Monday, 10 December 2012


1963 - Dir.: Stanley Donen - 1 hr 48 mins
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 29th December, 2012
Charade opened in the USA just in time for Christmas 1963. This glossy and slick comedy thriller didn’t fill the New York Times with festive cheer: "Seekers of Christmas entertainment, might do well to think twice about "Charade". This romantic comedy melodrama, in which Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant skitter and scoot around Paris as participants in a cheating-cheaters chase, has so many grisly touches in it and runs to violence so many times the people bringing their youngsters to see the annual Nativity pageant and the Christmas stage show may blanch in horror when it comes on." You have been warned!
Sometimes described as "the best Hitchcock film not directed by Alfred Hitchcock" this film is the work of jobbing director Stanley Donen who started his film life as a dancer. He became friendly with Gene Kelly who gave him the chance to direct musical sequences. He was so good at it that he soon found himself sharing the responsibility for big budget musicals like On the Town (1949) and then Singin’ in the Rain (1952). On his own he directed Royal Wedding (1951), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Funny Face (1957) and Damn Yankees (1958). When musicals were no longer in fashion he turned to suspense and comedy - which is exactly what he dishes up in "Charade". He was granted an honorary Academy Award "in appreciation of a body of work marked by grace, elegance, wit and visual innovation." In his acceptance speech he declared that one of the secrets to being a great director is "You show up - and stay the hell out of the way. But you gotta show up or else you can’t take the credit".
The story of "Charade" started when screenwriters Peter Stone and Marc Behm offered a script called "The Unsuspecting Wife" to the Hollywood studios who turned it down flat. Stone then turned it into a novel, re-titled Charade, which found a publisher and was also serialized in Redbook magazine, as many novels were at the time. In Redbook it caught the attention of the same Hollywood bosses who had passed on it earlier….
When Audrey met Cary…This is Cary Grant’s one and only appearance with Audrey Hepburn and his last playing his stock urbane character - he was wise enough to realise that his age (59) was beginning to show. After a couple of small part appearances he retired from the screen in 1966 and devoted his life to his family… and a lucrative directorship of Fabergé. He died in 1986.
Audrey Hepburn was born on May 4, 1929 in Brussels, Belgium. Her father was a wealthy English banker and her mother a Dutch baroness. When "Charade" was made she was enjoying the success of "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" and the glamour of "My Fair Lady" was just a year ahead. While Cary Grant was effectively ending his career honourably, Audrey was on the crest of the wave.
Unlike our supporting film, "Charade" has received the full works - a High Definition digital restoration that gives the film a fresh, glossy, sharp, sparkling look. Like many of the best conversions from film to digital, this one almost looks better than the original.

The Plank

1967 - Dir: Eric Sykes - 51 mins
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 29th December, 2012

This showing was planned last April. Eric Sykes died in July aged 89. We could claim that this is our tribute to one of the greatest screen comedy actors Britain has ever produced - but we’d probably be more honest saying that over the past 12 years we’ve had more requests for this film than any other (apart from Lawrence of Arabia) - which is a tribute in itself! Sykes dreamed this inspired comedy up, cast it, squeezed money out of the stones of Wardour Street, scripted it as he directed it and did everything but the most mundane technical tasks himself. It’s quite simply one man’s masterpiece - and speaks volumes more than any epitaph.
It’s sad and rather shameful that The Plank has been absent from the big screen since the 1970s. The Rank Organisation, who inherited it after London Films went bust, seemed to be ashamed of it and no new prints were made after the original 1967 release. Television showings were sporadic and were eclipsed by a shorter 1979 remake by Thames Television - not as funny but cheaper to repeat. Even in the digital age The Plank has remained elusive and the version we’re showing tonight is far from perfect. In fact the film grew out of a television programme - it’s an idea expanded from "Sykes and A Plank" made for the BBC in 1964.
  • The Plank, signed by the entire cast, was recently sold at auction for £1,000.
  • Peter Sellers got a better paying job before shooting began and was replaced by Tommy Cooper at the last minute.
  • Jimmy Tarbuck was paid in whiskey (4 bottles).

