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FILM: October 2005

Who said that Jane Austen was her favourite author? You might be surprised to learn that it was the late Barbara Castle the last time I interviewed her. Certainly PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (cert. U 2hrs. 7mins.), the film which has just been released, and the book it is based on, are both glorious. I'm sure that Barbara could recognise the struggle that a woman faced in showing any kind of assertiveness in Austen's times.

Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth Bennet (the very suitable Keira Knightley) one of 5 sisters had a particularly hard struggle to avoid being married off to her distant cousin, Mr Collins (a wonderful performance by Tom Hollander), who is set to inherit everything from Mr Bennet (a nice, rounded characterisation by Donald Sutherland) just because he is the male heir. Lizzie's relationship with the proud Mr Darcy (Matthew Macfayden) demonstrates her independence when she at first refuses his offer of marriage even though he is extremely wealthy. The romantic wooing of oldest sister Jane (played with sweetness by Rosamund Pike) by the rather simple but kind and rich Mr Bingley (Simon Woods) contrasts well with the more robust leads. Knightley has finally matured as an actress and she and Macfayden interact well. Judi Dench once again has a cameo part in a major film and almost manages to steal the show. Her Lady Catherine, Mr Collins' benefactress, is most compelling.


GOAL (cert. 12A 1hr. 58mins.) is a great film for both soccer and film enthusiasts. The story tells how Santiago Munez, (played attractively by Kuno Becker) comes from the wrong side of the tracks in Mexico via Los Angeles, where he worked as a labourer to the rich, with nothing but an innate natural talent for football, to Newcastle United F.C. in England . Here, thanks to a man who chanced to see him play in L.A. - and just happened to have been a former scout for Newcastle! - he gets a trial and is accepted for the Reserves. He suffers on the way but is helped by his agent and friend (Stephen Dillane), a fellow footballer, played competently by Alessandro Nivola and a friendly female (Anna Friel).

My husband, Steve thought the football scenes, both the training and the matches, were realistic. It is a more truthful film than WIMBLEDON was and imparts that all too elusive feel good factor to the audience. Steve's advice is, "Football fans and the rest of you, go see!"

The new OLIVER TWIST (cert. PG 2hrs. 10mins) is a very good, "authorised" version of Charles Dickens' novel, except for one thing, which is the character of Fagin as portrayed, and presumably envisaged by the director, Roman Polanski, is played as a genial Jewish old man. While we feel sorry for him awaiting hanging in prison at the end, we should be remembering how he relates that he had no compunction in sending innocent people on their way to be hanged.

Oliver Twist

The rest of the cast, mainly well-known British character actors like Edward Hardwicke, Alun Armstrong and Jamie Foreman, as a tough looking Bill Sykes, are all extremely good.

Barney Clark is a sad look-alike for a young Polanski. The set (in Prague) of old London is most authentic. Polanski has said that he wanted to make a film suitable for his children to see. Well, Nancy's blood seeping under the door after she has been murdered is certainly not my idea of suitable material for under 10s!

Kinky boots

I really enjoyed KINKY BOOTS (cert. 12A 1hr. 46mins). It's a well-made, amusing and moving small film. Based on a true story, the director, Julian Jarrold, elicits a touching performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor as 'Lola' and Joel Edgerton as Charlie. When Charlie Price takes over his father's ailing factory in Northampton, he is faced with making most of the work-force redundant until he meets the transvestite cabaret performer, Lola and realises there is a market for women's shoes that can bear a man's weight.

The story is interesting; the factory scenes, with many real factory workers taking part, and the cabaret scenes are particularly well staged. The difference between the two main men is well defined, with Lola saying that, "Tottenham Court Road is the Midlands" when Charlie chides him for calling Northampton, "the North." Whilst there are many amusing lines and scenes, it is not as funny as THE FULL MONTY or CALENDAR GIRLS with which it has been compared.

Amongst the many good films around in October, I recommend two special, but very different, ones. First WALLACE AND GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT (cert. U 1hr. 23mins.). Every minute is a joy for young and old in Steve Box and Nick Park's first full-length feature film of the lovable plasticine pair.

