specifically and narrowly about the man struggling with/conquering his speech impediment is under no obligation to "dip into such matters", and I think faulting it if it doesn't is faintly ridiculous.

LondonLee

How is the Duke of Windsor being a closet Nazi in any way equivalent to George VI supporting Neville Chamberlain?

Oh, I get it. Because the Windsors are actually Germans and you know what they're all like.

I know people don't care about monarchs and all that much anymore but the movie is set at a time, probably the last time, when being King of England was a very important role. That's why his inability to speak was a big deal. I know we had Churchill and all but he was still just a politician.

lipranzer

Saw this earlier today. It's funny and poignant in the right places, and the two of them are very good together. But I swear someone posted here about this being a film of close-ups applied indiscriminately rather than for any real visual purpose, and I do agree with that. There's an effective montage of Rush and Firth going through all the physical and verbal exercises that's well edited - it's a series of "pull back to reveal" shots - but this is one of those movies I enjoyed despite the way it was shot, not in addition to.

Stephanie

I haven't seen the film myself, but I think a film that's specifically and narrowly about the man struggling with/conquering his speech impediment is under no obligation to "dip into such matters", and I think faulting it if it doesn't is faintly ridiculous.

I don't. I think the middlebrow glorification of the Windsors is for the most part a harmless phenomenon -- if as a watcher of public television I have to choose between Suze Orman and yet another special on the private lives of the royals, the latter is definitely preferable, although not by much. The royal couple's endorsement of Chamberlain after Munich is worth noting. Your mileage may vary.

"Oh, I get it. Because the Windsors are actually Germans and you know what they're all like."

Sussed out. Curses!

rdmtimp

Not everything has a political dimension you know. Just a thought....

LondonLee

Lots of people endorsed Chamberlain after Munich, lots of people didn't want to go to war again for obvious reasons. They were wrong as it turned out but it doesn't make them Nazis.

Kent Jones

"Not everything has a political dimension you know" - yeah, great point. Why anyone would assume that a story about George VI, Chamberlain and Churchill, and the onset of war in Europe would have a political dimension is beyond me.

Glenn Kenny

What Kent said. But also, as someone who liked—I think "admired" is likely too strong a word—"Speech" for precisely what I took it as, that is a "genteel middlebrow entertainment," I have to say that I was completely untroubled by the various ways it bowed to the conventions and/or perquisites of its genre. One of which is taking as its right the ability to recast history as a fairy tale at will. Which OF COURSE this film does. The prisms through which fiction films recast history change all the time; I'm old enough to remember the absolutely breathless pop culture romanticizations of Edward's abdication, all this awful "the woman I love" treacle, which certain audiences of the time just swooned over; so of course it was kind of funny to see the guy portrayed in this film as pretty much an irresponsible just-this-side-of Nazi sympathizing rotter, and of Wallis Simpson as not just a haughty bitch but as a female impersonator as well. Hence, I take the film as a fiction, and write of it as such. There was one funny champ-contra-champ in the film, where Firth's character watches a newsreel of Hitler's oratory, and the reverse from the newsreel footage is a slowish dolly-in to Firth as he watches; and the sense you could have gotten from it is the character thinking, "By jove, this fellow's on to something, isn't he?" Which I suppose wasn't what you were supposed to get, but couldn't be sure. As I wrote in my review, I would have been delighted had the film gone all "Inglourious Basterds" and had Germany surrender after the title speech—man, that was some oratory. Because the film is, finally, more fairy tale than history lesson. Of course it kind of helps to know that, but if you don't know it, it's not gonna make you a nazi, or anything. I don't think.

By the same token, sticking strictly to the facts isn't going to help you in certain corners, as I learned in a recent Facebook kerfuffle over an Adrian Martin complaint about "The Social Network." Wow, Gio Abate really doesn't like me at all. I don't know how I should handle that.

Okay, now I've got to finish reviewing "Black Swan," whose detractors seem to have the notion that the doppelganger theme in the arts began with "Fight Club." Oy...

Kent Jones

Glenn, I believe the piece in question is from Filmkrant, in which my friend Adrian names me as a co-conspirator with Thierry Jousse.

I quote: "ZODIAC kick-started a minor trend among ambitious directors. Steven Soderbergh's two-part CHE (2008) continued along the path, Olivier Assayas took the approach all the way in his television mini-series CARLOS (2010), and now Fincher himself returns to the fold with THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010). All these films have key elements in common: they have lengthy running-times (the longer the better); they are full of repetitious talk-sessions and nothing-much-happening; although there may nominally be a central character, in fact many people swirl in and out of the narrative; they fill in an entire social backdrop of places and times...The result is a low-key realistic soap-opera of guns, sex, death, wealth, power ... sticking, as far is possible, to the exact, wayward contours of the original events...the appeal to realism must surely be making a few of us groan. Didn't we spend at least 30 years, after the 1960s, decrying the illusion of realism in cinema, and its pernicious ideological effects? Didn't we drill into our students and readers that no film is real, that it is a construction? Didn't we ferret out the ever-changing tricks and veils of what Roland Barthes called the ‘effects of reality', which reached a frenzied peak in the ‘quality' TV productions of HBO (like THE WIRE) before leaping back into cinema?"

And so on.

Glenn Kenny

Yep, that's the one. In a thread by J. Rosenbaum citing the piece, I took exception to the phrase "kick-started a minor trend among ambitious directors" by pointing to "Che"'s production history, and for my trouble was told that my "ad hominem posturing (not just in this thread)" was "disgraceful." Considered changing my FB profile pic to that shot from "Duck Soup" of Harpo looking down after Louis Calhern says "and you failed."

Like I said, oy.

Asher

I'm not an enormous fan of THE SOCIAL NETWORK (yet?), but I figure the last thing you could call it is slavishly accurate, any more than you could accuse KANE of hewing too close to Hearst's biography, given that this film's Rosebud ending (and beginning) is, like KANE's, a complete fabrication.

Kent Jones

I wonder: will film criticism ever kick the polemical habit? Maybe not. In the world of blogging, polemical pronouncements have multiplied exponentially. Unfortunately, not just in matters of cinema.

The Facebook comments, kindly forwarded to me by Glenn, were even more depressing, because the films in question and the alleged critical consensus about them became hopelessly entangled.

Yusef Sayed

"I wonder: will film criticism ever kick the polemical habit? Maybe not."

I sure hope so Kent. I ran away from all of that in music criticism and keep struggling to find much different in other arts writing.

joel_gordon

Art is not a magic show; you don't just retire your act when someone finally points out how it's done. Novelists can still learn from Balzac, even though Barthes pointed out the "tricks and veils" of realistic narrative, and a great director can still make brilliant art out of a style that critics might consider retrograde. Also, "realism" and docudrama are not the same thing, and an imaginative filmmaker would can make the latter without a slavish devotion to the facts. Instead of picking on Fincher, who cares more about artifice than factual recreation, we can take out our anger on Fair Game, which I hated beyond all of my rational capacity for hate. What the hell is wrong with Doug Liman? Why did he do that to me?

MovieMan0283

"The result is a low-key realistic soap-opera of GUNS, sex, DEATH, wealth, power" [emphasis mine]

This makes me wish I'd seen the extended cut of The Social Network. I knew the Napster dude had to get his comeuppance...

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