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Artist

2011 - Dir: Michael Hazanavicius - 1 hours 40 minutes
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 24th November, 2012

Now this is a turn up for the books - a successful silent film released 86 years after the genre was all but wiped out by Al Jolson. Not only that - a French silent film to boot! Some amusement may be had by picturing the scene in Hollywood offices when someone had to tell the studio bosses that the film couldn’t be re-made in American… because it had no dialogue. If only Theda Bara had lived to see the day!
It’s ironic that, just at the time when the first sound films were crackling their way into existence, the silent film was reaching its technical and artistic peak. In fact, because of the restrictions imposed by the cumbersome recording equipment, it could be said that film technique was set back 20 years by the addition of spoken dialogue. "The Artist" offers a chance to enjoy what might have been - a technically accomplished, well acted film that shows exactly what is possible without microphones. In fact it really only proves what the best directors and editors have believed for eons - that every film should be able to tell its story without dialogue. Try watching some of the classics without the sound and you’ll see what they were getting at (not much point with The Sound of Music but there are exceptions to every rule).
  • The role of Jack the dog was actually played by three matching Jack Russell Terriers: Uggie, Dash and Dude, although The lead dog Uggie did the majority of scenes. All three dogs were "re-coloured" before the filming began to make them look more alike.
  • There are no ‘zoom’ shots in the film because zoom lenses did not exist in the silent era. The film was made in black and white and in the "square" screen shape of the original silent films.
  • UK cinemas reported outraged complaints from audiences because of this - and because "there’s something wrong with the sound". The fine orchestral score is played by the Brussels Philharmonic.
  • This was the first ever Academy Award Best Picture Oscar winner which was solely produced by a non-English-speaking country. The film was predominantly financed by France with some money coming from Belgium.

Monday, 12 November 2012

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec

2010 - Dir: Luc Besson
Shown in FeckenOdeon 2 on 16th November, 2012

THE WRITER: This film is based on the graphic books of Jaques Tardi who worked closely with Luc Besson to transfer his creations to the screen. The first Adele Blanc-Sec story was originally serialised in the daily newspaper "Sud-Ouest" in 1976. Later stories first appeared in a monthly comic magazine, "A Suivre", then published as graphic novels. There were eight Adele books culminating in with the “death” of the heroine at the hands of a fearsome ice creature (though a  passing young scientist conveniently cryogenically preserved her for revival should the need arise). In an interview, Tardi explained that Adele's "death" was necessitated by the onset of World War I. Her feisty nature made it impossible to provide her with a place in the war. She would not have been allowed to fight, and could no more have settled for being a nurse, than she could have remained home rolling bandages.
Tardi’s more serious work is fiercely anti-war, mainly focusing on the collective European trauma of the First World War, and the pitfalls of patriotism. His grandfather's involvement in the day-to-day horrors of trench warfare, seems to have had a deep influence on his artistic output.
THE DIRECTOR: Luc Besson’s parents were scuba diving instructors so his early life was entirely aquatic. He showed amazing creativity as a youth, writing early drafts of The Big Blue (1988) and The Fifth Element (1997) while still at school. He planned on becoming a marine biologist specializing in dolphins until a diving accident at the age of 17 made an underwater career impossible. He moved to America for three years, then returned to France and formed Les Films de Loups - his own production company, which later changed its name to Les Films de Dauphins. He is now able to dive again. He’s better known for international thrillers like Nikita and Leon but has written scripts for over 40 films, produced 109 and directed 18.
THE LEADING PLAYER: Although trained as an actor Louise Bourgoin is more familiar to French TV viewers as the weather forecaster on the nightly “Le Grand Journal” news programme. She had small parts in four films but this one was the real breakthrough. She’s now working with Gerard Depardieu on the forthcoming “Asterix & Obelix: On Her Majesty's Service” so a return to the isobars seems an unlikely forecast.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Maltese Falcon

1941 - Dir: John Huston - 1 hours 36 minutes
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 27th October, 2012
The great American film critic Roger Ebert (of the Chicago Sun-Times) sums this film up:

"Among the movies we not only love but treasure, The Maltese Falcon stands as a great divide. Of course film noir was waiting to be born. It was already there in the novels of Dashiell Hammett, who wrote The Maltese Falcon, and the work of Raymond Chandler. ''Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean,'' wrote Chandler, and that was true of his hero Philip Marlowe (another Bogart character). But it wasn't true of Hammett's Sam Spade, who was mean, and who set the stage for a decade in which unsentimental heroes talked tough and cracked wise."