Wallace and Gromit

As usuaul Wallace is voiced by Peter Sallis and an array of voices play the other parts; particularly good are Ralph Fiennes as the villain, Helen Bonham-Carter as the Lady of the Manor and Liz Smith, whose model character looks very like her! Books on show in Wallace's home include, "Grated Expectations" (a reference to his mania for cheese) which takes us back to Dickens..

The other film couldn't be more different: LORD OF WAR (cer.15 2hrs.2mins.) shows how a bullet travels from its manufacturer via the seller and the person who fires it to the head of a child. Nicholas Cage puts in a bravura performance as the person who sells illegal armaments to anyone who will buy them, often arming both sides in a conflict. Strong stuff: a film to make you think.

The LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 19 OCTOBER-3 NOVEMBER is about to hit town with many really good films. Apart from the obvious choices of the opening and closing galas, THE CONSTANT GARDENER (with Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz) and GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK (directed by and starring George Clooney) there is a whole raft of foreign films including the two French films LE GRAND VOYAGE - where I was amazed to see Jeanne Moreau as the grandmother and CACHE with the great Daniel Auteuil. In addition to the usual venues, there are screenings at 6 local cinemas Rio, Genesis, David Lean Cinema, Phoenix Cinema, thefilmworks Greenwich and Waterman's Arts Centre where films will be introduced by visiting directors and actors.

Richard II

I believe Kevin Spacey chose RICHARD 11 (Old Vic) to showcase his talents as a Shakespearean actor, and on the whole he is successful. Richard becomes isolated when he is confronted by a rebellion which shakes his belief in himself as King by divine right. Spacey is better at the quiet, contemplative King after he has lost his power later in the play than in the loud, somewhat hysterically voiced earlier scenes. Not one of my favourite plays, but worth seeing for the magnificent performance by Julian Glover as John of Gaunt and Ben Miles' strong portrayal of the enemy, Bolingbroke.

There are a number of 'stars' of screen or TV on offer in the West End at the moment. One worthwhile play is A FEW GOOD MEN (Haymarket Theatre) starring Rob Lowe who works to save 2 marines accused of the murder of another. Well-written by Aaron Sorkin and directed in a slick manner by David Esbjornson, the well-known film stands up to its stage re-creation and there are many modern resonances. Lowe gives a clear, humorous performance and, though short in stature, is big in character.

A Few Good Men
Epitaph for George Dillon

There is not just one good but three excellent performances in EPITAPH FOR GEORGE DILLON (Comedy Theatre): Joseph Fiennes, Francesca Annis and Anne Reid. Written (in 1955) by Anthony Creighton and John Osborne, the play anticipates Look Back in Anger with George (Fiennes) expressing much of Jimmy's loathing of all things reeking of the propriety of lower middle-class life. Tall and better looking than in his films, Fiennes plays the slightly bohemian (perhaps he seemed more so in the late 50s) writer who disrupts the lives of the mother (Reid), grieving for her lost son, of the eldest daughter (played by ever lovely 61 year-old Annis) and fatefully the youngest daughter (played effectively by Zoe Tapper).

A most faithful reproduction of 1950s life, even down to cloth covers on almost everything, including the Radio Times.

Coming soon: MAUREEN LIPMAN in GLORIOUS! A new comedy by Peter Quilter, opening at the Duchess Theatre, London 1ST November 2005.

"People may say that I cannot sing,

But no one can say that I didn't sing!" Florence Foster Jenkins

In 1940's New York, the performer who everyone demanded to see was Florence Foster Jenkins, an enthusiastic soprano whose pitch was far from perfect. Florence warbled and screeched her way through the evening to an audience who mostly fell about with laughter. But this delusional and joyously happy woman paid little attention to her critics, instead she was surrounded by a circle of devoted friends who were almost as eccentric as she was. Lipman plays the delightful diva in this funny and heart-warming comedy alongside Barrie Ingham as her boyfriend.


Carlie Newman

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