  • This was the first film directed by John Huston who continued to make daring and stylish films for the next 40 years including "The African Queen", "The Misfits" and finally, before his death in 1987, "The Dead" - which featured his daughter Angelica.
  • This is Humphrey Bogart’s defining movie - up to this point he’d survived on a diet of B picture gangster roles but this gave him the opportunity to create his signature character. Bogart was one of Hollywood’s finest craftsmen and starred in 73 films over 29 years.
  • This film contains the first screen appearance of Sydney Greenstreet, a distinguished actor, who had worked in the London and New York theatre since 1902. Throughout his stage career, his parts ranged from musical comedy to Shakespeare, and years of such versatile acting on two continents led to many offers to appear in films. He refused until he was offered this part at the age of 62. His movie career lasted just 8 years but in that short time he starred in 23 films. He died in 1954. He was a large man and it is said that Jabba the Hutt in Star Wars was based on him.
  • A second Maltese Falcon had to be made after Bogart dropped the original during the first few days of filming.


1941 - Dir: H.C.Potter - 1 hours 24 minutes
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 27th October, 2012

Made in the same year as "The Maltese Falcon" this was an even greater success at the box office. It’s based on a hit Broadway show that caught the mood of a public intent on having a laugh just in case the future proved to be nothing to laugh at at all. Its free-flow form, jumps in logic, machine gun one-liners and general madcappery set the pace for many comedies and TV shows in the USA and beyond. The original stage production was part musical comedy, part revue, with wild sight gags, zany props, audience participation sequences, dirty jokes, and never-ending gunshots. There was no plot, and in fact no two performances were exactly alike. When Hellzapoppin' was optioned by Universal, the original intention was to film the play as it stood (minus the more ribald one-liners), but the studio got cold feet and grafted on a conventional plot and romantic interest….an idea sent up in the opening sequence. The inclusion of A list stars like Martha Raye and Mischa Auer were obviously intended to add polish and gloss - and vaudeville old hands Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson take great glee in scuffing the gloss and roughing up the polish. It remains unique - a delightful outpouring of anarchy joyfully debunking the Hollywood myths of style, refinement and perfection. Go home Stinky!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Salmon Fishing in The Yemen

2012 - Dir: Lasse Hallström
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 19th October, 2012

The Yemen Tourism Promotion Board said they had been "inundated" with requests about the Western Asian country following the cinema release of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Benjamin Carey, Yemen Tourism's UK spokesman said : "There's been a real surge in visitors to our website since the film. One negative is that salmon fishing isn't actually that popular in Yemen, but there are excellent sea fishing opportunities in the country. Also, unfortunately the EU is currently advising against travel to Yemen, which we think is excessive. Some places are very hospitable….. but I wouldn't advise people to go to certain places at this time."

The book upon which this film based was partly a satire on the Blair government but the message has been softened - the main relic here of that intent is Kristin Scott Thomas’s hilarious turn as the prime minister’s press adviser. Some commentators have speculated that has been adjusted to scoop the same "grey pound" as the highly lucrative "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel". As tonight’s audience is likely to exactly fit that bill we can only thank the producers for recognising that we exist. Perhaps the message may at last get through to the major studios that older folk like a night out at the movies just as much as their grandkids do…. Interestingly "Salmon Fishing" veers away from the book in much the same way "Marigold" did. Both of them are more downbeat on the page than they are on the screen. That’s not to say that the films aren’t good in their own right - perhaps we need a cheerier view in these depressing times.

Lasse Hallström made his name directing videos for Abba (somebody had to!) But broke into the mainstream with the Oscar nominated "My Life as a Dog" (1985). His first English language success was "What’s Eating Gilbert Grape" (1993) - an atmospheric and moving account of life in rural America which kick started the careers of Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp (shown in FeckenOdeon 2 in 2010). Other notable Hallström films include "The Shipping News", "The Cider House Rules" and "Chocolat". It has been said that Mr Hallström is too serious a soul to direct a comedy and indeed one could wish for a lighter touch - perhaps his association with the perpetrators of "Mamma Mia" and "Super Trouper" scarred him for life?

Ewan McGregor gives a solid workmanlike performance but the undoubted star of this film is Kristen Scott-Thomas - demonstrating that she’s heading for at least The Peggy Mount Award for services to the great tradition of Women of Character (Comedy). Ms Scott-Thomas (or Mme Oliviennes in real life) has lived in France since she was 19, speaks fluent French and has a dual career playing funny British women and sultry French temptresses. She has been awarded both the O.B.E. and the Legion d’Honneur.

Sunday, 30 September 2012


2012 - Dir.: John Madden
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 29th September, 2012
The credits say that this film is based on the book "These Foolish Things" by Deborah Moggach. If fact, apart from the basic premise of a hotel for retired ex-pats in India, the two have little in common. The main character in the book has disappeared and the tone has been lightened to make it an exercise in that peculiarly British film genre - whimsy.
: 1) A Light or Fanciful Notion; 2) A Quaint or Unusual idea
The FeckenOdeon can be said to be a whimsical enterprise and many of the films we’ve shown over the years can be classified as whimsical. The much loved Ealing Comedies were classics of whimsy and their influence and style has never been forgotten by British film makers. For decades British character actors have enjoyed portraying quaint folk - Irene Handl, Margaret Rutherford, Peter Sellers via Arthur Lowe, Eric Sykes, Peter Butterworth… and ending up with the magnificent collection of national treasures on our screen tonight. Admittedly today’s quaint characters are a lot grander that those of yore - great Shakespeareans and classicists abound - but the net result is a great joy. Quaint, light, fanciful and fun - but always with that bitter-sweet hint of truth.
Before you ask....
Celia Imrie is 60, Bill Nighy is 63, Tom Wilkinson is 64, Penelope Wilton is 66, Ronald Pickup is 72, Maggie Smith and Judi Dench are both 78 - and Dev Patel is just 22 years old The outdoor scenes in India were filmed in Jaipur and Udaipur in Rajasthan.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is actually Ravla Khempur, a charming rural palace hotel in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan, about an hour outside the spectacular lakeside city of Udaipur. With a history dating from the early 17th Century, the palace was once famed for its stud of fine Marwari horses and is still home to dancing stallions which perform when requested in front of the magnificent turreted building.

Friday, 29 June 2012

The Woman in Black

2012 - Dir: James Watkins
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 13th July, 2012

Not since young Hutter arrived at Orlok's castle in "Nosferatu" has a journey to a dreaded house been more fearsome than the one in "The Woman in Black." Both films (and all versions of "Dracula") begin with the local townspeople terrified of a residence and the legends surrounding it. In this case, a young, Victorian-era lawyer named Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is visiting a haunted house in the north of England, which can be reached only by a single-track road on a long, narrow causeway that lies so low in a brackish sea that the waters lap its edges…. And there lies the key to this movie’s success. Director James Watkins realises that the house and its brooding atmosphere is the star - so it matters little that the former wizard playing Kipps seems a bit young to be a fully qualified lawyer with a four year old son. The plot creaks… but so do the floorboards and with every creak, rustle and sque-e-e-eak the tension is ratcheted up. We’re being manipulated, our subconscious feelings are being mined, our primitive fearful souls are being goaded… and, oh, how we love it!
This is in the great cinema tradition that goes right back to the early days of motion pictures when movies played at fairgrounds and people paid to be scared out of their wits in by the flickering images of trains heading towards them. These days we take a bit more scaring but the principles are still the same. We know it’s nonsense, we know we can’t be harmed but, if the right buttons are pushed we all jump in our seats and want to run away and hide. This film, like all good horrors, seeks to frighten but not revolt. There’s no blood and gore… just suggestion, a little leading, a hint of a movement… the mind will do the rest. Have a safe journey home… but don’t be tempted by that short cut down a dark lane…..

The History of The Woman in Black….
  • This ghost story was first published in hardback in 1983 and has gone on to have a remarkable life over the following decades in various paperback incarnations and as a set book for GCSE and A Level.
  • The book was adapted into a stage play by Stephen Mallatratt which was first performed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough in 1987. It was very well received and moved to the Fortune Theatre in London's West End in 1989 where it still runs today, as well as currently being on a UK National Tour. It is the second longest-running play in the history of the West End, after The Mousetrap.
  • A television film based on the story, also called “The Woman in Black”, was produced in 1989, with a screenplay by the distinguished film and television writer Nigel Kneale (best known as the creator of the Quatermass science-fiction serials). There have also been two radio versions of the story.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Sherlock Holmes - A Game of Shadows

2012 - Dir: Guy Ritchie - 2 hours 9 minutes
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 26th May, 2012
This is a rare case of the sequel being better than the original. Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law seem to have settled into their characters and director Guy Ritchie has gained the confidence to have real fun with the genre. It has to be said that if you came with the idea that this was going to be a calm exercise in forensic deduction you’re in for an explosive surprise. This is a Victorian Holmes made for the 21st century and it employs every trick in the digital film maker’s arsenal. It all happens at breakneck speed so it’s no small miracle of acting that the characters emerge recognisable but not entirely unscathed.  The plot is so devastatingly twisted and complex that it doesn't bear too much deconstruction, but the action sequences linked by the twisted knots are bigger, faster, louder and more elaborate than anything Indiana Jones got involved in. There's not an awful lot of detecting going on - not that's any use to us, anyway; close-ups of Robert Downey Jr's eyes, inter cut with details he's looking at tell us he's working on something, but because he's always so far ahead of everyone else, it's usually quite a while before we catch up, making it more a case of sitting back to enjoy the ride than trying to work out where it's going - but the ride is undeniably great fun!… oh, and perhaps we ought to warn you.. There’s rather more of Stephen Fry on show than might be thought desirable… you may wish to avert your eyes… not a sight for the squeamish!
  • This film is primarily based on the short story "The Final Problem" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (and to a lesser extent on "The Empty House"), but also uses elements of other Sherlock Holmes stories: "The Sign of Four"; "The Greek Interpretor"; "Valley of Fear"; "The Speckled Band"; "The Dying Detective"; "Bruce Partington Plans"; and "The Second Stain". 
  • The world's last sea-going paddle steamer, PS Waverly, is seen when Holmes and Watson cross the English channel. The PS Waverly is docked and in regular use on the River Clyde, Glasgow. 
  • The chariot that delivers Holmes to the anarchists HQ, is named "Les Sept Grenouilles" (The 7 Frogs). This is a cunning disguise for a gypsy - apparently they’re scared of frogs.  Not a lot of people know that.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

High Anxiety

1977 - Dir: Mel Brookes - 1 hour 34 minutes
Shown at the FeckenOdeon on 31st March, 2012
Mel Brookes isn’t subtle. Mel Brookes takes the proverbial sledgehammer to crack a nut. Mel Brookes is an acquired taste (and, judging by one comment in our audience survey, at least one of our members has yet to acquire it!)…. BUT Mel Brookes loves movies. Most of his films are affectionate tributes to classic genres - westerns in Blazing Saddles, Horror in Young Frankenstein, silents in Silent Movie, etc. In High Anxiety he tackles Hitchcock - The Master’s technique involves grand set pieces, overplayed characters and spectacular visual effects - all grist to the Brookes mill but it could be said that the target is too obvious. The big Hitchcock moments all receive the treatment - let’s face it, they’d been asking for it! Perhaps the one major mistake Brookes makes is in casting himself as the straight man - he’s incapable of playing straight and we could wish for less mugging and more acting. To be fair, he took the role at short notice when Gene Wilder’s schedule on another film overran. The “supporting cast” is magnificent - Madeleine Kahn as a breathy (verging on the asthmatic) blonde, Harvey Korman as a mad doctor and, towering below them all, Cloris Leachman as the terrifying Nurse Diesel. It’s all great fun and doesn’t ask to be taken seriously so have another drink, relax and just allow yourself to be carried along by the silliness of it all… Howard Morris, who plays Professor Little Old Man (Lilomann!!!), is better known as the voice of thousands of cartoon characters. He rarely appeared in vision and died aged 85 in 2005 shortly after completing the voices of a Lion and a Zebra in “The Wild Thornberrys”. The bird droppings were actually mayonnaise and chopped spinach - you really wanted to know that!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

1934 - Dir: Alfred Hitchcock - 1 hr 17 minutes
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 31st March, 2012
Following the dismal failure of his first and only musical, Waltzes from Vienna, Alfred Hitchcock gratefully accepted a five-year deal with Michael Balcon's Gaumont British studios. The Man Who Knew Too Much, released in 1934, was the first in a series of increasingly confident pictures which would make his name worldwide, and lead ultimately to his departure for Hollywood in 1939. The film's theme of ordinary people caught up by chance in a grand conspiracy is one that Hitchcock would rework throughout his career. He even remade The Man Who Knew Too Much in Hollywood (in 1955), with James Stewart and Doris Day replacing Leslie Banks and Edna Best, in a version which is certainly slicker but arguably inferior to the original.His mastery of visual terror is becoming evident. The images are graphic rather than explicit and the dramatic black and white photography is worthy of the silent era German expressionists. Hitchcock achieved a casting coup in attracting the German actor Peter Lorre to play the villain. Lorre was passing through Britain on his way to Hollywood, where he would find new fame in The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. Lorre and Hitchcock shared what has been described as “an unusual sense of humour”…..

Monday, 13 February 2012

The Dam Busters

1955 - Dir: Michael Anderson - 2 hours 4 minutes
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 25th February, 2012

Although this was described at its opening as a "war film" it’s really the grandfather of the modern "docudrama". The director worked for 2 years researching the characters and events and the result is an accurate and gripping realisation of the what actually happened. He decided to shoot the film in black and white, in order to allow the integration of original footage of the bomb trials, and to preserve a 'gritty', documentary-style reality. By good fortune, the Ruhr was in flood at the time of shooting, allowing the crew to film the flooded towns and valleys and incorporate this into the closing scenes. As a reconstruction of one of the great moments of a long and bloody war, this could hardly be bettered today, even with the aid of CGI. Michael Anderson had three bombers at his disposal (hired from the RAF for £130 a day) and he makes them look like a full squadron. The Dam Busters stood head and shoulders above the stiff-uppered, jolly-good-show-chaps, congratulatory, feel right, post war propaganda movies of the time, in which Tommy was brave and Fritz wasn’t. It is testament to Anderson's authoritative, quiet guidance that the performances are largely realistic, and multi-dimensional. The end of the film might, in other hands, be an opportunity for jingoistic flag-waving, but instead Anderson emphasises the human cost of war without falling into sentimentality.

  • The bombs shown were the wrong shape because the actual shape (a stubby cylinder) was still secret at the time this film was made. Much of the footage of the bombs bouncing was taken from film of the real tests but the shots were doctored to conceal the secret "back spin" that caused them to bounce.
  • The film opened 12 years to the day of the actual raid
  • Gibson's dog "Nigger" was dubbed into "Trigger" for the sensitive US market. The dog that played him was also called "Nigger". One wonders what he’ll be called in the forthcoming re-make!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012


2011 - Dir: Francoise Ozon
Shown in FeckenOdeon 2 on 10th February, 2012
In a way, "Potiche" is a trifle: Set in 1977, it adopts a candy-box color palette that evokes the fluffy comedies of the late '60s and early '70s. It's funny, broad and never stops moving. It's made to please, and succeeds. But it's also the movie that Catherine Deneuve has been heading toward for the better part of two decades. Once the cinema's ice goddess, Deneuve has become less guarded, less cold and less certain in her screen incarnations, and "Potiche" completes that work.
The word potiche translates into English as "trophy wife," though in French the word seems to have an extra implication of complete uselessness. Deneuve plays Suzanne, the sheltered wife of umbrella factory owner (Fabrice Luchini) who is in the midst of a labour dispute with his workers. He doesn't take her seriously, and neither do her kids.
A supersized Gerard Depardieu plays a leftist politician who shares a past with Suzanne, and his scenes with Deneuve are a tender acknowledgment of the movies they made when they were young (and before he started to look like Arthur Mullard crossed with Les Dawson). Even the umbrella factory is an oblique reference to Deneuve’s earliest hit "Les parapluies de Cherbourg".
This is never going to be the greatest or most profound feminist movie ever made - but it has to be the most heart warming and colourful experiences you can (legally) enjoy on a chilly February evening.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

A Bunch of Amateurs

2008 - Dir: Andy Cardiff - 1 hour 27 minutes
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 28th January, 2012
This is very much a stereotypical quaint British film, but this is no bad thing and any lack of originality is made up for by the thespian talent on show. Derek Jacobi and Imelda Staunton carry the flag, supported by Samantha Bond (best known as the latest Miss Moneypenny) and despite the storyline sometimes becoming flimsy, the acting quality carries the film through any rough patches. Burt Reynolds does a great self parodying turn and the dialogue is enlivened by the pen of Private Eye’s Ian Hislop.
It’s probably a style of film making that only the British can enjoy - and then only certain sections of British society. Like many of the classics of old it gently makes fun of our way of life and our eccentricities. Our country and our activities are portrayed in a less than flattering but endearing way. Somehow this pushes all the right buttons and we laugh at ourselves. This approach doesn’t appeal to the more demanding metropolitan Brit - hence the downright snotty reviews the film received in the posher papers and glossies. Because it doesn’t contain explosions, car chases, amputations or aliens it didn’t get a full commercial release but it has done very well in community cinemas and film societies. It’s probably time for someone to make a quaint British Film about film societies.....
  • The film was chosen to be shown at the annual Royal Film Performance. The Queen and Prince Philip were so impressed that they requested a copy for all of the Royal family to watch at Sandringham over Christmas.
  • The setting of the little village of Stratford St. John, which is mistakenly confused as Stratford-Upon-Avon, was not even filmed in England but at two farm villages in the Isle of Man.
  • Burt Reynolds last filmed in the UK for “Rough Cut” - 28 years before this film was made.
  • Charles Durning, who plays the agent, was 85 at the time of filming. He and Burt Reynolds are great friends and have made 8 feature films and numerous TV shows together. Burt Reynolds is 76